Taj Suites and Residences has officially launched the UK’s first high-definition video-conferencing facility for public use in its London property, 51 Buckingham Gate.
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 Mahal Palace 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 emissions.
The live launch on October 15 showcased a discussion via telepresence between delegates based in London, Bangalore, Boston 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