Cisco demos public rooms for TelePresence

A room could cost US$299 per hour

Cisco Systems Wednesday announced the first TelePresence videoconferencing rooms available for public use, demonstrating the technology simultaneously for reporters in four locations in India, the US and the UK.

Three of the four locations were from specially retrofitted rooms inside Taj Hotels in London, Bangalore, India and downtown Boston.

The luxury hotel chain has decided to build the public videoconferencing rooms for business and guest use at rates starting at US$400 an hour in the Boston location. Cisco said prices will vary from US$299 to $899 an hour at various locations globally, depending on the number of users. The rooms can accommodate from one user to 18.

Cisco has been selling four varieties of TelePresence systems, including high-definition monitors, cameras and sound systems, to private organizations for two years. Many of those companies, including Procter & Gamble, use TelePresence for internal uses to link up corporate headquarters with branch offices around the globe.

But the emergence of public rooms represents a new opportunity to expand the technology's use, Cisco officials said. Just Tuesday, Cisco CEO John Chambers predicted that videoconferencing will even be used on airplanes.

Wim Elfrink, Cisco's chief globalization officer, said having public TelePresence rooms could open up new businesses, including a remote health care model, where patients could visit with doctors prior to making a long trip for treatment.

Elfrink, who spoke from Bangalore, said he conducts about 70% of his job interviews with TelePresence. He has been using the technology for 18 months, including from his home in the Bangalore area. "The quality of TelePresence is so good that I can look into your pupils and see sweat on the top of your head," he said.

Tata Communications Ltd. provided the networking to connect the hotels, as well as with Cisco's private TelePresence network at the fourth location demonstrated today, in Santa Clara, Calif. Tata and Taj Hotels are both part of the Tata Group conglomerate of 96 companies.

The public spaces now available are at Taj Hotels in Boston, London, Bangalore and Mumbai and Confederation of Indian Industry offices in Bangalore, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai, India. The Pierre in New York, a Taj hotel, plans to have a public telepresence room open next year.

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