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Interop: Cisco, NBA Star Tout Internet Of Things

Cisco's network architecture can make Internet data feeds work for virtually any business, from hospitals to sports, says VP Robert Soderbery in keynote featuring NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving.

Soderbery said that thanks to Cisco ONE, IT administrators can manage all aspects of the network from a single control plane, rather than, as is usually the case in legacy architectures, controlling single components and policies individually. Admins can also harness APIs in the control layer to deploy network-aware applications, hook into cloud services, stream video and more.

To illustrate how these capabilities translate to better revenue or services, Soderbery highlighted benefits for several traditional verticals. The technology could allow healthcare professionals, for example, to remotely treat patients thousands of miles away, and, as Cisco's current ad campaign illustrates, to better coordinate various medical workers -- EMTs, ER doctors, nurses -- during emergencies.

But Cisco representatives have been talking about these sorts of advances for months. Where does basketball fit in?

Just as sensors might collect data in a manufacturing plant to optimize operations, they could also, as researchers are already exploring in baseball, be embedded in other objects, such as the connected basketball Soderbery showed off during his speech. Although it looks and handles like an ordinary basketball, it can measure factors such as arc and rotation in real time. Such variables might be useless to a sharpshooter like Steve Nash but could pinpoint correctable technique errors for the Dwight Howards of the world.

Video-based analytics is another way Cisco's technology could apply to sports. The presentation included an iPad app that analyzes footage to give coaches and fans real-time insight into the game. Such a data-heavy product would require a robust network architecture to link cameras, distributed intelligence and the end device -- but Soderbery argued all the gadgetry could pay off in big ways.

The demonstration juxtaposed a video of Kyrie Irving driving to the basket with statistics ranging from his speed and how high he jumped to information about surrounding players. Advanced metrics are already making their mark in sports; there is, for example, the Oakland Athletics' embrace of "Moneyball," and the ongoing playoff run of the Memphis Grizzlies, whose VP of basketball operations John Hollinger is among basketball's best-known number crunchers.

But most of these metrics are collected and analyzed after a game is over. With technology like Cisco's, coaches and fans could enjoy sophisticated insights in real time. For example, some questioned whether Golden State coach Mark Jackson made the right decision Monday night when he played star guard Stephen Curry for the entirety of a double overtime playoff loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Critics reasoned that Curry tired down the stretch, and that he might have been more effective if he'd been given a brief rest. Such comments are largely subjective, but next-gen apps such as the one Cisco demonstrated could quantify fatigue in a way that meaningfully changes coaching decisions.

As for Irving, he joined Soderbery onstage for the keynote's final minutes, following the app demonstration. The Cleveland Cavaliers point guard kept his remarks brief, endorsing technology such as Cisco's as a way to improve his game while connecting with fans.

He also treated the audience to a quick game of horse against Soderbery. Irving won the contest in one-sided fashion, predictable given that few networking executives can go toe-to-toe with NBA All-Stars. But then again, if Cisco's architecture delivers on its promises, maybe Soderbery could pull off a few surprises if there's ever a rematch.

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