Is telepresence the next ICT business revolution?
Telepresence is quickly emerging as a business solution to trim costs, improve energy efficiency and slash carbon emissions.
The use of telepresence meetings cuts travel related emissions and in the case of developing countries that don’t yet have the same kind of infrastructure as fully industrialized nations can provide a way leapfrog over some development issues that would drive environmental stress.
Companies across a wide variety of industries, including telecommunications, retail, financial services, healthcare and oil and gas, are already turning to telepresence solutions to meet a variety of operating needs. Telepresence is winning support from executives worldwide over video conferencing technologies because of increased reliability, security enhancements and a more immersive overall experience.
In late 2010, AT&T and BT announced the pairing of their telepresence networks allowing clients of the two telecommunications groups to schedule meetings and connect with users on either network. The two –which operate the world’s largest telepresence networks –operate over 2,000 telepresence rooms worldwide including 1,100 corporate clients. Many ICT and telecommunication industry observers predict this collaboration may set the global standard for telepresence services.
U.K.-based BCS Global Networks Limited, which offers companies video conference and other services worldwide, also operates a network of public videoconferencing and telepresence rooms for business travelers to help them connect globally. In India, Gurgaon-based Business Octane recently ramped up its telepresence capabilities for the market to enable connections of up to 40 locations and 600 people at any one time. The company –which is eying the government sector and large enterprises as clientele –hopes to take their platform global.
The possible effects of a telepresence revolution are astounding. A single company using four telepresence rooms can shave off over 2,200 metric tons of carbon emissions in a five year period, the equivalent of the emissions from 400 passenger vehicles, according to a recently released Verdantix study commissioned by the Carbon Disclosure product and supported by AT&T. Growth in the use of telepresence and videoconferencing could help large U.S. and U.K.-based corporations with revenues over $1 billion to slash around 5.5 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2020.
Increased use of telepresence technology also boasts other benefits for companies –such as expenditure reductions, increased employee productivity and more rapid decision making capabilities, the report says.
A recent study from the World Wildlife Fund-UK took a look at air and business travel, and British corporations’ views on emissions cutting measures. Aviation is one of the UK’s largest and fastest growing contributors to carbon emissions –increasing 3 percent annually, according to the report, Travelling Light. Business travel accounts for 25 percent of British passenger trips.
WWF-UK found that over 80 percent of companies have or are planning reductions in their business travel, and that 85 percent believe videoconferencing has an integral role to play in achieving their reduction goals.
Developing economies like China and India are some of the world’s largest contributors to carbon gas emissions. One of the major hurdles hampering efforts to forge a binding international treaty to fight climate change when the Kyoto Treaty expires in 2012 is the insistence by developing countries that they should not be hamstrung in their efforts to develop infrastructure –which increases emissions – when industrialized countries did so freely in decades past. Technologies such as telepresence are touted by supporters as giving developing countries the ability to leapfrog past some infrastructure development that contributes to environmental degradation and climate change.