More of a potential giant than an actual one -- yet. The networking king unfurled its EnergyWise platform last year to reduce the energy consumed by PCs, networking equipment, and phones. Ultimately, Cisco wants to manage energy in buildings. It has already bought Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence to expand in that market. It has also entered into a few smart grid projects and plunked an investment into Grid Net, the broadband smart grid provider.
Another market: videoconferencing and city planning. Cisco cut its own travel budget by $500 million using video.
Granted, that pales in comparison to what others on the list have accomplished. Even Silver Spring is still a bigger name in smart grid. Nonetheless, two factors make Cisco a threat. One, it has a somewhat strong history of acquiring companies and then actually exploiting their technology in their own products. (That flip camera one notwithstanding.) With a market that will see a tremendous amount of M&A activity, this is a subterranean skill.
Two, smart grid is all about networking and Cisco has quite a bit of expertise here. Still, we'll have to wait and see. Various IT companies have laid plans to expand from their core markets and never quite succeeded. Only time will tell on this one.
Rick Thompson, Co-Founder and President of Greentech Media, contributed to this article.