Light fixtures will have IP addresses in new Cisco Canada HQ

CIOs are used to printers and routers with IP addresses. Soon they’ll have to deal with ceiling lights run by Power over Ethernet that have them as well.

That’s what’s happening at Cisco Systems’ new Canadian head office in Toronto, where over the next two months the walls, fixtures and sensors will be installed in the four floors the company will be occupying starting in May.

The 31-story building, called RBC Waterpark Place III, is owned by Oxford Development Co. and built by EllisDon Corp., had a Cisco-based secure fibre optic backbone network for Oxford and tenants to exploit that was installed before the windows were put in.

When finished Cisco will use its facilities to highlight the potential for its products to spread the Internet of Things.

The facilities will include a second floor IoT Innovation Centre (opening in the fall), where customers and partners can see how technology can be used. Upstairs on the 29th floor will be an Experience Centre, which will include a lab where companies can test solutions built around products of Cisco and its partners.

The premises will be another plank in Cisco’s world-wide efforts to get a piece of the so-called smart building industry, where physical security, power, lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are computer controlled by tenants for the best efficiency using data streamed from devices.

Speaking to reporters and industry analysts on a tour Friday, Cisco Canada president Bernadette Wightman said the Cisco will tout its facilities as “living, breathing smart office.”

The new LED ceiling lights from Philips NV, for example, could be automatically programmed to turn on and off by motion sensors, or by users from laptops and smart phones. So could the roller blinds.

The fibre optic backbone allows communications providers to only connect to the building in the basement data centre. Each floor has a small closet with two Cisco Catalyst 3750 blade switches for connectivity.

Foster shows the cabinet that will be on each floor with dual Cisco PoE switches. ITWC photo
Foster shows the cabinet that will be on each floor with dual Cisco PoE switches. ITWC photo

Technology integration services were done by FlexITy Solutions of Richmond Hill, Ont., a Cisco partner.

So far the lights are unique to the Cisco floors. Individual tenants can chose how much of the fibre backbone to use. For those who want a managed service provider, EllisDon has a division which does that.

“The building as a whole has been built from an IP perspective,” said Stephen Foster, EllisDon’s director of information, communications, automation and technology. All the contractors we picked had to be able to bring systems that were open protocol, IP-enabled.”

There will be over 900 data drops on the four Cisco floors alone, he added, part of the 2,300 over the entire building.

To save space — and money — Cisco [Nasdaq: CSCO] will be encouraging staff to work mostly from their home offices in a very blunt way: While there will be a range of open and private work spaces, there will only be enough chairs to sit one-third of them at any one time.  Employees will have the use of Cisco video conferencing technologies for their home offices.

The interest in smart buildings in Canada has grown tremendously since we wrote about Cisco and EllisDon’s first collaboration in 2011, Foster said in an interview. “We’re seeing this as part of the requirements that come out from the engineers and the architects. In 2009 we were having to convince people. It has now flipped over and is a request to do it.”

Similarly, Cisco’s Huijbregts said his company is slowly starting to see the ecosystem of developers, engineers, architects and equipment suppliers grow.

“Most new construction in Toronto is moving in this direction.”

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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