Cisco opens up video conferencing protocol

The networking giant is pitching its telepresence protocol as an open standard in an effort to get more businesses to use the technology

Cisco has released a teleconferencing interoperability protocol into the public domain, as part of an effort to stimulate the growth of multi-screen telepresence systems.

On Tuesday, at its Networkers Live 2010 conference in Barcelona, the company announced it will license the Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) royalty-free, and would seek to make TIP into an open industry standard.

"We will publicly license, at no cost, some of our very key intellectual property in the telepresence interoperability protocol so that any system from any company can intergrate and interoperate not just with our single-screen systems, but also with our large three-screen systems," said Marthin De Beer, a senior vice president in Cisco's emerging technologies group, in a keynote speech.

Also at the event, Cisco introduced five new telepresence configurations and two additions to its TelePresence line.

Telepresence is a form of video conferencing designed to create the illusion that the participants are in the same room. Cisco's TelePresence product line, first introduced in 2006, uses technologies such as high-definition 1080p video and spatial audio to link conference rooms.

Cisco said more than 550 customers have installed a network of more than 3,500 Cisco TelePresence rooms, with the company itself having installed more than 685 rooms on its own internal network across 47 countries.

So far the rooms have largely been installed for internal use by large, geographically distributed organisations, Cisco said. The release of TIP is intended to encourage more inter-company video conferencing, according to the company.

LifeSize, Radvision and Tandberg — which Cisco is in the process of acquiring — have already licensed the protocol, Cisco said. The standards group to which TIP will be submitted has not yet been decided by the company.

Cisco noted that its telepresence products already offer some interoperability in the form of support for the H.323 video-conferencing standard. The products also support high-definition video-conferencing interoperability via Cisco's MXE 5600 media engine and its Unified Video Conferencing.

Compared with existing video-conferencing standards, Cisco said TIP offers network architecture improvements, better media processing and security and lower latency.

The new configurations for Cisco telepresence products launched at the conference are designed for five specific usage scenarios: teaching, collaboration sessions, remote product demonstrations, concierge services and webcasting.

The two new endpoints, TelePresence System 3010 and TelePresence System 3210, are easier to set up and offer better bandwidth efficiency, according to Cisco. Both add new high-definition LCD screens for sharing media from laptops, which reduce power usage by 25 percent over the use of projectors.

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