The Perfect Storm of Telepresence, Part 2

The exploding application market for telepresence—video communication that incorporates audio, visual, and physical elements of a meeting-room environment to create an immersive experience—is a d 7/24/2008 7:06 AM Eastern

The Perfect Storm of Telepresence, Part 2

Jul 24, 2008 11:06 AM, By John DeWitt

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Part 1

The exploding application market for telepresence—video communication that incorporates audio, visual, and physical elements of a meeting-room environment to create an immersive experience—is a double-edged sword, offering both challenges as well as significant opportunities for AV integrators in the corporate space, according to Michael Brandofino, president and CEO of Glowpoint, a Hillside, N.J.-based provider of managed video communications services. Glowpoint’s recently announced Telepresence Exchange Network (TEN) supports telepresence video calls between companies on different networks, and it enables video calls to existing conference room and desktop environments. In Part 2 of SVC’s Q&A with Brandofino, he identifies several high-growth sectors and says that despite the tendency of telepresence technology vendors to rely upon their existing stable of certified integrators, the telepresence boom opens up many other opportunities for AV contractors to implement corporate video communications, particularly when you can offer lower-cost solutions.

SVC: Is the growth of video communications and telepresence creating new opportunities for AV contractors and integrators?

The opportunity to participate in this market is a double-edged sword for AV companies. With telepresence, manufacturers have created complete packages, and these will detract from opportunities for AV integrators—because the manufacturers will certify certain people to install the systems. For instance, Cisco is certifying the traditional Cisco integrators to install telepresence rooms.

But the increase in adoption of video communications is overall a positive for the AV industry. Many customers are balking at the cost of all-encompassing rooms—which can run from $150,000 to $400,000—but say they already have the Polycom codecs for videoconferencing in place. So there is an opportunity to create telepresence-like environments using the customers’ existing equipment, or by providing lower-cost video communications solutions. So the AV industry should pay attention and understand how these telepresence rooms are integrating with the corporate IT environment. They will be able to add the other components that don’t come with the existing package, and if they have the ability to put together telepresence-like packages, they can offer these as a flexible solution for their customers.

Does Glowpoint work with smaller AV integrators as well as the leading suppliers such as Cisco and Polycom?

We definitely do. We try to remain very agnostic; we support all the different products; and we try to work through partners vs. direct sales. We’re a neutral player that levels the playing field for smaller AV guys. A small AV integrator, for example, can’t put together a 24x7 help desk, but by partnering with us, you can create a solution that competes with big telepresence solutions and includes the managed services component using our VNOC services.

In your recently published Glowpoint white paper, “The Role of Managed Services for Telepresence,” you write that according to Frost & Sullivan analysis, “ telepresence revenues are expected to increase by nearly 850 percent within the next five years.” Where do you see the strongest areas of growth in the corporate world, how prevalent will company-to-company video communications become?

Telepresence is still new—it’s still primarily within a company—although in certain industries intercompany video is growing. The legal industry, for example, is using video to facilitate the work of multiple law firms. You also see marketing firms working with multiple customers that have telepresence. We also have a banking customer that started out with video at desks, and now has started create these glass kiosks to become a little more sophisticated with video communications. And we’re looking at education, telemedicine, and customer service as areas that will create new avenues for Glowpoint, and for AV integrators who want to create and implement solutions around video communications. So don’t feel left out if you’re not involved in telepresence rooms—take advantage of the attention around all the other opportunities created with video.

A lot of the announcements still are big companies deploying systems for internal use, but what we’re hearing from our customers is, “I spent all this money, so I want to be able to talk to other folks.” That’s what the Telepresence Exchange Network is about, and what will need to happen in order for video communications to be used on a regular basis. There are also a growing number of rental telepresence rooms out there—so if your customer has telepresence, even if you can’t afford a room of your own, going through a rental facility and being able to talk with that customer can be really beneficial.

What companies will be the leading technology players in telepresence, and how will that impact corporate users’ investment in legacy videoconferencing systems?

Polycom, Tandberg, and Cisco are the major providers. HP also has an offering, and there are two notable smaller players: Teliris and Telanetix. Tandberg and Polycom have developed solutions that talk with legacy videoconferencing systems—if you have 25 Polycom systems along with telepresence rooms, you can do both. Cisco doesn’t have that legacy equipment, so their customers are investing in Cisco-to-Cisco solutions initially.

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