Interview: Cisco says Apple ‘world’s most innovative’ mobile tech

Cisco and Apple reveal first fruit of year-long partnership

Cisco Systems and Apple have been working together to implement enterprise-focused business communications features beginning with Wi-Fi connectivity, VoIP, collaboration and app prioritization improvements. One year on and the first results have appeared within iOS 10. I spoke with Rowan Trollope, Cisco’s SVP GM of IoT and Applications Group to find out more.

Just nine years

It’s hard to believe that we’ve had the modern smartphone – pioneered by the iPhone of course – for only nine years,” he said. “Just nine years! Does anyone remember how they lived before smartphones?”

“Apple offers the most innovative mobile technology in the world combined with the world’s most advanced mobile OS. Cisco has led every wireless transformation since wireless became possible, not only providing the best Wi-Fi technology but delivering the best end-user experience.”

In a post on the Cisco blog, Jeff Reed, senior vice president of Cisco's Enterprise Infrastructure and Solutions Group, wrote that as a result of the collaboration iPhone users will see call reliability increase 66 percent and management overhead is reduced by as much as 50 percent. Over 30 customers and partners participated in field trials to test the new features, he wrote.

Digital transformation

“Businesses everywhere are becoming digital, software driven, and we believe ultimately - mobile centric. And it's not just consumer services. It's every industry and vertical on the planet,” Trollope told me, and this has driven both partners to try to meet these changing needs. “Studies show that companies that master digital will not only drive more revenue, but will be 29% more profitable on average,” he said.

To meet these needs, Apple and Cisco are focused on networking, voice and collaboration.
 This means they optimized Wi-Fi connectivity over Cisco kit, improved the capacity to prioritize key enterprise traffic and improved voice and collaboration.

“These areas help customers accelerate their mobilization of business-critical workflows, changing how people do their jobs and increasing productivity and efficiency,” Trollope explains. “These are three separate features, but they build on each other… It is crucial to have a fast, reliable, and effective Wi-Fi network. Prioritizing business-critical data makes your important apps run faster. And by tightly integrating iPhone into your corporate network, you can make sure communication and collaboration are seamless.”

Change is everywhere

Why does it matter? The digital transformation of the enterprise is creating new ways to work with customers – you see a lot more retail outlets using mobile PoS systems, for example, and the demand for available Wi-Fi in store is becoming essential to keep customers happy. When it comes to major deployments this dependence on wireless creates new challenges.

“A retailer like a coffee shop can have multiple employees connected to the wireless networks, some of them creating excess load on the network from streaming apps while on a break, further affecting the performance of a critical app like a mPos or a stock management app,” he explains.

Cisco and Apple have solved this by enabling web traffic controls that prioritize mission-critical business apps over traffic generated by non-work apps. At its simplest, this means the payment systems used at the mPoS isn’t going to be impacted by the customer downloading family photos over the same network. Banks are already developing Siri-based mobile payments solutions.

Trollope sees a range of verticals in which Apple and Cisco can make a difference:

  • Healthcare: nurses standardizing on iPads, Doctor’s accessing patient care information on the latest iPhone devices
  • Retail: Business deploying new shopper experiences such as mPOS, omnichannel
  • Education: advanced learning environments such as iPads and MacBooks for students.
  • Corporate offices: employees working in mobile workspaces, and moving around a corporate campus.

Big business for business

“This mobile transformation will have the biggest impact on business since the advent of the Internet,” he said.

The digital transformation is a huge thing. Almost 40 percent of incumbent enterprises may be displaced by more agile competitors. But this isn’t just about business, Trollope explains. “Schools and governments” are also reinventing themselves, “mobilizing their business critical workflows.”

This isn’t just about enhancing productivity. Mobility is causing businesses to rethink entire processes and ways of getting work done.  This is changing B2C relationships and enabling remote teams to work far more collaboratively than before, sharing “documents, notes, voice and video with each other, anytime, anywhere.”

Glancing at the tech

To support all this it is mandatory that the enterprise-grade network infrastructure is capable of supporting effective communication between mobile devices, which must themselves be capable of using back-end systems, delivering real-time analytics and collaboration using voice and video. This is where Apple and Cisco working together makes so much sense, says Trollope. “…only Apple and Cisco can enable this level of transformation.”

The opportunity is to help organizations take the leap to being agile with “no compromise” collaboration experiences in every pocket by combining Apple’s mobile user experience with Cisco’s enterprise grade security reliability and performance.

Communication is about more than simply being able to call employees, customers or partners. “It’s about being able to message, meet, and call instantly in a way that strengthens relationships and increases productivity.”

Cisco Spark

Cisco Spark provides a complete Collaboration as a Service solution from the Cisco Collaboration Cloud. It provides feature-rich communications tools including Cisco Spark, so instant communications and live video/voice meetings can take place reliably and securely too.

When it comes to integration between the systems the partners used public APIs to integrate Spark and iOS for better collaboration. “We are making the iPhone an extension of the desk phone – so users can collaborate easier than ever before – and still offer a business class experience for everyone,” he said.

iPhone integration with the Cisco Collaboration Cloud also allow users with VoIP to connect to their company’s PBX. “This brings significant cost savings for organizations because they aren’t using the cellular network and reducing their roaming charges. It will remove the need for many users to forward calls from their desk to mobile numbers, or leverage additional apps that allow connectivity to business features.’

When it comes to compliance and security policy and protocols the integration puts the combined solutions firmly in business class. This is because enterprises that must comply with such protocols (think government, financial and/or health, for example) can use the system to deliver essential call logging and auditing tools.

You can find out more about the impact in Trollope’s blog post on the Cisco website.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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