Halo HP’s Telepresence Solution

Yesterday I attended a media event, as a blogger, for the Australian launch of HP’s Halo Telepresence product. The event was simultaneously held at HP’s office in Sydney and Melbourne using HP’s Halo product and included a Halo hook up to the US and audio hook up to HP’s PR company.

Down to the product:

  • It is telepresence, nothing really new here
  • HP has built a nice control panel to make using the service very user friendly
  • Halo allows both laptop sharing and a tabletop camera for the sharing of physical objects
  • It allows you to include non Halo endpoints from suppliers such as TANDBERG and Polycom
  • They have a gateway to also include endpoints that support ITU H.323, H.320 and SIP
  • A majority of the devices in each room have IP addresses assigned which means they can be maintained remotely
  • All Halo rooms have access to Halo’s 7×24 Concierge service for support.

Where the product is a little different from other systems is in the installation. HP have built Halo to be a fully managed solution, from installation to deployment and operations. All Halo rooms are connected to each other via the Halo Video Exchange Network (HVEN) a specialised fibre optic network run by HP just for Halo, HP install a 45Mbit (also called a DS3/T3) link into your premise. This enables several benefits such as reliability, bandwidth availability and cross company collaboration.

Like many I have experienced old school video conferencing before with all the issues of latency, crappy images, and crap audio. Halo, like all telepresence solutions, is none of that. The Halo meeting rooms is purpose built panelled in light brown fabric (to enhance audio), with half the room taken up with a board room table. In front were three 42″+ HD screens, at table level, with a fourth screen above for control.

On the three table height screens were the other meeting participants, almost life size and disturbingly really. The audio quality was fantastic, you heard all of the subtle noises from the other rooms, just as if the people were in the same room as you.

HP Halo

HP’s sales approach is, to reduce travel, increase productivity and support the environment, in fact the theme for yesterday’s launch was the environment with several presentations covering all the things HP is doing to be green.

My thoughts?

This is not for small business with the basic solutions starting well over A$100K not including the monthly managed service charges.  Having said that for large enterprises any product that improves productivity or reduces costs is a bonus, especially in these tough times. HP claim to be cutting up to 20,000 trips during 2008 just due to having Halo installed globally and that ROI is achieved by most customers within 12 months.

The almost real life nature of telepresence allows for significantly more interactive meetings then are possible over pure audio or older style video link ups. However given the price tag maybe virtual worlds are a better choice for many organisations who want collaboration?