Pepsico taps Cisco and BT for a telepresence initiative that will roll out in the company's major offices worldwide. The project will use Cisco's TelePresence technology and BT's services. The move illustrates the growing enterprise demand for telepresence technologies, and the need for interoperability between vendor systems. Cisco and Polycom differ on the ways to establish interoperability standards.
A decision by Pepsico to deploy Cisco Systems' TelePresence solution
illustrates the growing demand for the technology, which can help enterprises
improve collaboration and reduce expenses.
The giant food company announced Feb. 2 that it will use Cisco's solution
and services from BT to improve collaboration with partners and reduce travel
The decision comes at a time when telepresence technology is becoming a
hot-button topic and a sector of the tech industry that is getting a lot of
attention from businesses and vendors alike.
Tandberg, which is in the process of being bought
for $3.4 billion, announced Feb. 2 that it is rolling out a new
display-the Codec C40-that is designed to expand the market for telepresence
In addition, vendors are beginning to debate the issue of interoperability among
the various telepresence offerings, with Cisco officials a week ago announcing
designed to help with interoperability. Several vendors have
signed up for the protocol, and Tandberg announced Jan. 28 that it had
successfully demonstrated interoperability with a Cisco TelePresence technology
using the protocol.
However, officials with Polycom say they are uncomfortable with the idea of
a top market vendor leading the interoperability drive, arguing that the
development of protocols should be left to third-party standards boards.
For Pepsico, the move to adopt a telepresence solution was about saving
money, improving productivity and lessening its impact on the environment.
"The new collaboration strategy with BT and Cisco will reinvent the way we
work," Robert Dixon, senior vice president and global CIO
for the company, said in a statement. "Global virtue meeting collaboration will
enable us to travel less, which will allow for greater productivity and a
smaller environmental footprint."
Pepsico will use Cisco's TelePresence systems throughout its major offices
across the globe and will rely on BT for "concierge-level" services, such as
capabilities throughout Pepsico that will enable greater collaboration with its
distributors and retailers.
Telepresence multiscreen technology is designed to create an immersive
environment-from the audio and visual experience to the collaboration features
and room design-that gives participants the feel of a face-to-face meeting,
even though they may be many miles apart.
A growing number of vendors are looking to gain traction in the space.
Cisco's bid to buy Tandberg will help the company expand its reach into the SME
space. Logictech is getting into the game through its $405
of LifeSize Communications. At the same time, vendors like
Polycom, Radvision and Mitel are growing their capabilities.
That's helping drive the need for greater interoperability between vendor
systems, something Cisco officials say they are trying to enhance through the
introduction of their TIP (Telepresence Interoperability Protocol), which will
help expand the reach of the technology. Cisco said that Tandberg, LifeSize and
Radvision already have signed licensing agreements for the protocol.
One company that won't
be signing on is Polycom
. Joe Sigrist, senior vice president and general
manager of Polycom's video solutions unit, said in an interview that he is wary
of a protocol push being driven by a vendor the size of Cisco, particularly
when there have been successful standards-including H.264 and H.239-established
through independent bodies for single-display video conferencing. There's no
reason standards for multidisplay telepresence systems also can't be
established through third-party bodies.
"We're not participating in this so-called standards initiative [by Cisco],"
Cisco officials said when they released the TIP that they hoped eventually
to bring it to a standards body.
Roopam Jain, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan, said businesses are going
to expect interoperability between vendor systems.
"Telepresence has been recognized as a game-changing technology in today's
business world," Jain said via e-mail. "However, users want the assurance that
it can extend to both intra-company and inter-company communications. As a
result, interoperability is becoming a key issue to ensure that telepresence
users are not only able to connect to other telepresence users, but also to the
large installed base of room-based videoconferencing systems and desktop video
Taking the initiative was a smart move by Cisco, she said.
"This is Cisco's first major push to establish its
commitment to developing telepresence standards and interoperability," Jain
said. "Also, it opens up new opportunities for service providers to use Cisco's
telepresence protocol to connect to other vendors' solutions, making
business-to-business telepresence a reality, regardless of which vendors'
products are being used."