Cisco System's Connected Urban Development initiative – a project that's led to networked schools in Portugal, energy efficient apartments in Spain, and an "EcoMap" of the carbon emissions from energy use, waste management and transportation patterns in San Francisco, among other eco-friendly showcases – is looking for business partners.

Cisco CEO John Chambers announced the launch of the CUD Alliance on Thursday at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York. It's an envisioned expansion of the $15 million effort Cisco launched three years ago to find ways to use its networking expertise to help cities cut their carbon footprints – and sell more of its networking gear and services in the process.

Seven cities – Amsterdam, San Francisco, Seoul, Lisbon, Madrid, Hamburg and Birmingham, England – have signed on so far. Now Cisco's looking at adding up to 40 more cities to that list, said Nic Villa, Cisco's senior director for the CUD initiative. But it doesn't want to be the only company on board, he said.

While Villa wouldn't say which companies Cisco might be talking to, he did say that The Climate Group nonprofit group was on board.

"As part of the agreements, we need to figure out what is a sustainable model from a financial perspective," he said. The next 12 months should see the initial $15 million depleted, so Cisco's looking for ways to make these disparate projects pay for themselves, he said.

Of course, Cisco is already seeking to master networked building energy efficiency with its EnergyWise and Building Management Mediator platforms. Networking schools and government buildings might be seen as an extension of that line of business (see Cisco Rolls Out Building Management 'Mediator').

It's also working on a home energy networking project with IBM and Dutch utility Nuon in Amsterdam, one of its CUD cities (see IBM, Cisco Partner on Smart Grid Project).

Another option for revenues, Villa said, might be the creation "Urban Services Platform," modeled on the enterprise resource planning systems now used by many companies.

Another scheme that's admittedly still a long time off is finding a way to use the information gathered by the San Francisco EcoMap for use in carbon markets to come, he noted (see Green Light post).

Right now the EcoMap's data on carbon emissions linked to energy use, transportation and waste and recycling comes from the city government, utilities and individual residents, and isn't certified in any way that would allow it to be tradable, he said.

But perhaps someday, "When this information can be certified, then it can be monetized, and traded it into the carbon market," he said.

Much of the growth in the nascent carbon accounting software industry, however, is coming from companies that want to track and reduce carbon emissions for public relations purposes, rather than for regulatory compliance (see Carbon Accounting: It's All About Appearances).

Could the various projects under the CUD serve as an entry point for Cisco into carbon accounting? Seeing how many companies join in on the CUD Alliance over the next 12 months or so might be one way to gauge the potential.