The future of networking, digital transformation, and AI

Exclusive Interview with Cisco’s SVP and GM of Applications Rowan Trollope


Saudi Gazette

A world without smartphones, passwords, and flying cars might seem like a sci-fi movie but it’s not very far off and might come into reality “in a blink”, according to predictions made by leading networking company Cisco that considers itself shaping the Internet since the 1980’s.

One prediction is that by 2027, texting by thinking will be a form of communication.

Dubai’s plans to launch the first self-driving drone taxi in a couple of years from now aims to lead the way to flying automobiles.

Complete simulations by the human brain will be possible before the 2030’s where new jobs will be common such as avatar manager, body part maker, climate change reversal specialist and nano medic, to name a few.

The 2040’s will look dramatically different when the average home PC will have the computing power of one billion brains, virtual telepathy will dominate telecommunications and artificial intelligence could become smarter than humans.

But what drives those innovations? As developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning will continue to advance, they are expected to dramatically transform humans’ lives and the way we work.

The new network

Whether artificial intelligence will be replacing humans in jobs or taking over other duties, that leaves humans to solve more interesting problems, according to Cisco’s senior vice president and general manager of applications, Rowan Trollope.

“We need to get interested in what the new things we’re going to create,” he said in an interview with Saudi Gazette.

Trollope imagines a future where security is no longer a worry and passwords are long gone. This is one example of the outcomes of intent-based networking (IBN), technology that uses automation to manage networks.

“The network that has been largely deployed throughout the world is manual. The growth of the network means there’s not enough people to manage,” he says.

Once humans dictate what the network needs to achieve through intent, automation and data analytics should allow the network to monitor, self-learn, and run reliably.

For businesses, this means simplifying their networks that are becoming increasingly complex and have the network manage itself rather than run by people.

“It means much more efficient connectivity,” adds Trollope. “For the consumer, if it goes right, we will start to move towards solving security problems today that plague the network, creating less frustrations and headaches with infrastructures not working.”

Saudi Arabia embracing technology

Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation strategy aims to infiltrate all aspects of citizens’ lives from now and until 2030 to transform its highly consuming population into producers.

Commenting on the national strategy for digitization, Trollope believes education is key to prepare for the future.

“Training the next generation of knowledge workers and getting them into the science and technology fields is going to be critical,” he says. “Technology changes seem gradual and then sudden so there’s no in-between. Twelve years from now is a blink so you have to be ready for the sudden change and have more control of your own destiny from a technology perspective.”

With a highly digitally consuming population made up of a majority of youth, the government sees the potential to transform them into producers by promoting entrepreneurship and digital transformation in the public and private sectors.

Digitization initiatives in healthcare, education, smart city, and e-commerce, among other sectors, would create around 200,000 jobs by 2025.

“With this generation entering the workforce, there’s a totally different expectation of technology, namely things moving a lot faster. Teenagers are used to going through tens of messages in different messaging platforms in under five minutes,” commented Trollope who expects messaging to replace email while video and real-time meetings to increase.

Cisco’s focus towards software has led to the creation of collaboration tools such as Cisco Spark, a WhatsApp for business. “It’s transformative. It took my email load down from receiving 100 emails per day down to 50,” Trollope said. “Businesses that tend to be dominated with legacy expectations have to look to different technologies and rethink in arming their employees with communication tools.”

He added, “A few years ago, it would have been inappropriate for people to send an emoji, stickers, or memes in business. Now it’s totally normal, especially for this generation.”

With artificial intelligence, lines between the physical and virtual worlds are increasingly blurring.

Asked how he imagines communication to be by 2050, he sees humans to interact with a computer “as a brain interface.”

“There’s tremendous work to inject intelligence in communication,” he says, namely in translation, advanced real-time filters, diminishing language barriers, augmented communications, and personalized feeds.

One possible way of transmit ideas to others is sending customized messages to people through avatars.

The intent-based network, powered by analytics and automation, has the potential to making life easier for humans, he says, predicting a future where people have no struggle with technology and where “everything works all the time”.