I had just passed my securities licensing exam and the company required our presence at a conference 200 miles away from our home office. Ten of us drove the two hundred miles from Philadelphia to Hartford to attend the three day meeting. Accommodations, meals, gas and other expenses added up to a good bit of money, even twenty years ago. One associate needed to catch a flight out of Philadelphia International Airport the day we were driving back. Our caravan of cars sped through flooded freeways to get our colleague to his plane on time. The experience was memorable but the expense of bringing people together in one place was only outpaced by the time lost out of the office. The lost productivity and the time away from the business of doing business had a rippling effect that lasted for days after the conference. There had to be a better way.

Two decades later, business communications has migrated through numerous technologies including conference-calling, video phones, video-conferencing and telepresence. Numerous advanced technologies have been developed to reduce the time and expense of distant meetings. Video Teleconferencing (VTC) has helped to bring multiple people in different locations together without those people leaving their local offices, classrooms or homes. Video Teleconferencing and Telepresence have evolved beyond early beginnings of massive investment, limited graphics, jittery motion and poor quality audio. Today’s systems include cloud-based solutions with multiple end-points including large venues, the desktop, smartphones and tablets.

Major providers are now beginning to reach beyond some of the constraints of “traditional” video teleconferencing. Today, clients are looking to their unified communication integrators like Advanced AV to design more collaborative environments across multiple, global locations. To that end, “Cloud Telepresence Systems” are now being delivered for a more “immersive” experience that helps the client literally feel in the same room as the remote participants. Telepresence is “communications” having the “presence” or “feel” that everyone is in the same space. By migrating to the cloud, clients can also combine cloud computing, networking, storage, management solutions, and business applications services into their unified, communications package, delivered more economically, without compromising security or functionality.

Some Independent market analysts see a softening of the market for telepresence systems. However, in a Frost & Sullivan report entitled, Telepresence Growth Peaks, Frost & Sullivan’s industry manager Pranabesh Nath states, “Telepresence is a small, but very visible segment that is expected to significantly impact the visual collaboration market. We are already witnessing a blurring of boundaries between an immersive, cloud telepresence suite and conventional HD video systems, and this will only accelerate in the next several years.”

For this acceleration to continue and the sense of “presence” to happen, in any conferencing environment, specific details must be considered up front between the client and integrator. These details include:

  • design consistency across multiple locations
  • network infrastructure
  • flooring and furniture
  • textiles, colors and textures
  • integrated hardware
  • acoustical engineering
  • HD quality video & audio
  • multiple display selection
  • unified control systems
  • lighting design
  • collaborative software allowing everyone to reach through the space and contribute on the same palate

In order to bring these integrated end-point environments to the “cloud”, Advanced AV has established strategic partnerships with companies like Cisco, Polycom and others. These 21st Century partnerships allow the “cloud” to be the future in business communications. For example, Cisco has announced the Cisco Collaboration Cloud, with a suite of cloud applications including telepresence systems. Polycom is rolling out Real Presence Cloud, designed to enable service providers to enter the VaaS business without building out their own hosted solution.

So consider what might be next. Last year IBM published its annual list of five innovations set to change our lives in the next five years. Not unexpected on that list was 3D-telepresence. As the cloud opens up greater communication’s networks, it seems predictable that an even more immersive experience will be possible with 3D technology. This begs the question: Will 3D or holographic gatherings allow space to bring together many people in the same virtual space or will it stretch beyond “digital” replication and be actual human transport through space and time?