The future of telepresence: It's virtual, mobile and social

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

It wasn't so long ago that we were in awe of telepresence -- its ability to bend space and time to put people who are thousands of miles apart face-to-face instantaneously. Now that we've experienced the power of telepresence, we want more. We want telepresence all the time. We want it to be available and effortless to use like a mobile phone. In effect, we want telepresence to be taken to the next dimension, one that allows for high-intensity collaboration.

As with any disruptive technology, the long-term success of telepresence will hinge on its ability to innovate to meet new user demands. In the consumer realm today, people are putting up with poor-quality video and limited functionality for a free service. But enterprise users are seeing the organizational efficiencies and business process transformations that telepresence can deliver, driving the demand for more sophisticated technology.

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Now, users want crystal-clear resolution, full-motion content, flexible content sharing and manipulation with annotation and whiteboarding, along with the ability to bring in users and content from multiple and mobile devices. Telepresence in the next dimension will no longer be about the meeting itself, but rather the intensity of the collaboration that will be paramount.

Major market shifts are coming to support high-intensity collaboration over telepresence, including:

* Telepresence is increasingly dynamic. We don't just use phones for voice conversations. Now, we exchange business cards, scan QR codes, take pictures, and find and order lunch. Such is the same for telepresence with high-intensity collaboration; we can share, edit and distribute documents ad hoc while dialing-in a user across the globe with one touch, enabling the ultimate level of workplace collaboration. For example, with the swipe of a finger, a user can pull up a product blueprint in real-time and reposition a life-size person to another screen to work on a document or develop a presentation together.

Secure, high-quality business meetings via telepresence are taking place on a multitude of mobile and centralized devices across global locations -- corporate offices, banks, military front lines and hospital bedsides. They are used for everyday team interactions as well as strategic corporate negotiations, crisis management, product development and brainstorming. This interactive meeting style is enabling users to work together in ways never before possible poised to enable limitless possibilities. When people can activate their brain's visual, hearing and touch receptors through the power of telepresence and high-intensity collaboration, the ideation and issue-resolution process is dynamic and can take on a life of its own.

* Bandwidth-efficient standards. Bandwidth is perhaps the chief concern among organizations adopting a pervasive video culture. This is especially true as users want ever more sophisticated and dynamic collaboration capabilities. The challenge to be bandwidth efficient is a constant for the video industry, and we're already seeing much progress on this front with the latest three-screen immersive systems on the market showing 20% lower bandwidth consumption over similar products.

While there's no panacea, there is also a standard on the horizon that will help. Next year the codec standard H.265 will be ratified by ITU-T. H.265 promises ubiquitous high-quality video by reducing bandwidth consumption up to 50% compared to existing technologies. During the next few years, telepresence with high-intensity collaboration will become a requirement for all users, not simply a nice-to-have. H.265, along with an intelligent network, will be the key to making it happen.

* Clear forecast for telepresence in the cloud. Cloud-based telepresence services will be ubiquitous as they will be the equalizer that brings businesses of all sizes into the telepresence age. New telepresence models will continue to emerge and be deployed throughout a variety of markets and across a mixture of public, private and hybrid cloud options. For smaller businesses, a cloud-based service offers the promise of telepresence delivered with an affordable, reliable and highly secure experience.

Growing companies will appear larger than they are with telepresence capabilities but without the upfront costs, as they don't have to invest in the infrastructure or even think about how to make it work. And cloud-based telepresence offers them the option to easily scale as the needs of their business evolve.

Mid-to-large companies can deploy cloud-based telepresence to extend their telepresence network to branch offices, remote locations or to teleworkers. The simplicity and cost-efficiency of a cloud-based telepresence model will allow high-intensity collaboration to proliferate to a new and broader base of users spurring greater innovation inside of organizations and across their ecosystems of partners, suppliers and customers.

These are just a few considerations. As for what's next in the world of telepresence and business video communications, will it be screens on your bathroom mirror that send vital stats straight to your doctor's office, triggering an impromptu virtual home visit? Or intelligent telepresence systems that recognize your face for authentication purposes and populate your preferences, both within the system itself and for the room in which you sit? There are many possibilities, but you can bet it's not if, but when, they'll be coming to a business near you.

What do you think is next? Let us know your thoughts about what's next for telepresence in the comments below.

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Information about Cisco can be found at http://www.cisco.com. For ongoing news, please go to http://newsroom.cisco.com.

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