A couple of months ago, during Cisco Live in Las Vegas, UNLOCK met with Kate O’Keeffe, Senior Director of CHILL Cisco Hyperinnovation Living Labs. She had just recently carried out a Living Lab on “Securing the Digitized Supply Chain powered by the Blockchain”. CHILL is aimed to drive disruptive innovation with and for customers. They are 48-hour pop-up labs which drive joint investments opportunities from multiple parties into projects or startups that get support. This time for the Blockchain Lab, the partners included CitiBank, Intel, GE, and DB Schenker among others.
UNLOCK asked Kate about her thoughts on Blockchain and Cisco’s innovation in this new technology. She explained, “I don’t like to call it Blockchain strategy because it doesn’t make a lot of sense, it is like saying you have a python strategy. The Blockchain is a tool, so it should fit into your existing strategic objectives and not be an objective in and of itself.”
When it came to CHILL, O’Keeffe looked at how Blockchain could help Cisco and its partners secure the supply chain. As she explained, “Supply chain is a huge part of our business, we and our partners such as Intel, GE and others share these massive supply chains because Cisco sells to Intel and Intel sells Cisco and so forth. Between us there is half a billion dollars worth of supply chain, which justifies doing a Living Lab on the topic because CHILL needs a multiparty approach.”
Cisco is concerned about security in all its aspects because whether it is digitization, IoT, supply chains what will be paramount for a customer is to trust the source. As O’Keefe says, “We were really interested in ensuring the provenance of the sources of goods, as Cisco is deeply concerned with issues such as counterfeited products, Trojans in hardware, and we wanted to look into how Blockchain could help secure our supply chain from source to the customer.”
Kate remarks CHILL is not the only place where Cisco is exploring Blockchain, this is happening across the entire Cisco business in different business areas. The main question to ask according to O’Keeffe is “Is Blockchain as a tool applicable to your strategy and where can a distributed ledger be leveraged?”
As for our question as to how important she thinks Blockchain is as a tool? Her reply, “I believe Blockchain will have a significant impact, it will change everything as more devices become connected because the conversations about trust become even more essential. Trade moves at the speed of trust, the more we see companies being disrupted by others who have strong trust with users and partners, the more people will take this idea seriously.” She adds, “Blockchain will be the foundation of global trade.”
As a result of CHILL’s “Securing Digitized Supply Chain powered by the Blockchain,”, Cisco jointly invested in 4-5 outcomes (projects, startups) which came through the lab. O’Keeffe would not elaborate further on the nature of these outcomes. However, she did state that the results of these outcomes should be public by the end of the 2017 beginning of 2018.
In Conclusion, CHILL is but one of Cisco’s many innovation arms that fall under its 5-pillar innovation strategy, build, buy, partner, invest, and co-develop. As O’Keeffe explains, “In our last three Labs we invested in 6 outcomes, of which 2 are still existent today. CHILL is an important part of our innovation engine as Cisco spends $ 6 billion in R&D, $2.2 billion in venture capital, and $250 million investment fund and has invested in 100 startups. We are looking towards our next CHILL which will cover the Worker of the future, and topics of AI Robotics trying to assess what the future of work will look like.”