Cisco enters the sustainability game with San Francisco partnership

Cisco Systems has officially launched its Smart+Connected Communities program in San Francisco, signing on to provide multiple technologies to make the city more sustainable, and partnering with local government, and maybe even the United Nations, in a new laboratory working to reduce global warming and make urban living more eco-friendly.

Mayor Gavin Newsom signed the deal while touring Cisco’s Smart+Connected facility in Bangalore, where it researches tactics to reduce fossil fuel use, carbon emissions and the costs of sustainable technologies. The company will be especially active in drawing up a vision of what a greener, 21st Century San Francisco would look like — setting a goal to work toward.

In particular, it will look at how Cisco technology can be used to make existing health care, education, utility and security systems more energy efficient. One example of a Cisco-San Francisco collaboration already in the works is the Urban EcoMap initiative — a web-based interactive map showing which neighborhoods are emitting the most greenhouse gases, using the most energy and producing the most waste (see below). The service also provides recommendations for how to improve on all these metrics and hit emission-reduction targets, at a low cost or even low effort level.
Another example is Cisco’s Connected Bus pilot project. In partnership with the San Franciso Municipal Transportation Agency, the company is designing and delivering buses that provide a quality rider experience while emitting less carbon — hopefully encouraging more people to give up their cars in favor of public transportation. Integrating touch screens, wireless, and light-emitting diode systems, the buses will also be 95 percent emissions free.

While it’s not yet set in stone, the agreement between Cisco and San Francisco could pull the former into a collaborative laboratory called the United Nations Global Compact Center, to be located on the Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco. The center would be used to investigate and pace sustainable development practices.

In particular, this facility will look at how to create more recreational and park space, make better use of wastewater, ensure that new building projects are green, and draw more power from solar sources. In addition to research space, it will also provide incubator resources for green technology companies. Ultimately, it is predicted to create 30,000 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs for residents of San Francisco and surrounding cities.

The pact with Newsom and the City is yet another example of Cisco greening its image. So far, it has been making noise in the Smart Grid arena, trumpeting its ability to provide IP-based communication and cybersecurity systems for these applications. But now it looks like it’s expanding its purview in general sustainability, especially when it comes to using digital and connected technology to clean up existing municipal systems.

And it’s not stopping with San Francisco — Cisco just launched an Urban EcoMap for Amsterdam, perhaps foreshadowing similar deals to come with cities in Europe.