Moving From Rooms to Desktops and Smartphones
by Richard Grigonis, Grigonis Research
The value of telepresence—a concept that was once only dimly perceived by visionaries and futurists—is now fully appreciated at all business levels. Just as the renting and selling of movies has become more about instant delivery via the Internet than about mailing physical DVDs, so too are the personae of corporate denizens increasingly shared across the Web rather than face-to-face.
Indeed, the attraction of telepresence lies in its innate ability to eliminate the time and expense of traveling to branch offices and partner locations; improve employee well being; boost productivity via accelerated decision-making and product development; and reduce the corporate carbon footprint. Claire Schooley, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, claims that telepresence can slash corporate travel costs by about 20%, depending on the type of business.
Ironically, the shorter the meeting, the greater the telepresence return on investment—after all, what sense does it make for one to travel halfway around the world and spend a day shaking off jet lag, only to meet with someone for two hours?
The telepresence system is distinguished from conventional videoconferencing by its immersive qualities: Tasteful rooms are connected via broadband and fitted with multiple, large, high-frame-rate HD screens and superb audio, giving the impression that participants at various locations are sitting together and interacting around a single boardroom table. To complete the illusion, high-end systems may employ laptop interfaces and special interactive auxiliary tables, screens and whiteboard-like easels so that all participants can share deliverables, video streams and Web site navigation simultaneously. Thus, unlike many conventional in-person meetings, the telepresence system makes all information resources readily available—the “synthetic environment” can be better than the real one.
More Flexibility and Interoperability
Moreover, today’s telepresence systems enjoy increased flexibility and interoperability—they can communicate with medium-sized and much smaller executive desktop units in a manufacturer’s product line. Telepresence vendors have even begun to forge standards-based
interoperability among their systems, as evidenced by the nonprofit International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium (IMTC) making available the Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) to developers under a royalty-free license.
“Telepresence can slash corporate travel costs by about 20%, depending on the type of business.”
Claire Schooley, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research
“Telepresence is at a tipping point, and as new applications emerge, open interoperability and backward compatibility will be key to achieving truly widespread adoption,” says Joseph Burton, chief technology and strategy officer at Polycom. “We are focused on giving customers choice, flexibility and investment protection along with the quality, integration and interoperability they need for this technology to truly transform how they work.”
Greater interoperability has also been a boon to the telepresence services industry. Smaller organizations can forgo the installation and operating costs of telepresence equipment by calling upon a company such as Regus, which operates the world’s largest network of publicly available video communications facilities: 2,500 video-conferencing rooms and 14 immersive telepresence rooms configured with standards-based Polycom technology. About 86% of Regus’ video business involves connecting its telepresence centers to existing corporate systems—proof that “interoperability” is no longer an empty buzzword in the videoconferencing world.
Your Telepresence Is Requested
From immersive suites to mobile desktops, Polycom Telepresence allows you to be face-to-face without having to be in the same place, so you can more effectively communicate, solve and create.
Why travel when you and your teams can make faster and more informed decisions for less? Polycom Telepresence solutions are fully standards-based, making it easy to extend the value of real-time collaboration throughout your organization via seamless interoperability with Microsoft and IBM workgroup applications, as well as traditional videoconferencing systems.
Whether you’re trying to reduce travel costs, improve productivity, or improve customer relationships, Polycom powers smarter conversations, transforming lives and businesses worldwide.
Unified Communications Integration
Early telepresence equipment operated as the glorified centerpiece of an organization’s communications infrastructure. Today, however, such systems are simply becoming a useful component in the overall integrated communications framework, subject to the all-encompassing authority of unified communications (UC) systems.
“Customers want voice-and-video solutions tightly integrated with their UC platform, but they don’t want to be locked into one vendor,” adds Polycom’s Joseph Burton. “Polycom takes a standards-based approach so customers can use their video investments with the UC platform they have today and tomorrow.”
For example, Polycom has a deeply integrated voice-and-video offering for Microsoft UC environments, enabling users to easily launch voice-and-video calls from within Microsoft applications, and schedule and record telepresence calls as part of regular meetings in Microsoft Outlook. Additionally, Polycom and Microsoft announced last August that they will venture deeper to develop and market standards-based UC solutions for the enterprise, small-to-medium business and government markets, “that will encompass software, hardware, networking and services.”
Polycom has also expanded efforts with other partners, including IBM. In October, the company announced the availability of IBM Lotus Sametime, which integrates its room and personal telepresence solutions.
“We are putting our voice-and-video solutions just one click away within the applications that millions of people use every day to communicate and collaborate with others,” says Burton.
Not to be outdone, Avaya’s cost effective, end-to-end solution embraces everything from PC and Mac desktop soft clients to room systems. All Avaya endpoints can interoperate with each other as well as with third-party devices, thanks to the Avaya Aura Unified Communications infrastructure at the back end, which adheres to both the modern Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and earlier H.323 multimedia communications standards.
Avaya christened its remarkably practical user interface the “Avaya Flare Experience.” The Flare Experience first became available on the Avaya Desktop Video Device—an HD 11.6-inch multi-touch screen with integrated HD camera, dual microphones and stereo speakers, resembling a sort of supervideo iPad.
“Until recently, telepresence was a technological island, focusing on a few high-end room systems,” says Joe Sigrist, Avaya’s vice president and general manager for video. “Avaya’s portfolio of video-enabled UC systems expands telepresence use by bringing it down to the desktop and the individual. Thus, our desktop video device is also a full phone and can handle e-mail, calendaring, social media connectivity and so forth. The term ‘telepresence’ now is practically a replacement for ‘video.’”
The Next Step—Mobile Video
“The next logical step from the desktop,” says Sigrist, “is to extend video communications further ‘downward’ to include forward-facing cameras on smart phones. Avaya will introduce a mobile client version of our technology in 2011 for well-known, compelling mobile devices. With that, any and all individuals using various endpoint devices or suitably equipped smartphones can participate in the same call, and collectively can benefit from video communications.”
As telepresence systems proliferate, they are moving beyond the world of traditional enterprise meetings, rapidly entering vertical markets such as education, healthcare, government and entertainment. Furthermore, with increased connectivity and interoperability, telepresence calls between different organizations will be commonplace, bolstering the deal-making process.
“There’s nothing you can’t accomplish with telepresence,” concludes Harry Newton, telecom consultant and author of the best-selling Newton’s Telecom Dictionary. “Seeing the whites of their eyes gives you feedback and a deal. Telepresence is the best accomplishment tool ever invented.”
Business Collaboration Made Easy
Communications continue to challenge enterprises, largely because today’s devices and interfaces are too expensive and difficult to figure out. But now, Avaya has developed something new that is not only cost effective, but combines all of your disparate communications functions into one device—and it’s easy to use.
Imagine accessing all of your contacts across video, email, IM and social networks from one easy-to-use, video touch screen—simply drag and drop a contact from a virtual Rolodex into video, conference, chat or other sessions. Imagine a system that integrates with your specific business applications and supports third-party Android™ applications to further extend capabilities. Imagine complete mobility— everything at the fingertips of your employees without the need to gather in a specific location.
The Avaya Desktop Video and Flare Experience is simple, seamless and convenient—and it will change the way you communicate.
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