Cisco Systems is releasing a protocol designed to improve interoperability with telepresence systems from other vendors. In addition, Cisco is rolling out applications to expand its TelePresence technology beyond the virtual meeting room and is offering new endpoints that are more energy-efficient and easier to install. The announcements come as VOIP and video conferencing rivals such as Polycom are looking for ways to keep pace with Cisco.
Cisco Systems is aiming to expand the reach of telepresence capabilities,
releasing an interoperability protocol and pushing its own TelePresence product
beyond virtual meeting rooms.
The networking giant on Jan. 26 also unveiled two new TelePresence endpoints
that are designed for easier installation and greater energy efficiency.
The moves are part of a larger strategy by Cisco to bring the benefits of
telepresence technology to a wider audience, Erica Schroeder, director of
marketing for Cisco's TelePresence business unit, said in an interview.
"Our goal is for everyone everywhere to have access to the immersive
experience," Schroeder said.
Cisco is releasing TIP (Telepresence Interoperability Protocol) into the
public domain to enable greater interoperability between multiscreen
telepresence systems from disparate vendors. The goal is to help businesses
improve communications not only among their own workers, but with customers and
partners as well.
"This will give Cisco and other vendors the ability to do
standards-based telepresence interoperability," Schroeder said.
Cisco is licensing TIP to other telepresence and video conferencing vendors
royalty-free, and expects this to be the first step to creating an open
standard for the technology. Already LifeSize Communications, Tandberg and
Radvision have signed licensing agreements for the protocol, according to Cisco
The vendor already offers some interoperability through its support of
H.323, which enables its TelePresence technology to work with other standard
and high-definition video conferencing systems and other collaboration
applications. In addition, Cisco supports HD video conferencing
interoperability solutions through its MXE 5600 (Media Experience Engine) and
Cisco Unified Videoconferencing.
Cisco is in the process of buying
Tandberg for $3.4 billion, while Logitech is acquiring
LifeSize for $405 million, all part of what is becoming an increasingly
competitive telepresence and video collaboration space. Other vendors are
partnering as they look to compete with Cisco in the video collaboration space.
Video conferencing vendors in January announced separate alliances with Siemens
Enterprise Communications Group and Juniper
Networks. That competition will only increase as business demand for video
collaboration technology grows.
"There has been in the last two years an unprecedented awareness and
pent-up demand for video among the general populace," Roopam Jain, an
analyst with Frost & Sullivan, said in an e-mail. "This is not just
emerging from a viral increase in consumer use of video (Skype, YouTube ...)
but also from the true understanding of benefits related to video adoption in
the enterprise [such as] travel cost savings and higher productivity. The
growing ease of use and better user experience of the current generation of
[video conferencing] products has been a significant contributor, too."
Cisco-particularly as it acquires Tandberg-has the pole position in the
video collaboration space, Jain said, with offerings from the desktop to the
TelePresence portfolio for enterprises. The company also can integrate video
with other communications applications, such as WebEx, she said.
"Cisco's competition, to build up some muscle, is focusing on
partnering with [video conferencing] vendors," Jain said, pointing to the
Polycom-Siemens alliance. "We expect to see interesting partnership
opportunities emerge for Polycom as it strengthens its relationship with
Siemens, Avaya and IBM."
Cisco also is moving the TelePresence experience outside the virtual meeting
room with new applications aimed at particular venues.
"With these applications, we want to give the ability to experience face-to-face
communications in lots of different ways," Schroeder said. "All of
these apps are customer-driven."
For example, Cisco is bringing its TelePresence technology into the
educational arena, enabling face-to-face remote experiences in classrooms and
lecture halls as well as corporate training rooms. TelePresence currently is
used in administrative roles in schools, "but [school officials have]
really been pushing to apply this technology to teaching," she said.
TelePresence Active Collaboration Room brings together the immersive
technology with other collaborative applications such as Cisco's WebEx. Through
the company's TelePresence Remote
Cisco aims to give customers a way to demonstrate new products without having
to travel to different sites.
Cisco also offers an in-person concierge service through its TelePresence
Live Desk, and live Webcasting or recording services through the TelePresence
Schroeder said Cisco will be adding new applications in the future.
Cisco also is rolling out the TelePresence System 3010 and 3210, which
Schroeder said will offer greater energy efficiency and be easier to deploy.
Both endpoints offer in-room HD LCDs that enable users to collaborate on content
across the TelePresence meeting from a laptop or an integrated document camera.
The new systems reduce power consumption by 25 percent, and more of the
endpoints are preassembled, making them easier to install. The systems also
offer improved lighting and increased bandwidth efficiency, Schroeder said.