Taj Suites and Residences has officially launched
the UK’s first
high-definition video-conferencing facility for public use in its London property, 51
The new telepresence system has been created in
conjunction with India’s
Tata Communications and US networking corporation Cisco, and is now available
in three other Taj properties across the world: the Taj
and Tower, Mumbai; the Taj West End, Bangalore;
and the Taj Boston, in the US.
The London-based facility is available for hire
24 hours a day for £250 per hour, and is equipped with three screens offering
life-size images, a desk with seating for up to six people, individual
microphones, multi-directional sound (with an imperceptible delay) and
technology allowing “voice-activated switching” in multi-destination meetings,
as well as state-of-the-art cameras which create near-perfect eye contact.
Ian Hurst, general manager of 51 Buckingham Gate,
said: “You don’t have to be a guest to make use of it and scheduling a
video-conference is as easy as booking a normal meeting at the hotel, but of
course it depends on the time slot and availability, so it requires scheduling.
We will be offering various meeting packages and, to celebrate the launch, we
will be offering the room at a promotional rate of £190 per hour.”
It is hoped that easy access to telepresence
technology will offer a viable alternative to face-to-face meetings and
consequently help save on travel costs, with the knock-on effects of easing the
physical and mental strain of frequent flying and the reduction of CO2
The live launch on October 15 showcased a
discussion via telepresence between delegates based in London,
and San Jose.
David Gibbons, of Taj Hotels Boston, said: “The rental price of the room is per
hour not per person, so when you compare it to the price of a plane ticket and
factor in all the other associated costs of making a business trip, the cost
can quickly be justified.”
Mark Weidick, vice-president and general manager
of Cisco, added: “Telepresence is being offered in a shared-use, pay-as-you-go
capacity, where those in remote locations or who can’t justify running
telepresence internally can pay to use it by the hour.”
And, as Peter Quinlan, director of telepresence
managed services at Tata Communications, noted, the opening of public-use rooms
at Taj properties is just the tip of the iceberg – there are plans to roll out
100 public-use telepresence rooms across the globe by the end of next year.
These public-use rooms not only provide the
opportunity for communication between other people using Cisco telepresence
facilities, but competing telepresence technology from the likes of Sony,
Polycom and Telanetix.
Report by Jenny Southan