Telepresence -- Not Being There in Style -- Grows as a Managed Service


The movement of a service from scenarios in which they are owned by the business using them to managed offerings, in which an outside service provider is involved, is a familiar migration in IT and telecommunications. It has happened to greater or lesser degrees in security, VoIP and other sectors. It now is happening in telepresence, which is teleconferencing done in such a way as to make it seem that the separated parties actually are in the same room.


The reasons are obvious: The client gains great advantages in cost and the outsiders, solely dedicated to one or a narrow group of applications, do a better job of staying up to date. Telepresence, which ABI Research says will generate $360 million in revenue in 2011, seems particularly well positioned for managed packaging. It is a complex field and the gear is very expensive. Indeed, in this era in which politicians routinely throw around dollar figures in the trillions, a mere $360 million sounds like it could be an underestimate. In any case, big companies will have services maintained by the outsiders within their offices, while small- and medium-size businesses will be able to take advantages of facilities at hotels, conference centers and similar venues.


Whether the infrastructure is owned by the end user or a service provider, innovation continues. This week, Polycom expanded its offerings. The Polycom RealPresence Experience and Polycom Telepresence Experience now offer Single Touch Multipoint, which the company's release says enables easy call initiation between multiple locations. Polycom, in an effort to accommodate companies that want to partially outsource, now offers Assisted Operation Service. The idea is that the end users team will manage many functions, but a Polycom service provider partner will provide monitoring, and streamline fault management.


Organizations with a widely dispersed employee base, naturally, are the best candidates for telepresence. An outsourcing arrangement was announced this week by Cisco, Orange Business Services and one such company, Single Buoy Moorings. The company is a multinational provider of systems and services to the oil and gas industry. It will use Cisco TelePresence system, which will be managed by Orange. Single Buoy has deployed the Cisco TelePresence System 3000 in Houston, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monaco and Schiedam, Netherlands. Orange is providing project management, consultancy services, deployment, network services and operational management, according to the release.


The beauty of videoconferencing and telepresence was evident well before the swine flu pandemic. The beauty of not being there -- which is healthier, cheaper and more efficient -- clearly has a future as a managed service.