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Last week I had the pleasure of taking a trip down to Cisco’s business center in the Research Triangle Park, along with several other staff members from across WFU’s campus. It was here that I sat in on several presentations of new technologies that Cisco is preparing and discussed how they could be useful at Wake and ZSR. I also had the opportunity of seeing several of their web conferencing technologies at work, such as using one of the “Full Immersion” rooms to video conference with Cisco employees across the country. Some parts will be a bit vague, as some of the information we were told regards future plans for Cisco products that they asked us not to discuss outside.

We began the day with a demo of Cisco Business Video Demo Center, ran by a Cisco employee in California. This was basically a showcase as to how Cisco can inter-operate a number of their technologies. For example, our presenter took a video of his screens showing our WFU group across three separate rooms with a Flip Cam, uploaded it to one of Cisco’s media servers that compiled the video, added titles, and then played back the video for us on the web within 15 minutes. It was an impressive demo, though a bit imposing and seemed unlikely to work as well without Cisco expertise on hand. They did touch on digital signage from Cisco which was a major interest to me, but didn’t go into great detail. The focused more on their ability to take data and push to their signs automatically than particulars of the signs themselves, which was disappointing. We were also running behind so the presenter had to hurry through things, so that may have had something to do with my feelings as well.

We then moved on to a “Casual Conversation” with Lance Ford, a Cisco Business Development Manager who works a great deal with educators using Telepresense tools in their teaching. This was a fun presentation with some interesting views on web teaching. After this talk we had a conference with a Webex engineer discussing the next step in the Webex program, which Wake will be a part of. A major topic of discussion in this and throughout the day was Webex integration with Google, specifically calendar functionality.

Cisco save the new, shiny stuff for after lunch though. We were given a demo of Cicso’s QUAD platform, basically a business version of Facebook. Instead of emails or shared google docs, you sign into QUAD and make posts. You then follow particular posts or invite others to edit them or attach documents. An interesting idea, but not one that I would see as particularly relevant in our environment. At least the consensus in the car I rode home in is that we didn’t need another social network to keep track of. We then saw a presentation on Cisco Jabber, which is a telephone/messaging solution Cisco is offering. What is really nice about it is its future integration with webex, so you can be on the phone on your handset and switch over to a webex meeting when needed. This would also allow for individual computers to communicate with larger telepresence and webex clients, making our awesome new setup in 204 even more useful. Finally we were given a presentation on Show and Share, Cisco’s video solution. It offers a media service that can transcode video, add titles, etc. to it, transcribe the video and map out specific topics of interest, tag it, and put it in a “youtube-like” interface basically with one box. It is designed to be a Youtube for the business world, which once again is cool but not something that would necessarily fit within the Library. And for me, it doesn’t really seem to do enough different from Youtube.

All in all it was an enjoyable trip. It was interesting to see where Cisco is going, especially with Wake becoming closer and closer with the company. It was also interesting to listen to some of the priorities of the ranking members if IS when it comes to those technologies.