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December 28, 2009

Telepresence to Show Robust Growth for 2010: BrightCom

By Amy Tierney, TMCnet Web Editor

As the year comes to a close, most companies in the communications technology sector are looking ahead to 2010 to rebound after a difficult year, thanks to the global economic downturn.
But some are counting their blessing. Companies like BrightCom, a Huntington Beach, Calif.-based provider of integrated telepresence and video conferencing services, realized a boost in revenue, thanks to its ability to offer cost saving services when many organizations looked to cut expenditures, especially in travel budgets.
Bob McCandless, CEO of BrightCom, attributed the company’s success this year in part, to a number of customer wins, as well as its new product line, Lumina Telepresence (News - Alert).
During the interview, printed in full below McCandless painted a bright future for the telepresence and videoconferencing market, saying that greater awareness and new products would help propel the industry forward. Recent industry event, such as Cisco’s purchase of TANDBERG and Logitech’s (News - Alert) acquisition of LifeSize, will only bring more attention to the growing field.
“Telepresence is the future of business communication,” McCandless, told TMCnet.
Our exchange follows.
TMCnet: How did BrightCom perform in 2009? Did the results meet company expectations?
BrightCom had a phenomenal year in 2009. We attribute 2009’s success to several major customer wins and the launch of our new line of Lumina Telepresence solutions. We did expect to be affected by the economic recession, however because of telepresence and video conferencing's business value and ROI, our business and the industry overall has been able to prove that telepresence is the future of business communication. 2009 has been an excellent year for educating the world about telepresence and our capabilities for integrated video, audio and data solutions that can interoperate with other vendor’s solutions. We expect to be in an excellent position as we move into 2010.
TMCnet: What have been some of the company's key announcements this year?
In 2009, BrightCom’s biggest announcement was the launch of Lumina Telepresence at TMCnet’s ITEXPO West. We unveiled the Lumina Telepresence L37 at ITEXPO and received an amazing reception from the show’s attendees, and press. The L37 won the Best in Show Best Product Launch Award. We designed and built the L37 as a modular telepresence solution unlike anything that is on the market today. As a multi-way telepresence system it fits two to six participants, but does not require a business to dedicate an entire room to telepresence conferencing. The L37 is an intimate setting with gaze corrected eye to eye contact and spatial audio perfect for natural teamwork. It has also been noted for its affordable price tag (News - Alert). We also launched the L65 and L85 as high end custom telepresence suites that are fixed conference room solutions. The L85 is a retractable telepresence system that allows you to work within an executive level conference room and use the telepresence equipment when needed.
Other notable announcements for BrightCom in 2009 were several customer wins including Vaughan Benz, Red Hill Law Group and Uyemura. These customers show how telepresence and video conferencing can solve many business challenges such as travel, language barriers, miscommunication, and lack of quality control and real-time communication with email and phone. By implementing Lumina Telepresence and ClearView Video Conferencing these customers are able to combine face to face communication with integrated Web conferencing capabilities. Each customer found that they are able to instantly communicate and connect their field teams, corporate offices and other facilities together in real time to accomplish their business faster, and enhance communication internally and to their customers as well. We are always excited to see how our customers apply our technology to real-world issues, and this past year they have taught us a great deal about how this technology can push the boundaries of communication for any industry.
Another announcement that was very exciting for BrightCom was our involvement in the Skype for SIP beta program. We are excited to be working with Skype (News - Alert) in order to extend the reach of our telepresence and video conferencing infrastructure and endpoints to communicate with those using Skype in personal offices, conference rooms, telepresence suites, and custom telepresence workstations around the world. This is a great way to promote interoperability within the industry.
Finally, BrightCom is very excited to be a part of several telecommunications and telepresence industry associations including TMCnet and Telepresence Options. We are happy to be contributing to the telepresence industry and hope that we can bring our knowledge to the table within such an esteemed group of vendors, researchers and industry analysts.
TMCnet: What were some of the biggest things that impacted the conferencing industry?
There were many events that impacted the telepresence and video conferencing industry. First and perhaps with the widest impact on telepresence were the external pressures of the economy, the environment and public health. This year’s economic recession transformed telepresence and video conferencing from an executive level conferencing tool to a company-wide conferencing tool. Many businesses felt that telepresence and video conferencing enhanced employee productivity by reducing the time and cost it took to travel long-distance or even locally. It also gave employees who were asked to work from home the chance to connect to their co-workers and customers from the field. Environmental issues were also assuaged by telepresence’s ability to save on business travel and therefore save on carbon emissions and footprints of airplanes, taxis and the printing, mailing and storing of business materials such as training and presentation materials. Finally, public health impacted the industry greatly as the H1N1 epidemic spread rapidly through the nation and the rest of the world. Many businesses were able to save their employees from being in physical contact with public places and reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.
Internally, there were several major events within the industry that will impact telepresence technology and businesses ability to connect to more people, co-workers and customers across the world. The biggest being the consolidation of industry peers. The announcement of Cisco’s proposed purchase of Tandberg (News - Alert) boosted vendor interoperability and will allow businesses to expand their connections to partners, customers and internal teams with more systems talking to each other. Also, new industry players entered the market. This is seen in Logitech's acquisition of LifeSize Communications. Like Cisco and Tandberg, this partnership is a great way for businesses to extend their conferencing infrastructure with more endpoints, expanding the communication channels internally and to partners and customers. Additionally, the Skype for SIP beta program will also add to conferencing interoperability. Customers will now be able to select products from multiple vendors as opposed to being locked into a single non-standardized vendor and integrate with Skype’s 4.5 million user base.
TMCnet: At the beginning of the year, the economy was in a recession. How did it impact your business?
As it did for many industries, the economic recession affected the telepresence and video conferencing market by pushing businesses to use channels of communications they are accustomed to utilizing such as free online conferencing systems, conference phone lines or regular phone and email communication rather than spending a large budget for a new telepresence or video conferencing system and the network to manage it. However, because many businesses were also looking for creative ways to save money, telepresence became a viable option as it provided a long term return on investment as a replacement for business travel, and a way to enhance operational efficiency, quality control and customer support. Online video conferencing products like WebEx, GoToMeeting and Skype also helped proliferate public and business awareness of telepresence. As businesses looked for cheap ways to collaborate they found that these channels of communication could be expanded to suit their complete needs for face to face communication and data collaboration.
TMCnet: There are now signs that the economy is recovering. What are your predictions for 2010?
Based on the recent consolidation of vendors and new players within the market, industry analysts are expecting 100 percent to 500 percent growth in the telepresence and video conferencing industry. We are expecting to see the same growth, or more for BrightCom due to the innovation of our telepresence technology and the new awareness businesses have developed over this past year. Now that Cisco has purchased Tandberg, BrightCom is in a great position to be an alternative solution that can also interoperate with their new systems.
TMCnet: What are you looking forward to in 2010 to help BrightCom boost its business?
BrightCom is very much looking forward to seeing how much the industry will grow in 2010 now that businesses realize how necessary this technology is as they work with global workforces. In 2010, BrightCom will also be promoting new designs in software, hardware and telepresence hospitality solutions with the goal of creating a seamless experience with our conference room designs and conference technology. With new innovations in the Lumina Telepresence series we are trying to push the technology to the next level by making it easier and more cost effective to adopt into the business environment. When you walk into a conference room we'd like to make sure you do not notice a video monitor and a cart system, but rather the three people from China, Japan and Germany who are speaking to you and marking up your latest drawings for product design.
To find out more about BrightCom, visit the company at ITEXPO East 2010. Scheduled for Jan. 20 to 22 in Miami, ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. BrightCom CEO Bob McCandless will speak during “Technology Innovations in Video Conferencing” at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 22. Don’t wait. Register now.

Amy Tierney is a Web editor for TMCnet, covering business communications Her areas of focus include conferencing, SIP, Fax over IP, unified communications and telepresence. Amy also writes about education and healthcare technology, overseeing production of e-Newsletters on those topics as well as communications solutions and UC. To read more of Amy's articles, please visit her columnist page.

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