Last year the US networking company Cisco revealed that thanks to its use of high-definition video conferencing, its Australian office had been able to save $890,000 in travel costs. Cisco’s Telepressence, and similar systems from Hewlett-Packard and Polycom, use broadband connections and high-definition televisions to capture and recreate images across multiple screens in a meeting room. They create a meeting environment that is much closer to the real thing – and hence are an effective mechanism for conducting business.
While to date these systems have been used mostly inside large businesses such as Telstra, now Starwood Hotels and Resorts have unveiled its first Telepressence systems that are open to the public. Two or the first have been installed in the W Chicago City Centre and the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney.
It’s an interesting undertaking for a hotel, and initially appears somewhat counter-intuitive, given that hotels make money by housing people who fly in from distant locations. Why therefore install technology that may give them an alternative to travelling?
But with awareness of high-definition video conferencing rising, Starwood has taken the step of turning a threat into an opportunity, and is renting its telepressence facilities out for $500 per hour. Business travellers are likely to increasingly follow Cisco’s lead of cutting their corporate travel, and by providing Telepressence facilities Starwood has an opportunity to make money out of the service. You can read more about what they are doing by clicking here.
In the long term is it also possible that other related businesses may follow the example. Perhaps one day we will see dedicated video conference facilities installed in airport lounges, as airlines realise that they are in the business of facilitating business meetings, rather than simply shuttling folk around the country.
If you can’t beat the broadband future, you might as well join it.