A collaboration opportunity drives Cisco to clear those cluttered desks

Videoconferencing needs to leave the boardroom, but not without some challenges. Our coverage of Cisco Live 2014 in San Francisco

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Every office has a boardroom, but only seven per cent of boardrooms actually have some sort of videoconferencing equipment, according to Rowan Trollope, SVP/GM of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group, who spoke to press at Cisco Live in San Francisco this week.

Why? It’s primarily a matter of affordability. But, beyond that, we’re seeing a shift away from the boardroom to the desktop — and that’s changing the way we’ll use videoconferencing technology in the future.

Increasingly, people don’t want to go into boardrooms to do their conferencing — they want to do it at their desk. “Our vision is to get this stuff into everyone’s hands,” said Trollope. “That means … bringing telepresence to every desk, not just the corner office.”

The problem is, the desktop videoconferencing experience in many organizations leaves something to be desired.

We’ve seen a movement toward simplification in the consumer space, where we can practically do anything on a smartphone. But, as Trollope points out, when you walk into the workplace, it feels like you’re turning back the technology clock by 10 years.

People’s desks are a mess — they have a PC or a Mac, a phone, maybe an external webcam, microphone, headphones and speakers, and probably a USB hub to plug it all in. And, even with this mish-mash of equipment, the overall videoconferencing experience might not be all that great, so a lot of people don’t bother using it.


Cisco DX80 Canada

Cisco’s DX80

Cisco is addressing this with the DX70 and DX80, designed to replace all that desktop clutter. In a single device powered by Android, users have access to HD video, high-end audio, web conferencing, as well as integrated business apps. The touch screen allows users to write and draw on the screen and share it while they’re on a videoconference. It can replace or supplement an existing monitor.

It connects to existing infrastructure but runs compression and decompression algorithms right in the device, offloading that from the PC to improve the overall quality of the videoconferencing experience. Third parties can also develop apps for specific needs (such as whiteboarding) and vertical markets.

Cisco will also be offering users a personal collaboration space in the cloud through Collaboration Meeting Rooms (CMRs), which will be launched later this year. Based on WebEx technology, CMRs offer a “personal rendezvous point in the cloud,” and attendees can join from pretty much any device — from WebEx to a unified communications platform a mobile device running iOS, Android and Windows Mobile.

The healthy choice

The applications for this are numerous. Paras and Associates, for example, is a company that provides hosted video translation services for the health-care industry in the U.S., where home-based interpreters take calls on-demand from hospitals across the country.

Melinda Paras, the company’s CEO, sees a need for integrated videoconferencing devices in hospitals (which could be wheeled around on a cart), as well as cloud-based collaboration for outpatients who need to communicate with a physician on whatever device they have handy.

Sometimes a doctor asks the patient if they understand the instructions for post-surgical care. The patient may say yes, but everything about their facial expression and body language indicate the patient has no idea what they’re being told to do. “It’s a patient’s life that’s at stake in understanding or not understanding the doctor’s instructions,” said Paras.

This applies to any health-care system in the world — think of the potential applications in Canada’s remote and rural communities, particularly up north.

Videoconferencing, obviously, has been around a long time, but vendors are stepping it up a notch and bringing it closer to individual users than ever before.

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