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In The Boardroom With...

Mr. Steve Collen
Director of Product Marketing
Physical Security Business Unit



Steve Collen is the director of marketing in Cisco’s Physical Security business unit, focusing on the development of network-based surveillance, access control and collaboration systems. Steve was one of the founders of the business unit and is working hard to make it a $1 billion product line for Cisco. After product management roles at British Telecom and AT&T, Steve joined Cisco in 1995 and has been responsible for the management and marketing of high-end routing, network security and other product lines.

Steve is the father of two and enjoys shooting, soccer and motorcycling. He is a native of the U.K. and became a U.S. citizen in 2010. He has a degree in management science from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in the U.K. and an MBA from the University of Birmingham in the U.K. I thought of Cisco as I read about the millions of Americans who have been affected by this year's storms, fires and other disasters. Bridges are down, roadways are destroyed, and communications have been severely disrupted. What kinds of solutions does Cisco bring to market in this context?

Steve Collen: Well, our goal is to protect people, property, communities and infrastructure by using the network as a platform to deliver and integrate key security capabilities. A basic example would be delivering real-time video surveillance footage of an in-progress incident to a first responder's iPhone or tablet. Once on scene, the first responder can then upload and share their own video of the event. Is "the network as a platform" approach related to Cisco's Smart+Connected Communities initiative?

Steve Collen: As we describe on our website, "Cisco Cisco Smart+Connected Communities
uses intelligent networking capabilities to weave together people, services, community assets, and information into a single pervasive solution." The network is the platform that helps transform physical communities into connected communities. Connectivity is essential in keeping communities safe. Speaking of safe... earlier this year, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton (the former 9/11 Commission chair and vice chair who now co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center's National Security Preparedness Group) released a statement. They said: "The 9/11 attacks demonstrated that teamwork, collaboration, and effective communications at the site of a disaster are critical. ... But we have heard from too many community leaders and first responders that many regions still have not solved the problem of having a unified command structure. There also has been inadequate progress in establishing interoperable communications for first responders. Improved regional coordination must be integrated into emergency communications planning, and it is vital that the government allocate an additional ten megahertz of radio spectrum to public safety that will enhance their ability to communicate during a disaster." It's a bit shocking that this is still the case 10 years after 9/11.  

Steve Collen: It is pretty shocking. Situational awareness and collaboration are really important ingredients in responding to any incident, and Cisco provides solutions in both of these areas. For example, the Cisco Physical Security Operations Manager provides a single map-based view of a particular area. It might be a campus, a series of geographic sites, or a single building. The system operator can "drill down" into a particular alarm, obtain and distribute video of exactly what's going on, and then -- using the Cisco IPICS product -- bring security staff into a talk group that links iPhones to UHF radios, desk phones, IP phones, or whatever handheld device they may be carrying. Automated instructions can even be integrated into the system, giving specific instructions for staff to carry out and then monitoring to see if they have complied. Are those the products that the San Diego Sheriff's Department used during those fires in 2007? By the way, congratulations on the success of that effort.

Steve Collen: Thanks. Well, in the case of San Diego -- which was experiencing serious forest fires -- we not only provided the collaborative capabilities I mentioned above, but we also went mobile. We provided the Sheriff's Department with a Cisco NERV -- Network Emergency Response Vehicle -- which is essentially a truck packed with networking technology. It drove to the scene of the fires and acted as an on-site command vehicle. The NERV has satellite uplink capabilities that can be used to tie together on-site personnel and the outside world if there are no other convenient networks available. What other success stories have you had? 

Steve Collen: Well, our focus is really on providing large-scale solutions, where a high degree of integration between different systems is required and where Cisco service and support teams play a critical role. Some recent examples would include the Auckland airport in New Zealand, Banco de Cordoba in Argentina, and the Austrian road network, known as ASFINAG.

Typically these systems require video surveillance integrated with physical access control and the collaborative communications capabilities I mentioned before. They also often require integration with sensors -- such as acoustic gunshot detection sensors, fire and gas sensors, earthquake sensors -- and with other systems, like building energy management.

One final point: Integrating systems can be complex, and while Cisco provides the technology building blocks for integration, we rely on the skills of our integrator partners to get the job done. They combine networking, physical security, IT security and a host of other skills. We can't succeed without system integrators! For those involved in city planning and sustainability, what resources are available at to help them determine if their city is smart enough?  

Steve Collen: Funny you should ask. Several months ago, Cisco asked the consulting firm Ovum to analyze what ingredients and leadership behaviors are necessary to create a connected city. The report is called "Is Your City Smart Enough?" and it's available on the Cisco website at Thanks again for joining us today, Steve.

For the Cisco case study regarding how San Diego County used the Network Emergency Response Vehicle to more effectively manage response to the Harris Fire: