How video conferencing can open new markets

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How video conferencing can open new markets
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Mining consultancy Inpex wanted visual communications for its geographically dispersed teams so they could plan and design a project to extract gas offshore in Western Australia.

Effective and frequent communication was essential for this project, with lengthy meetings between the Australian offices in Darwin and Perth, London, and the Japan offices in Yokohama and Tokyo.

Traditionally this involved significant travel for busy executives, which resulted in a lot of down time and deferred decision making.

The consultancy selected Polycom’s HDX 7000 room telepresence product for its ease of use and open-source, open-standards based platform, says Jason Brotherson, Inpex’s infrastructure and telecommunications principal.

The solution was used to create a life-like meeting experience to help the geographically dispersed teams collaborate as if everyone was in the same room. Inpex’s highly complex gas project needed many strategic and highly detailed planning meetings between international offices, and the system is often used up to six hours a day and is a regular part of day- to-day business. Because it is easy and quick to use, people are using the telepresence system constantly and are making decisions faster, Brotherson says.

Polycom’s reputation as an advocate of open standards “made it the obvious choice for our requirements”.

“The solutions are easy to use, reliable and effective, which is why we have been able to achieve such high return on investment,” Brotherson says.

In the office, in the home

The potential of videoconferencing has always been enormous, as shown by the popularity of consumer products such as Skype which had more than 660 million users in 2010.

The complexity and cost of videoconferencing are dropping, and at every lower price point there is a new market waiting. The more active video conferencing units in use, the greater the number of people with whom you can make a video call.

Businesses will be more likely to take up video conferencing if they can connect to their customers with a business-grade service. Cisco hopes to establish itself as a major player in home video conferencing and took a step towards this goal by slashing the price of its home telepresence service, Umi.

The Umi line offers HD recording and sharing on FaceBook, Flipshare and YouTube with a set-top console, motorised camera and remote control. The range consists of two resolution products, the Umi 1080 and 720.

Launched last October in the US for US$599 with a US$24.99 monthly fee for unlimited video calls, video messaging and video storage, Cisco has dropped the maintenance fee to US$9.95 a month, or US$99 a year. There is no service fee for the Umi Connect softphone for PC and Mac.

(Cisco is selling Umi in North America and trialling it in Europe, Asia and Latin America, but has no plans to release it Australia yet.)

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