Innovation Focus: Cisco Pursues Telepresence Technologies


Cisco Systems, Inc. of San Jose, CA, is a corporation that is heavily involved with designing and manufacturing networking equipment along with other information technologies. A new inventory of products for Cisco’s Unified Computing System server business has many speculating that the company is trying to build a stronger base in enterprise server computing solutions. Cisco is seeking to develop systems for modernizing various areas of our country’s infrastructure, including a smart system called Connected Rail with applications for railroad transportation. The corporation has also recently announced an expansion of its partnership with open source developer Red Hat for development of the OpenStack system for deploying private cloud services.

In 2013, the company’s 885 patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office placed it 40th among all patenting entities for that year. Occasionally, we look at applications filed and patents issued for these top patenting companies, and as with any look at Cisco, you will find that research and development operations are still strong this year. Many of Cisco’s recent inventions have focuses on technologies for online meetings and teleconferencing for long-distance business conversations.

The history of Cisco Systems involves a tremendous amount of innovation in the field of computer networking technologies. Traditionally, its research and development in information technologies has focused on business network solutions, although the company will likely increase its presence in consumer markets through its focus on the “Internet of Everything.” The growth of the “Internet of Things” as an emerging trend in technological development is a topic we’ve covered here before on IPWatchdog, but Cisco draws a distinction between the two concepts, focusing on the need to connect people not just to things but also data and processes to accomplish more complex tasks. Cisco executives believe that the increased application of Cisco’s technologies into the vertical integration of both private and public sector fields, from healthcare to manufacturing to retail, represents a $19 trillion opportunity over the next decade.

The use of networking technologies to facilitate online meetings has long been a specialty for Cisco, and they continue to increase their patent portfolio holdings in this field. Methods to prevent the degradation of digital video feeds used as a component of online meetings are discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140254688, entitled Perceptual Quality of Content in Video Collaboration. This filing discloses techniques for receiving and decoding a sequence of video frames which include a method of determining whether to skip or render certain video frames based on color histograms of the video feed. This allows the video feed system to selectively skip video frames to overcome shortcomings in low frame rates and other issues that hinder video quality in online meetings, especially when sharing desktop environments or similar digital content.

Improvements to the routing of audio signals for videoconferencing applications are the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140253675, which is titled Media Detection and Packet Distribution in a Multipoint Conference. This innovation allows teleconferencing organizations a greater ability to switch between audio and video feeds in response to broadcasting equipment constraints and the number of remote participants in the teleconference. We also noted an intriguing scheduling technology for online meeting platforms in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140237041, titled Automatic Future Meeting Scheduler Based Upon Locations of Meeting Participants. This patent application would protect a method of connecting a plurality of client devices through a meeting server when location constraints for all participants have been cleared. This system enables better methods of establishing an online meeting when one party is traveling and must reach a certain location to participate in the teleconference.

Cisco’s research and development in the field of online meeting technologies has extended into immersive room-sized systems, like the company’s line of Immersive TelePresence products. These systems have limited seating accommodations because of shortcomings in the use of multiple fixed-field-of-view cameras that reduce the number of participants capable of engaging in a meeting. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140253667, titled Utilizing a Smart Camera System for Immersive Telepresence, would protect a method of receiving video content from a plurality of cameras and detecting the position of meeting participants from the video feed. This invention will help prevent a person seated in the field of two cameras from being rendered partially or in multiple areas of the telepresence display.

Methods of displaying online meeting participants in a way that’s more natural for other participants to interact with are protected by the recently issued U.S. Patent No. 8830293, issued under the title Video Superposition for Continuous Presence. The patent discusses a method of combining multiple video feeds into a single feed which is much more natural to interact with than a series of video feeds configured in a line or a “Hollywood Squares”-style setup. A technology for simplifying the user interface of teleconferencing software is expressed within U.S. Patent No. 8831197, which is titled One Button Conference Initiation. Depending on the complexity of a teleconferencing platform, a participant may need to input a great deal of information, such as a log-in ID or a conference ID number, to identify and take part in a teleconference. This innovation reduces the burden on the participant to remember this data and allows the conference room to initiate the meeting based on a single indication from a user who has located the teleconference.

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