Cisco beams into telepresence

Traditional videoconferencing too difficult to deploy

Not content with commodity PC videoconference technology, Cisco has developed a telepresence system to offer real-time collaborative meetings within geographically distributed workplaces.

In what it claims is a world-first in standards-based telepresence solution, the TelePresence Multipoint Switch supports up to 36 separate physical locations and is integrated with the company's CallManager software to allow meetings to be booked with Outlook and initiated with a standard IP phone.

Cisco Australia and New Zealand managing director Ross Fowler said since it launched its telepresence emerging technology division last October, there are now 52 such systems in place throughout the company globally.

Fowler believes there is a compelling ROI for telepresence, which at $300,000 a piece, doesn't come cheap.

"It's just like running a normal meeting and has already saved me trips to the US and Singapore," he said. "Cisco wants to reduce its travel expenditure by 20 percent, which also reduces carbon emissions."

Globally, Cisco anticipates saving $201 million per year as a result of telepresence.

Cisco claims telepresence differs from regular videoconferencing in that it gives all participants a feeling of immersion with 65-inch plasma screens giving a life-size view of all participants.

Cisco has engineered everything from the wooden benches to the screens and cameras to create the telepresence product which comes in two versions - two-person and six-person.

For connectivity, standard SIP and Ethernet are used with bandwidth typically between 2 to 4Mbps per screen for real-time, 1080p high-definition video.

Fowler said some of Cisco's local customers have evaluated the solution but as yet there are no local buyers.

Internationally, Cisco announced the Regus Group as the first company to provide a public telepresence service to its small business customers.

To collaborate on documents, meeting participants can plug-in a notebook computer or place paper under another camera so the remote location can view them in real time.

Third-party videoconferencing solutions based on the H.323 standard are also supported.

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