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Cisco, Bank of America announce largest telepresence network

HP also touts its Halo videoconferencing used by Dreamworks creative teams to collaborate on 'Dragon' movie

March 29, 2010 12:14 PM ET

Computerworld - High definition, room-sized videoconferencing set-ups known as telepresence systems are making more headway for corporate communications, industry officials at competitors Cisco Systems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. said today.

Cisco and Bank of America announced that the bank plans to roll out 200 Cisco TelePresence systems globally by year's end, making it the largest telepresence network used by a single company so far. The bank currently uses 28 of the systems for employee meetings and training.

And HP, which co-developed the Halo Telepresence Solutions approach in 2005 with DreamWorks Animation, today said directors and art designers on the film How to Train Your Dragon, used the system many times to collaborate face-to-face between offices in Glendale, Calif., and Redwood City, Calif.

HP Halo has been used before on several DreamWorks films to help animation teams collaborate, using specially outfitted Halo studios. The studios can also be leased by private groups for short durations.

Cisco's approach is generally different and involves selling corporate customers on buying high-definition monitors and cameras and setting them up in specially lighted rooms on corporate property. A few few hotels have also purchased the gear to rent to outside groups. A single Cisco TelePresence room can run more than $250,000, although Procter and Gamble Co. last fall said it had set up 70 Cisco TelePresence rooms globally, and estimated it has saved $4 for every $1 invested in the systems through travel savings and improvements in productivity.

PepsiCo said in early February that it plans to deploy Cisco TelePresence using network services of British Telecommmunications.

DreamWorld CTO Ed Leonard, in a statement, said HP's Halo offers creative teams the ability to collaborate 'on-the-fly' and credited the system for enabling the studio to deliver an unprecedented three films in a year.

Similarly, Marc Gordon, the bank's CTO, said the expansion of Cisco TelePresence will help workers collaborate more effectively. He said with telepresence, employees can hold flexible meetings, which helps workers manage work and personal schedules, cutting down on the need to travel and supporting the bank's commitment to reducing pollution.

Cisco's approach allows as many as 48 locations to collaborate in one meeting. The bank will deploy various seating configurations, with at least one for up to six participants per room and another for up to 18 people.

The bank has signed a managed service agreement with Cisco, meaning Cisco will install, support, maintain and refresh the telepresence gear. The bank will use its own data network and facilities to support the videconferences, and the bank's system will integrate with external partners with telepresence technology.

Cisco and Bank of America did not disclose costs.

Cisco TelePresence session
This Cisco TelePresence session, using three high-definition monitors, shows Bank of America employees from a remote location talking to a group in the foreground who are seated at a customized table in a room designed for lighting and sound. (Photo courtesy of Bank of America)

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at Twitter @matthamblen or subscribe to Hamblen RSSMatt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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