Open standards bring telepresence to small businesses, individuals

Virtual offices let business rent telepresence

High quality video conferencing is now an option for small businesses and even individuals, according to Polycom senior director of unified communications strategy in Asia Pacific, Paul Newell.

“Traditionally, telepresence has been the domain of large enterprises and CEOs who could justify installing these [solutions],” Newell told Computerworld Australia.

“Regus is now extending that solution to smaller businesses and individuals. They’re really enabling video to everyone, anywhere.”

Newell sees visual communication becoming a ubiquitous, mission-critical business tool within two to three years.

Polycom, in cooperation with Regus and Cable&Wireless, launched three new virtual offices last week in Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The new sites offer immersive telepresence suites from Polycom that can be rented as needed by businesses and individuals.

Regus has deployed 14 sites to date with the Polycom RealPresence Experience immersive telepresence solution. The latest launch saw the opening of three more offices in Shanghai, Singapore, and Mumbai. Regus plans to implement 25 sites globally by the end of 2010.

The launches are part of a three-pronged agreement between Regus, Polycom and Cable&Wireless infrastructure. Regus provides the real estate and service to its customer base, using Polycom’s telepresence suite and consultation. Cable&Wireless Worldwide’s Managed Video Conference suite forms the backbone of the solution, providing the requisite bandwidth for high quality video conferencing. The company also provides a concierge service and takes care of any maintenance that may be required during the course of a video conference.

The suites use Polycom’s RealPresence Experience High Definition (RPX HD) 210 system, which has a 2.4 metre wide display with a 24:9 aspect ratio. The system is designed to seat up to 10 people simultaneously.

Polycom’s largest RealPresence systems can seat up to 28 people simultaneously but, according to Newell, this wasn’t a necessity for the Regus agreement.

Newell declined to reveal the cost of the telepresence solution, although he said Regus was realising a payback period of “less than six months”.

Regus has six Sydney-based offices with some form of video conferencing, but only the Darling Park facility on Sussex St will offer the high definition Polycom solution and Cable&Wireless Worldwide’s infrastructure for the time being.

Polycom has several competitors in the corporate telepresence space — Cisco, HP and Tandberg included — but Polycom’s use open source standards got it over the line in the Regus deal, Newell said.

“Regus needed to be able to connect with the 2500 sites out there, whether it was a Polycom endpoint or from a different manufacturer. Open standards enable Polycom [solutions] to connect with any other open standards endpoint.”

Newell thinks that the future of telepresence for businesses lies in a combination of in-house basic solutions and rental-based virtual offices.

“Traditionally, it’s been larger corporations that have deployed it for internal use; smaller businesses would have gone with more traditional, room-based conferences. The beauty of what Regus is doing is they’re actually extending this collaboration in cost benefits out to more and more people who normally wouldn’t deploy it in their business but want it on an as-needed basis.

“What was thought of as only for large corporation, small medium businesses can enjoy it in a cost effective manner that work for them.”

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Tags video telepresencepolycomReguscable&wireless worldwide

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