If your organization needs immersive telepresence, the pricey HD videoconferencing solution with displays that can present life-sized pictures, state-of-the art acoustics, and – by the way – an entire specially designed room, you might think saving money is laughable. But with some fine-tuning of infrastructure, plenty of bandwidth and a choice of integrator, you can have high-end telepresence for tens of thousands of dollars less.
The key to a successful and financially wise telepresence installation, lies with the initial construction, says Theo Economides, an analyst with Greenline Emeritus Consulting. “Have the room set up so that it runs on the network in such a way as it encourages use. There is a lot of equipment that sits underutilized or unused — that is a waste of money,” he says.
Proper installation from the get go, prevents wasteful corrections later. The room must be specifically designed for the system. The lighting, the acoustics, the color, the network connections all must be appropriate to the system. Such control often means manufacturers will not install their product in a substandard situation. It just isn’t worth it to them or especially to you.
However, customers have begun to tug at this yoke and are expecting to customize this product like every other technology investment, an expectation that is even stronger when you have a sky-is-the limit price.
Now commercial integrators are stepping in to fill that need by offering telepresence rooms that are customized, rather than the cookie-cutter rooms that Cisco, Polycom, LifeSize and other telepresence companies are installing.
One integrator, AVI-SPL, is offering just such customized third-party solutions at $159,000, at least $100,000 less than what some full-sized, three-screen rooms from a manufacturer will usually cost you. AVI-SPL is offering a best of breed product: integrated technology across manufacturers with a room design that meets your requirements. According to Ira Weinstein, senior analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research, AVI-SPL, however, has created its own multi-codec solution that uses codecs from Cisco, Polycom, and LifeSize.
Caméléon uses third-party video codecs, but the rest of the solution (furniture, displays, user interface, etc.) is directly from AVI-SPL.
“We decided to go down the road of building our own telepresence system, which was nothing more than taking them manufacturer’s technology, they call them video codecs, and wrapping everything we do as a custom integrator around that,” says John Vitale, vice president of products for AVI-SPL. “So we built a package we called Caméléon that takes the codec and inserts it and then we build this whole structured room around it. It really just simplifies the whole construction process.”
Whereas normally a telepresence room can start at the concrete and then up, Caméléon is prepackaged, Vitale says.
AVI-SPL has the furniture design, the dimensions, all the wiring, the how it is going to function, the usability of it — they have it already packaged and now it’s just a question of how a customer wants to adjust it. “They can add different peripherals, maybe add a row [of seats], change the lighting in the room, do some room control — we can easily add those things in without turning it into a major construction job,” he says.
According to Weinstein, AVI-SPL is leveraging these technologies from third parties and putting them together. “The Caméléon solution is nice because they are very happy to sell you a Polycom version or a Cisco or LifeSize version. To them it doesn’t matter. Whatever you prefer,” he says.
While other companies are reselling solutions from multiple vendors, few are “productizing” their own solution like AVI-SPL. Another company doing something similar is Business Octane in India, Weinstein says.