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Tech roundup: Cisco investing $500 million in ‘smart’ Berlin; robots invade Eindhoven

The good news this week (and we could all use some good news about now) is that Europe is increasingly where the action is for tech – from digital cities to robots.

This week, Cisco executives announced they’re investing $500 million to turn Berlin into a “smart city.” The Berlin Senate Department of Economics, Technology and Research and Cisco will develop a “horizontal infrastructure that all companies and public sector agencies in Berlin will be able to use,” according to a Cisco news release. Essentially, the agreement means the San Jose-based networking systems giant will put up the cash, hardware, software and tech expertise necessary to build and integrate a cross-agency digital platform.

The health platform will allow docs, hospitals and emergency services to exchange data. That is, Cisco will build a digital platform for Berlin’s healthcare sector that allows docs, hospitals and emergency services to exchange data. And though Germany has no HIPAA laws, it does have privacy laws, so that data will flow only after patients give “explicit permission,” according to the release.

The deal commits Berlin to using the company’s software and hardware … an increasingly common deal in Europe between U.S. tech firms and cities anxious to move into the Digital Age.

Other areas of digitization include creating an integrated emergency communications network so police, firefighters and hospitals can communicate better and respond faster. You can read the full release here.

The Berlin announcement comes as the Silicon Valley company reshuffles its executive lineup in San Jose. New (sort of) CEO Chuck Robbins elevated some of his own people to top positions, according to the Wall Street Journal yesterday. That and Cisco has been expanding aggressively in Europe, which tends to lag behind the U.S. in deploying technology.

Cisco seems to be focused like a laser on Europe. Earlier this year, Cisco executives announced they’ll add 200 jobs at the Cisco Meraki offices in London by the end of this year. Last year, Cisco made substantial acquisitions in Britain, including the $700 million purchase of London-based Acano as well as Watford, England-based consultancy firm Portcullis Computer Security.

The company opened one of its 10 global Innovation Centers on the EUREF Campus in Berlin in 2015. Cisco is involved in Smart City projects in more than 90 cities around the world, according to the release. And as we noted back in January, Cisco has pages and pages of current openings listed in almost every country in Europe from Romania to Spain.

So, apply now, before robots take your job. And speaking of robots, if you want to see how advanced they are, you need to be in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, from 30 March through 3 April.

Those are the dates for the RoboCup European Open 2016, where you’ll be able to see what the latest generation of robots can do. And they can do everything from play soccer to dance. In fact, one of the goals of the visionaries is to create robots that can defeat human soccer stars. Yikes ….

Participants – students and researchers – from all over the whole world will bring their robots to participate in the soccer games, according to the RoboCup website. And this is a big deal.

From the website:

RoboCup is a worldwide project with the aim of building a soccer playing robot that looks like a human and will be able to win from the human world champion in 2050! The knowledge about robotics, which will be obtained, will be shared within the RoboCup teams, so that the technology will be improving very fast. By using soccer as a subject, many people will get interested in the RoboCup.

There will also be competitions for service robots, which execute tasks such as serving drinks, cleaning the house or “saving people in an emergency,” according to the website.

To give you an idea of how global this event will be, here are some of the teams signed up to participate:

• HMRK Horner Mars Robo Kids from Germany

• The EXplosivi from Italy

• The Digiminds from the U.K.

• The MINHO Team, University of Minho in Portugal.

• NEUIslanders, Near East University in Turkey

• GraceBand, MehrNamiNovin in Iran.

For the soccer, there will be teams from Iran, Slovenia, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Canada. A team is scheduled to come from China for the rescue competition.

In this limited space, we can’t do justice to this event, so you need to read the summaries about the soccer competitions, as well as the manifesto for a future in which robots take the dangerous and mundane jobs humans either can’t do safely, or are unwilling to do.

All events will be at The Evoluon in Eindhoven, which is on the west side of the central city, about a 10-minute walk from the train station.

The Evoluon is at Noord Brabantlaan 1A
5652 LA Eindhoven
The phone number is cc 31 (0) 40 – 250 46 00.

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