For the past two years Cisco Systems Inc. has been pushing into the consciousness of cities and towns around the world as a municipal broadband network infrastructure expert.
The manufacturer has taken than a step further by striking a three-year partnership with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which represents some 2,000 communities across the country.
Rick Huijbregts, vice-president of Cisco Canada’s smart communities division, said Friday the partnership is about sharing Cisco’s lessons and best practices learned from projects around the world, including work around Toronto’s waterfront and in an Edmonton suburb.
The move is another way in which Cisco is trying to expand into the municipal sector ahead of other network equipment makers in a way beyond merely selling routers and switches to helping governments create so-called smart communities based around broadband.
That includes hosting a conference in Toronto last month for reporters to show off its successes and a lab to help developers assemble solutions around its technology.
Cisco opens Toronto lab for building developers
Increasingly, municipalities believe having infrastructure that can deliver ultra-fast applications to businesses and residences can be a competitive advantage over other communities.
That’s a potentially big market for network equipment makers to sell gear and expertise not only to governments but also to developers who build subdivisions, industrial parks and high rises. Cisco says smart communities aren’t merely ones that have broadband but are also ones that utilitize smart buildings.
Huijbregts said Cisco could offer tools and that help municipalities understand the impact of high speed connectivity within their boundaries. “Some of the tools may not be defined yet,” he added. “This is a three-year journey.”
Cisco will have the opportunity to offer articles in FCM publications, host Webinars and speak at meetings.
There’s been no discussion yet of FCM members getting a financial benefit for choosing Cisco products as a benefit of the partnership, he said, nor does it tie Cisco as a preferred or exclusive supplier for Canadian municipalities. But, he added, that’s not the point of the pact.
“It’s really to move the wheels of Canada and municipalities as it comes to applying innovation and technology.”
The benefit to FCM members is they sometimes come to the association for advice on non-IT issues. “We’re just another voice, if you will, that FCM is making available to its members.
“For us obviously, our benefit is having access or an audience with this crowd, and it’s a two-way audience – not just so we can tell our story, but through FCM we can listen and understand the challenges of municipalities in Canada so we can improve our offerings and services.”
But a “side benefit,” he acknowledged, is that Cisco will become top-of mind to public and private municipal planners.
An FCM executive couldn’t be reached Friday because the office was closed. However, in a news release CEO Brock Carlton said the group noted that municipalities are on the “front lines in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.”