Tuesday, April 20, 2010
CAN CISCO BECOME A VISUAL NETWORK CARRIER? TELEPRESENCE
Yesterday, Scribes were summoned to Cisco's seventh floor office suites at Landmark Plaze opposite The Nairobi Hospital to witness Cisco Tele Presence technology.
"It's not video-conferencing," Shahab, the Cisco GM here said. "It's TelePresence!" Now, the facilities that Cisco has at their place are of course top of the range. In a custom made room with three giant plasma screens with three cameras all branded Cisco we were sat to hook up with peeps from Sao Paulo, London and Jo'Burg.
The screens, Cisco guys pointed out to us, were High Definition, the audio was spatial. So we clicked start program on a touch screen PABX like phone in front of us and voila! we were connected to three time zones.
The audio I must say was excellent with no delay and the images were really good quality. The question is to what effect?
A good article written last week pointed out how companies fail by misreading their competition. For example, the competition for airlines is not other airlines, the piece sagaciously noted, but videoconferencing that cuts out the need to travel.
For Cisco, this ability to communicate seamlessly say for a bank with multiple branches without the need to travel will be a big selling point. But this in no way makes it a world beater because already other players are testing video conferencing solutions that are getting better and better.
What struck me was the next phase of this thing. Currently, Cisco TP works on intranets that is within one company's network. You can't for example connect on Cisco TP and connect to another company out there.
But it is on the way. The company is coming up with what it calls Cisco TP Exchange Point which will allow companies with TP technology to communicate.
With an intercompany TP exchange, Cisco could be well on its way to being a sort of carrier for high-definition video and audio conferencing. For if this was to take off it could be a way of companies to do business without the hassle of travel or too many back and forth emails.
Companies like Cisco for example, could carry out corporate training for top CIO/CTOs at major firms from their regional HQs if they all have TP deployed.
Locally, it will take time for this technology to be deployed as it is quite expensive ranging from US$100,000 - US$500,000 (Sh7-35m). Further, it still needs heavy bandwidth and as the Cisco guys noted, TP over 3G would be a stretch. 4G maybe.
However, government is a good candidate to pilot this technology both for its own use and for leasing to others to use.
DEpartment of Defence could also deploy this to its regional commands and allow top brass to communicate with commanders.
Universities can also establish this if they have the money for distance learning for example collabos with other universities around the world or for their satellite campuses when faculty is stretched.
For smaller scale businesses, it will take entrepreneurs such as cyber-cafes, network operators or even hotels to deploy this technology and then charge for its use. Much in the same way, Hotels offer conference facilities or even boardrooms for meetings, they can offer this service for say a small NGO wishing to have face to face like meetings with their head offices.
Nairobitech cannot part without mentioning the issue of mobility. This would seem to be a far cry for now but it would seem to be the next natural development. However, it will require far higher capacities.