Beyond VoIP TMC

Telepresence and Visa Hassles

February 26, 2007

visas.jpgI just absorbed some sobering statistics, courtesy of Fareed Zakaria's excellent column "Hassle and Humilation" in the February 26 issue of Newsweek magazine,  about the state of our International visitor visa process and the negative impact it is having on business travel and tourism.

Apparently, the situation is getting so bad that many important meetings scheduled to be held in America are being passed up by International business travelers due to an "increasingly demeaning process for visa applications."

Prepare to sober up: According to the piece, a group of Arab leaders recently landed at John F. Kennedy airport to attend a meeting of the Arab and American Action Forum, launched last September at the Clinton (as in Bill Clinton) Global Initiative meeting in New York: The idea: to bring together 100 young Arab leaders from all walks of life and introduce them to a similar group of Americans. The Arab backers are all pro-American, pro-business individuals who have attended American universities and who have spent extensive time in the U.S.

According to Fareed: "the first group of participants, mostly CEOs of large companies, were pulled out of the regular immigration lines...made to stand for two to five hours as Department of Homeland Security officials grilled them {about} why they had come to America, and whether they had any experience using weapons, what they thought of the Iraq war, and other such questions."

customs-inside.jpg And if you think this is just an Arab issue, when "Discover America, a group set up by the tourism industry to encourage travel to America, polled 2,000 randomly selected international travelers and asked them "'which one location on the map is the worst'" in terms of visa hassles and nasty immigration officials, the United States topped the list by far."  If you're thinking they were probably anti-American to begin with, 72% still had a overall favorable view of the United States when asked.

The impact of all this hassle: "Total international arrivals into the United States declined 10 percent between 2000 and 2004, and business travel has declined 10% in the last 2 years...Once No. 1, the United States has dropped to third as a travel destination."

What's more:  "Over the last 14 years, global tourism has been thriving, having increased by 52 percent. But America's share has been declining, down 36 percent in the same time frame...with travel and tourism...employing 17 million people and generating $105 billion in tax revenues."

DHS%20logo.jpg So, what are we to do while we wait and wait and wait for our State Department to significantly improve the situation? It seems to me that technology often comes to the rescue and saves us from damage caused by inefficient and ineffective processes and situations -- and perhaps this sad state of immigration affairs will ironically provide a boost to the nascent telepresence industry.

Telepresence technology -- high-end, somewhat costly (but rapidly dropping in price) IP-based audio/video conferencing equipment designed to provide a high-def, high-quality conferencing experience -- is poised to benefit from the unwillingness of a large and growing global group of professionals to subject themselves to the trials and tribulations of a system slipping into irrationality -- but still desiring to make contact with each other for business, academic and other peaceful and beneficial purposes. My partner, Jon Arnold, is also hot on this technology, as his numerous blog posts attest.

telepresence.JPG On the Telepresence newsfront, a number of companies are working hard to mainstream the technology, including Cisco, Tandberg and Polycom.

One telepresence solutions provider, Telanetix, recently announced plans to offer a new interoperable digital presence platform that gives users the ability to initiate a video conference between a high-end telepresence system and a standard video conferencing solution (such as those offered by Polycom and Tandberg).

According to Telanetix, up to now, a major barrier preventing businesses from expanding their video conferencing capabilities is that traditional video room conferencing systems were extremely costly. Because of Telanetix’s interoperable IP platform, businesses can keep their existing hardware-based systems and still install an IP telepresence solution that will operate seamlessly with it. According to the company, this is an industry first.

The text of the full release follows:


Company’s New Platform Eases Customer Transition To Telepresence

San Diego, California, February 15, 2007 -- Telanetix, Inc. (OTCBB: TNXI), a leading developer of Telepresence technology, announced today its plans to offer a new interoperable digital presence platform by the end of the first quarter of 2007. The new platform will give Telanetix users the option to participate in Telepresence meetings with standard H.263 and H.264 SIP enabled video conferencing systems currently being offered by video conferencing providers such as Polycom, Inc. and Tandberg.

"The Telepresence market currently has a large number of organizations that are using a mixed suite of conferencing products and services," stated Rick Ono, Telanetix Chief Operating Officer. "In an effort to offer our users the most advanced digital presence solution, Telanetix has created one of the first truly interoperable platforms for Telepresence. As video conferencing continues to become a mainstream application for businesses, our powerful solution offers all the benefits of Telepresence without requiring our customers to abandon existing systems. Our interoperability platform shifts the market in a new direction and will have significant impact on the Telepresence industry for years to come."

The interoperable platform will be offered as an option to Telanetix’s popular Digital Presence System. The platform is a combination of hardware and software components that facilitate seamless connectivity directly with the core of the Telanetix System.

“There are several methods that we could have used to accomplish interoperability,” said Rob Arnold, CTO of Telanetix, Inc. “While we have always supported room interoperability through integration of existing legacy systems, we found many people were looking for a more elegant solution. Based on that feedback from our customers and potential customers, we opted for a fully integrated solution that does not involve the use of a third party system, which enables us to ensure the installation, management and maintenance of our system remains seamless and hassle free.”

The interoperable platform will be available on all Telanetix Digital Presence products. Existing installations are easily field upgradeable.

About Telanetix, Inc.

Telanetix, Inc. has developed a unique technology which creates a fully immersive and interactive environment that integrates audio, video, and data from multiple locations into a single environment regardless of geographic boundaries. The company's Digital Presence Technology delivers full size, face-to-face images of real-time video, audio, and data in high quality resolution at 30 frames per second which is so profoundly real that users feel as if they are all present in the same room. Using Telanetix developed Codecs and advanced MPEG-4 compression on a Linux platform, the Company has effectively replaced the central videoconferencing bridge of legacy systems with high quality decentralized IP multicasting which provides speed and resolution which is significantly greater than those found in most existing technologies.

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