Network News Gina Narcisi October 25, 2022, 11:30 a.m. EDT
“From a network standpoint, from a collaboration standpoint, from a hardware and device standpoint, from an artificial intelligence standpoint, we have invested billions of dollars in building one of the most comprehensive [collaboration] stacks,” said Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s EVP and GM of Security and Collaboration.
Cisco Systems is tackling the next phase of hybrid work by building greater security and management into its popular Webex platform.
The tech giant kicked off its WebexOne event Tuesday, introducing a handful of new Webex features, including integration between Webex Control Hub and Cisco Spaces, audio watermarking to protect confidential meeting content, and launching validated designs so partners can have a repeatable design guide for customers. who are rethinking their office space.
“Cisco is all-in on hybrid work. From a networking standpoint, from a collaboration standpoint, from a hardware and device standpoint, from an artificial intelligence standpoint – we’ve invested billions of dollars building one of the most comprehensive stacks,” Jeetu Patel, Cisco executive vice president and general security and collaboration manager, told an audience of analysts and reporters ahead of the WebexOne event in San Jose, Calif.
Move Over Webex: Microsoft Teams To Be Available On Cisco Meeting Devices
Cisco has partnered with Apple for Mobile Camera Share, a feature that allows iPhone and iPad users to share content from the rear or front-facing camera through the Webex Meetings app and annotate what they see through Mobile Camera Share. It’s an industry first, Patel said.
In addition to the physical whiteboard device that Cisco already has, the new Whiteboard app embedded in the Webex suite provides meeting participants with an easy-to-use whiteboard experience no matter where they work. Any participant can start or join a whiteboard and collaborate from a browser, the Webex app, or a Cisco device. Whiteboards can also be combined with Slido polls or saved and shared in a Webex space for later, Patel said.
Vidcast, Cisco’s asynchronous video offering launched last year, now includes an AI-powered editing capability and integration with Slido for audience polls and surveys.
On the security front, Cisco has unveiled Audio Watermarking, a feature that can uniquely label audio streams to each meeting participant with a marker that cannot be heard by the human ear. For example, if an employee records a confidential meeting on their phone, the recording can be traced back to the person, regardless of how the audio was shared, Patel explains.
“It’s a feature I’m really excited about,” he said. “If I tried to leak the video, you could easily trace it back to me.” This is like having a magical set of capabilities around security and privacy where people can’t go out and steal content and throw it away [there] without consequences.”
Cisco offers a repeatable Hybrid Workspace Design Guide based on its own office implementation in New York City that will help customers and channel partners design redesigned hybrid workspaces as many employees return to the office. The validated designs include Cisco’s Smart Building Solutions, as well as its collaboration, networking and security technology.
“I think there is an opportunity for us to go even further, so I consider this phase one, as there is an opportunity to provide turnkey solutions in a much more thoughtful way with the channel partner community,” she said. Patel to CRN. “They have access to all validated designs and ideally we want to [partners] to make money by adding value to it for customers because it is such a daunting task to go out and rethink a workspace.
The validated designs will include Webex’s more recent features, such as built-in camera and audio intelligence, automatic noise cancellation and the ability for users to switch to their own devices, Cisco said.
On the hardware side, Cisco’s new device for large video conferencing rooms is called Cisco Room Kit EQ. The new device is powered by the Cisco Codec EQ, an AI-based computing device, which can help enable more realistic and inclusive meeting experiences, Patel said.
The right environment for collaboration
If the pandemic has taught employers and employees anything, it’s that the office isn’t just a place people go. It is a place to collaborate, share information and sometimes even celebrate. But as people return to the office, these spaces need to be smarter, more sustainable and seamlessly connected, said Jonathan Davidson, executive vice president and general manager of Enterprise and Cloud and Mass-Scale Infrastructure Teams at the pre-WebexOne event.
That’s why Webex Control Hub, Cisco’s central management platform for all collaboration services and devices, is now integrated with Cisco Spaces, a cloud platform that digitizes spaces to make them safer, smarter and more sustainable. The combination gives employees and decision-makers more information about their workspace, such as real-time occupancy, air quality updates and electricity usage to ensure hybrid work “really works,” Davidson said.
Cisco Spaces also integrates with existing Cisco products that businesses may have in their environment today, such as Catalyst switches, Meraki equipment, and Webex. “These are all sensors in your infrastructure now,” he said. “All these things together create this visual experience for IT teams.”
Davidson said Cisco currently has more than 10,000 IT administrators using Cisco Spaces.
Cisco is also introducing IT Digital Coach, which enables Control Hub to act as a coach to enhance hybrid work experiences. Control Hub can now guide IT administrators or MSPs step-by-step through setting up, adopting and ensuring efficiencies for managing and supporting employees.
Native interoperability with Microsoft Teams
Cisco also attended the pre-WebexOne event to discuss its partnership with Microsoft, unveiled earlier this month, allowing video conferencing users to choose between Cisco Webex or Microsoft Teams natively on their Cisco Meeting devices and cameras. Cisco said it will also become a partner in the Certified for Microsoft Teams program.
Webex by Cisco already integrates with the “big three” video conferencing players: Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and interoperability was a great “first step,” Patel said.
Patel said Cisco wants to make sure it has an open collaboration ecosystem because users don’t have to jump between multiple platforms to get their work done. Native integration eliminates the need for users to switch platforms to find content shared during meetings and without having to reboot room systems when moving from one platform to another, he said.
“It’s completely groundbreaking,” Patel told CRN about the new integration. “You get the full experience of the Microsoft team and from there you can also start your Webex meetings. You have to kudos to Microsoft, because we’re really working on this together, and we’re both looking at the customer’s interest, and we’re going to work backwards from there, rather than really getting caught up in putting our own individual technologies first. ”
The ability to launch Webex natively from Teams is something that has never been done before, Patel added.
“This in this industry is actually evolving in a similar way to the entertainment industry. Sometimes you watch a movie on Netflix, sometimes Amazon Prime Video, sometimes you go to Hulu. About 85 percent of companies use two or more [collaboration] platforms. You can’t have these single platform devices – they just won’t work.