Trouble in Telepresence

May 8, 2012
51 Views

I get the feeling that Jeff Cavins isn’t on the Cisco or Polycom Christmas card list.  Not after the “guest post” for the online version of Forbes Magazine.

I get the feeling that Jeff Cavins isn’t on the Cisco or Polycom Christmas card list.  Not after the “guest post” for the online version of Forbes Magazine.

Jeff is the CEO of FuzeBox, a competitor of Cisco and Polycom in the “telepresence” arena.  He says that he had a conversation with members of a Fortune 500 company that spent millions of dollars on special rooms and equipment to do videoconferencing.  For those of you new to videoconferencing, this is the old business model where you build a special room with large screen TV’s mounted on the wall.  The table people are sitting around is mimicked by the people at the other end of the videoconference so it appears that you’re all sitting at the same table.

Even the 90-year-old chairman of the Fortune 500 company saw the limitations and unnecessary expense of that system and has decided to move to a “next-generation” videoconferencing platform from another provider. In Jeff’s post, “5 Reasons Cisco And Polycom Are In Trouble In Telepresence,” he says Cisco and Polycom are being outmaneuvered by more flexible, smaller companies (like his) with that “next generation” outlook.

His five reasons are:

1. Cost – These smaller companies can offer videoconferencing of about the same quality for 90% less than the big companies.

2. Cloud – Used to be a huge IT team was needed to keep systems up and running.  Now software can do make this much easier and less costly.  Online video meetings in the cloud can be recorded for viewing at your convenience.

3. Mobile – Polycom, Cisco and others have no app for the iPad.  And with downsizing the mantra for many companies, you can’t often get everyone in the same telepresence room.

4.  Interoperability – Used to be if you wanted to text someone you both had to be on the same mobile phone network.  That’s still the limitation for the big telepresence companies.  Polycom codec users can’t communicate with Cisco codec users.  The newer companies have engineered workarounds to connect with one another.

And 5.  Collaboration – You need more than just the ability to see and hear someone at a remote location.  You may want to share documents, video, audio, images and graphics and have the ability to add to the materials at either end.

Jeff doesn’t believe that big companies are ready to move forward into a more modern, competitive market because they’ve built their business around proprietary systems that can cost millions of dollars per installation.

You could easily substitute telemedicine models into this story because like telepresence there is a dated, fixed and expensive business model and a newer, more mobile, and more affordable model.  The older model accepts the Cisco and Polycom idea that you dedicate a room for telemedicine.  You have to bring the patient to the room to meet with the doctor.  The newer model doesn’t anchor the equipment to a room, but is portable, can move easily from room to room because everything is integrated, and works on one platform.  So instead, you bring the doctor to the patient.  This makes every room an exam room for in-person as well as telemedicine visits.

Some people see this as disruptive, but actually I think the old way is more disruptive because the doctor has to go to the Telemedicine Suite to do telemedical visits and back to the more traditional exam room to see patients in person.  Under the new portable model, the doctor goes to any room and sees patients, either sitting on the exam table or on the video screen.  That’s the model that GlobalMed embraced years ago and continues to work toward even more mobile situations.  In fact, when you went to the Cisco and Polycom booths at ATA2012 in San Jose, you didn’t see the old style of telemedicine/telepresence, but mobile telemedicine stations.  And had you visited the GlobalMed booth, we would have shown you how doctors now have the ability to view both visible and invisible light images on an iPad, just moments after they’re uploaded to the CONi™ Services cloud.  You would have seen not just one image from a CT Scan on an iPad, but the entire study with dozens of images.

When images are on the CONiPACS, first of all they are preserved in DICOM format with 256-bit encryption. Secondly, the CONiPACS is outside the hospital system so that physicians can view and manipulate images at a secure Web site.  The images are never resident on the iPad or other computer device, so there’s no chance of a HIPAA mishap.

For all we know, Jeff, Cisco and Polycom could be working on a new concept in videoconferencing.  Lord knows they have enough money to do it.  My advice is to keep looking over your shoulder.

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