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Cisco using the Internet to help turn cities green

Router and switch maker assisting cities around the world to consume less power and produce less pollution. And, of course, company hopes to pick up some business in the process.

Cisco Systems is trying to help cities around the world go green.

On Monday the company announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Metropolis, an organization of 106 large cities mostly outside the United States, to help these cities use technology that is more efficient and less polluting.

The goal is to help build "intelligent" city infrastructure based on Internet Protocol technology. Cisco's philosophy is that helping cities get networked to use the Internet will also help them cut back on power consumption and pollution. As part of the two-year collaboration, Cisco will help cities come up with plans for a whole slew of solutions from building better-managed power grids to using technology that consumes less power to encouraging telecommuting and video conferencing.

And of course, Cisco, which makes networking equipment and has recently branched out into other product areas, such as IP collaboration tools, hopes its efforts will spur some business, too. As part of the initiative, Cisco's WebEx and Telepresence products will be used to help the cities collaborate with one another.

Cisco also plans to help cities set up regional Innovation Centers where specific green policies and technologies can be discussed and developed. Cisco and Metropolis will also jointly set up an Urban Leadership Academy that will provide training and skills programs that can be replicated throughout the world to demonstrate how cities can use technology more effectively.

Cisco has been working on helping cities go green for some time. The company said Monday's announcement with Metropolis builds on an ongoing partnership Cisco has with Connected Urban Development (CUD), a public-private partnership that includes cities such as San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Seoul. CUD also develops replicable programs and solutions to help cities develop and implement sustainable and intelligent technologies.

Cisco has also been acquiring companies to bolster its expertise in this area. In January it bought Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence, a company that makes "middleware" that helps businesses better manage building systems, such as lights and air conditioning systems, to help save energy.