Sixty-six percent of the 200 event organizers who participated in Meeting Professionals International's second-quarter Meetings Outlook survey this year indicated they expected a year-over-year increase in virtual attendance, and more than half of the respondents indicated their organizations were using virtual and hybrid technology to enhance in-person meetings or incorporate onsite and remote event elements.
Seeing an opportunity for an open, cloud-based virtual meetings platform, Cisco Systems this month announced the development of Collaboration Meeting Rooms, a network of high-tech computers and cloud technology that Cisco claims will host better-quality virtual conferences. At its Cisco Live user conference in San Francisco on May 19, the company introduced two Android-based devices called DX70 and DX80, each consisting of a monitor with touchscreen capability, a high-definition video camera and built-in microphones.
The DX80 includes "intelligent audio," comprised of microphones capable of filtering out background noise. Both the DX80 and DX70 can be "paired" with nearby devices, so users can access their personal contacts and call history.
Videoconferencing technology industrywide in recent years has matured, allowing users to include participants with mobile phones, tablets and desktop browsers in increasingly high-quality multipoint videoconferences through cloud-based software and other systems without traditional bridges.
Collaboration Meeting Rooms utilizes Cisco's WebEx webconferencing technology and allows companies to access their own private "video collaboration space in the cloud," according to the developer. "To access Skype, you have to have a Skype address, versus Collaboration Meeting Rooms, which is very open and you can pick your entry point," Chris Wiborg, director of marketing for Cisco's collaboration group, told BTN. "You can dial into the bridge, but bring along with that video and content-sharing as well. With the cloud, you can access the meeting from any device, and as far as scale, we can have hundreds of users join per collaboration meeting room."
Not yet available to the public, the DX80 will be priced at less than $2,000 and the DX70 will be less than $1,000. "Organizations are pressured from a travel budget perspective," Wiborg said. "With Collaboration Meeting Rooms, I can start my day in Europe and then have a meeting in San Jose and then need to talk to people in the Asia/Pacific region, and I can get a ton done in the virtual presence and feel like I'm not missing a beat."
Cisco progressively will roll out the new products this year, according to Wiborg, first in North America in September 2014, and then in Asia soon after that.