Is the Industry Preferring HDVC over Telepresence?

by Sonal Desai    Aug 18, 2008

The Taj Group recently hit headlines with their telepresence (TP) deployments.

Prakash Shukla, senior vice president (technology) and CIO, Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces in a recent interview with said that the group had introduced the video conference system for guests almost eight years back, and TP is a natural progression to enhance guest experience.

However, an independent consultant, who worked for a large conglomerate recently, is currently busy answering calls from clients who want to know whether they should deploy telepresence solutions or opt for the high definition video conferencing (HDVC) system.

“Telepresence will be a part of the day-to-day lives of executives in large enterprises in the near future. But, as of today, to many who come to me for advice, I recommend the HDVC system, essentially because it is more cost effective then TP. TP will take at least another three to four years to penetrate the Indian enterprise psyche.”

Developments in telemedicine, distance learning, and e-governance are also likely to contribute to the spread of video as part of unified communication solutions. The latest trend in the market is the migration from standard definition to high definition. The factor that is responsible for this transition is the transfer from ISDN to IP technology.

Business conferences and decision-making options depend critically upon the availability of information at the right time. In order to save time, business meetings are increasingly being conducted over telecommunication networks with the help of videoconferencing. Such solutions offer a richer and more intimate communication environment, which makes interaction convenient, effective, and easy, the consultant said.

A Bangalore-based country manager for a storage company said that he opted for HDVC essentially because of the cost factor. “HD quality video conferencing offers better quality than the existing generation of Standard Definition (SD) products. This is available at roughly the same cost as a SD system today, and therefore, makes it a compelling business proposition for video conferencing users.”

The country manager is not the lone proponent of HDVC. And the comment could not have come at a better time for Actis Technologies, a provider of integrated solutions to package technologies for visual and oral communication.

Abhimanyu Gupta, Director- Actis Technologies Pvt. Ltd said, “Enterprises are the largest adopters of this technology. They use it for meetings across geographies, and across continents. Increasing cost of travel is compelling enterprises to look for alternatives and HDVC is one of them.”

According to analyst firm Gartner, some HD systems have dropped sufficiently in price to appeal to most organizations planning an update, Gartner said. Systems are selling for less than $10,000 per endpoint.

The videoconference market is in the early stages of maturity, with penetration less than 5% in organizations. “However, it has reached the point where it has a significant upgrade in terms of quality, and it is competitive enough in terms of cost, to appeal to organizations evaluating videoconferencing technology for room-based environments,” said Rich Costello, research director at Gartner.

Gupta explained, “Video conferencing is at the heart of telepresence. In TP, 3D is the basic element, and it also requires an indepth study of the human and room designs. As of today, the adoption of TP is very low, and HDVC is the perfect interface till TP gains momentum in India.”

He said that people chiefly opt for customized solutions, unless the infrastructure is being built specially for the deployments, because not all organizations are telepresence compatible. At present, there are no standards for room or human designs. “And because of such unique design components, not every body has the capability to add TP in its portfolio.”

Gartner also expects the move to HD systems to be a driving factor behind a 20 % to 30 % annual growth rate of the worldwide market in the next couple of years. In moving to HD video technology however, the firm advises organizations to consider costs other than the initial price of the system. Those costs include provisioning an appropriate room, ensuring adequate bandwidth, and anticipating an increase in use rates.

Debi Patnaik, who recently joined HCL as a SAP consultant, also endorsed HDVC and said that from an ROI point of view, HDVC is better than TP. “You can even see people across. TP is yet to catch up.”

Actis that has clients like United Breweries Ltd., Jet Airways Ltd., and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (HPCL) for its LifeSize HD Video Conferencing in India, has plans to target the IT/ITES, BFSI, government, hospitals, and management institutes with the technology.

Gupta is also developing market strategies so that the company will be able to accommodate TP technology as it gains ground in India. He said, “As of today, we are developing more global alliances for worldwide deployments. We want to gradually enter the TP space, and HDVC deployments are the first step toward that goal.”

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