iRobot, Cisco make Ava 500 available: Can remote management fly?

Summary:The Ava 500, a telepresence robot from iRobot and Cisco, has exited beta. What remains to be seen is how employees adapt to remote management on the fly.

iRobot on Monday said its Ava 500 telepresence robot, launching via a partnership with Cisco, is now generally available following a beta test with enterprises.

Cisco, iRobot team up on video collaboration robot

iRobot launches new Roomba: Five innovation lessons

For iRobot, the launch of Ava is about diversifying its business. iRobot is best known for its Roomba vacuum cleaner and home cleaning bots as well as its defense robots. Ava gives iRobot more of an enterprise play.

The company said that its remote presence unit will bring in about $5 million in revenue for 2014. The home robot business will bring in $500 million to $515 million in revenue for 2014 and the defense and security unit will have sales of about $50 million.

In a release, iRobot and Cisco said the Ava 500 will be available in the U.S. and Canada and select markets in Europe via Cisco resellers such as Yorktel.

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Ava 500 at work: Micromanagement from afar?

Ava is designed to provide telepresence on the move and allow for collaboration in hallways and manufacturing floors. What remains to be seen is how employee interactions are shaped via remote telepresence on the go. For instance, will the Ava 500 enable micro-management from afar in a call center or genuinely make expertise more global without the travel costs?

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Ava 500: Enabling helpful collaboration in a pickle?

The Ava 500 effort was announced last June and has been through various field trials at companies like Bayer. Cisco and iRobot said they will aim Ava at manufacturing, supply chain and logistics, data center, labs and clean rooms as well as call centers. Cisco and iRobot also see Ava being used for general remote management as well as call centers.

As for the specs, the Ava 500 has a remote scheduling tool available via an iPad. The robot navigates to the location indicated automatically. The Ava 500 comes with Cisco's Telepresence EX60 software and will initiate calls when scheduled. The user on the other end can refine how the robot moves. When a meeting is over, Ava returns to a charging dock much like the Roomba does.

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Ava 500: Or enabling something in between productive and annoying?

Topics: Collaboration, Cisco, Networking

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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