Understanding Telepresence

In our article discussing the Technology Trends that are likely to be important for the legal market (see Technology Trends Introduction) we predicted that Telepresence will gain widespread use.

Phil WinfieldTo explore this more closely we discussed the opportunities that Telepresence offers with Phil Winfield, a technology consultant who has implemented the solution globally within a global law firm.

“It’s important to understand that this is quite different to the kind of video conferencing that most people are familiar with”, explains Phil.

“Telepresence aims to provide a fully immersive video conferencing experience which makes you feel as if you are in the same room as the other meeting participants, even though they may be on the other side of the world. This is achieved by providing consistent furniture and room décor in all locations, life size images of meeting participants on large, high quality screens, high speed network connectivity for high quality/low latency audio and video and a call set-up and management service to provide a seamless user experience.“

“Volcanic ash, additional security, transport strikes and increased taxes are all adding to the time and cost of travel. With greater pressure on time, a need for global collaboration and a desire to reduce CO2 emissions, Telepresence can really provide a viable, cost effective alternative to meeting in person. Few business leaders are yet aware of the capabilities and confuse this with videoconferencing but many Telco’s are building managed service offerings that make the improved quality of Telepresence a highly attractive solution at comparatively low cost.”

“Numerous Telepresence solutions are available, catering for a range of meeting room styles and seating arrangements. Placing the screens in the middle of the meeting room table adds to the impression of sitting around the same table, whilst having an island table gives more flexibility in the usage of the room. LCD screens give a sharper, brighter, more modern feel, while back projection systems provide a more comfortable ambiance, provide a seamless image between screens and give better eye contact between meeting participants. Monitors are built into the desks, enabling presentations to be displayed without interrupting the meeting on the main screens. White boards can be included, as can overhead document cameras to enable collaboration on hardcopy documents.”

“Implementation is broken down into three main phases; the preparation of the room in which the Telepresence system is to be located, the installation and commissioning of the Telepresence equipment and furniture and then the implementation of the services to support room booking and meeting management. The dimensions of the room have to meet strict parameters, depending upon the equipment to be installed, but power and cabling requirements are minimal, save for a cable route through the building for the delivery of the Wide Area Network (WAN) circuit. A separate room is required to store the Telepresence equipment and furniture following delivery, but installation by the supplier’s technical team will only take between 4 and 8 days, depending upon the system purchased.“

“The room refurbishment costs can be significant, especially if air conditioning and other ceiling based services have to be rerouted in order to provide the required ceiling heights, but these costs can often be depreciated over the life of the building lease, reducing the P&L impact. Similarly the equipment and installation costs can also be depreciated over three to five years. The other main costs include equipment maintenance, the annual rental of the WAN links and the provision of the managed service. This service includes the room booking system, the set up and monitoring of each meeting to ensure the highest possible quality and the provision of conference bridge facilities to enable audio dial-in for non-video participants.”

“While these costs may initially seem substantial, in my experience they equate to only a small fraction of the annual travel budget.”

“Existing investment in traditional ISDN video conferencing systems can also be leveraged by upgrading to IP based networks and including them within the managed service, providing a fully integrated range of high performance virtual meeting systems. As well as providing a step change in video meeting quality, this eradicates many of the traditional video conferencing problems and significantly reduces the management and support overhead. Multiple systems can be connected into a single meeting, including Telepresence, traditional video conference systems, desktop units and audio participants, including third party systems.”

“As the flagship of an integrated video conferencing suite, Telepresence can provide a highly effective meeting tool that delivers much more effective, interactive meetings than are possible over the telephone, significantly improving the focus and quality of interaction among meeting participants, increasing collaboration and building relationships.“

“Technology is maturing rapidly to expand the offering from made to measure meeting rooms to desktop and even mobile delivery. This maturation of Telepresence as a full service makes video conferencing a highly attractive solution for global meetings, conferences and client events where travel costs are becoming increasingly prohibitive as upfront investment will be low and on-going costs will tend to track adoption.”

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