BT has unveiled a trio of high-definition telepresence demo suites in London, New York and Denver to give users a chance to check out the technology before they invest.
The new centres host videoconferencing kit from all the major manufacturers including Cisco, Polycom and Tandberg, as well as showcasing BT's software applications running on the various systems.
Although videoconferencing has been around for many years, the technology has always been something of a non-starter, due mainly to very expensive systems able to deliver only low quality video and audio.
However, the combination of ubiquitous high bandwidth IP-based networks and the advent of high-definition video has led to the development of a full real-time immersive video experience, commonly dubbed telepresence, as well as other high quality videoconferencing technologies.
As well as showcasing the full range of possibilities from the various manufacturers, the showrooms can be used to highlight the various services and expertise that BT can overlay on these services, ranging from its own software applications through to advice and installation, as well as offering a full managed service including adminisration and troubleshooting.
"High-definition video and telepresence are taking conferencing to the next level, and BT is uniquely positioned to help customers with videoconferencing around the world," said Jeff Prestel, general manager of BT Conferencing's Video Business Unit.
"Our focus is on implementing tailored end-to-end enterprise solutions for customers that are easy to use, reliable and cost-effective in nature. Our global Showcase Network Centres provide customers with the ideal opportunity to experience this, and compare telepresence and videoconferencing equipment and services."
As well as promising significant return on invetment by cutting travel budgets, BT stressed the environmental benefits of videoconferencing, as well as increased productivity and improvments in employees' work/life balance.
Figures from BT on its own internal use of videoconferencing in 2007 shows that it eliminated 859,784 face-to-face meetings, saving on massive amounts of travelling and thereby reducing travel costs and increasing productive time, as well as cutting CO2 emissions by an estimated 97,628 tonnes.
"Globalisation has meant that there is more need than ever for people to collaborate. With face-to-face meetings proving both expensive and impractical, businesses worldwide are looking to videoconferencing to provide them with the answer to keeping their business running in a cost-effective manner," Prestel said.
"There are, however, far more benefits to the technology that should not be overlooked. Its impact on productivity and work-life balance are the most widely cited benefits, particularly as the increase in videoconferencing has a direct correlation with a decrease in the amount of business travel required, plus the associated time out of the office, hotel costs and days away from home."
BT has also said that those companies in the Asia Pacific and Latin America regions unable to get to the three new locations can learn about and use videoconferencing at BT offices in their respective areas.
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