Glowpoint & iVision Partner for Global Access to Telepresence

For the past decade, managed telepresence service provider Glowpoint has tried to be all things video to all people, building a portfolio of products intended to meet a broad range of needs among diverse video users.

Now the company wants to be all things video to all people, everywhere. Last week the New Jersey company announced a partnership with iVision, based in Melbourne, Australia. Together the companies will be able to offer telepresence services worldwide, without either one having to mount 24/7 staffing.

“There is always some business wanting to have a conference somewhere. So why should we be duplicating efforts? Why should I have someone in New York booking reservations at 3 o’clock in the morning?” said Glowpoint Vice President of Marketing Jonathan Brust.

The step toward globalization is reflective of a company that has taken a work-all-the-angles approach to the marketplace.

The company originally came on the scene with an offer to provide the networks that would make videoconferencing practical and affordable. It still has a network offering on the books, but as customers have moved to develop their own in-house networks, Glowpoint has adapted, expanding its repertoire, especially in the realm of managed services.

When it’s time to initiate a video meeting, Glowpoint will arrange the connections, remotely configure the call and monitor the call for quality in real time. “The equipment makers have provided certain tools within their component so that if a light bulb goes off on a device, we will get a notification that there is a problem,” Brust said. “When it cannot be fixed remotely, sometimes we will deploy somebody on site, and we make sure that work gets done. It’s really the full-scale management of that room.”

In addition to selling services under its own name, the company white-labels for Polycom, for global network provider TATA, and for A/V integration company AVI-SPL, among others.

In a further effort to expand its menu of options, Glowpoint is presently in beta testing on a new Open Video product, due out in 2011. The new offering is intended to take many of the managed service functions now handled by Glowpoint and put them in the hands of the end user.

Open Video would allow users to monitor and manage their own network performance, to set up and initiate video collaborations and to tackle many other basic functions through a simplified portal, without the need to call Glowpoint for assistance.

“It has to do with ease of use and with cost. It’s certainly already easy to work with Glowpoint, but now we are bringing the tools to the end user, taking the IT people out of the middle of the picture. Should you really need Glowpoint to help you make a call? Shouldn’t you be able to do that yourself?” Brust said.

Glowpoint supports just under 900 video units for 550 customers. It provided support services for about 85,000 conferences in 2010.

The company charges $1,500 to $2,000 a month for the management of a single telepresence room, and $200 to $300 a month to manage a simpler videoconference setup. Its network access runs $600 to $700 per month.

In addition to its varied services, the company also keeps detailed records of system usage and generates regular reports on the number of calls, their duration, the likely travel time saved and other business metrics.

“This is a very big part of the decision-making process for people who are going to use us as a provider. They want to know that you can help them justify this expense to their internal management team,” Brust said. “It’s a key part of every RFP we’re involved in.”

While this is true enough for most in the telepresence game, Brust speculates the situation will change over time. “Once it becomes such common behavior, once people use video the way they use a phone today, that reporting will become more of a back-end thing: ‘We just want to make sure it is being used,’ ” he said.

If the plethora of options helps Glowpoint to meet customers wherever they may live, it also creates a challenge, as one tries to match every customer’s idiosyncratic needs with just the right product in the portfolio. Glowpoint’s solution has been to farm it out: To let the integrators and service providers shoulder the burden of understanding customers’ requirements and finding just the right fit.

“They are already selling the systems, they are selling the networks, so let them sell the managed services as well,” Brust said. “Why should we be out there selling against them?”

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