Cisco deployed various incarnations of its telepresence products to help fans connect with athletes, and athletes with the media, between Montreal and Toronto

Cisco telepresence connects tennis stars to their fans

There are a lot of balls in the air (pardon the pun) when it comes to running a live sporting event. Once you get past the pure logistics of security, ticket sales and packages and player accommodations, it’s not a bad idea to start thinking of the fans.

With that in mind, Cisco Systems Inc. Canada was asked to help Tennis Canada connect the two Rogers Cup venues, in Toronto and Montreal respectively, so that no set would be neglected.

Consisting of four different deployments, Cisco partnered with London-based ITC Global Security Ltd. to install four units per venue to accommodate the needs of fans, the media and players in the Rogers Cup.

The most visible to the public at the Toronto venue was the Cisco codec in the Rogers connected tent. A large widescreen television with a camera setup beneath allowed fans to talk to tennis stars in a similar looking tent at both venues. That way, for every Q&A session, half the time was spent answering questions from fans present at the chat and the other spent answering them via teleconferencing at the other locale.

That particular deployment, Ian Gallagher, director of collaboration engineering for Cisco Canada, said was a C40 codec which “is basically a hardware box running behind the scenes, camera attaches, microphone attaches and runs through to the top of the screen, or in that case, they’re using handheld and lapel microphones wired into the codec behind the barrier.”

He attributes the success of that deployment, barring the technical difficulties involving a power outage on Thursday, to Cisco’s acquisition of Tandberg, as well as Tennis Canada’s strong existing network.

Gallagher said it was only this year that Cisco “organizationally fully integrated Tandberg into the collaboration group. So Q1 this year, beginning Aug. 1, the full Tandberg portfolio and all of the employees from Tandberg are all (part of the Cisco team now).”

He said the technology Tandberg brought to Cisco in the takeover made the fast setup time, a scant three days, possible, particularly due to the portability of newer units. “What Tandberg really brought to our portfolio is this flexibility to do video, really anywhere and to bring the highest amount of immersiveness to an environment possible,” Gallagher said.

Besides the Rogers connected tent, Cisco deployed telepresence units in Tennis Canada’s tent, the player’s lounge and the media conference room at the Rogers Cup.

The conference room deployment was easily the most interesting use of Cisco’s endpoints, as a telepresence unit on wheels was used to connect athletes in Montreal with press in Toronto and vice versa. When the questions ended in Montreal, the athlete would turn their attention to the endpoint’s screen and could speak, in real time, to the assembled press in Toronto.

Once a conference ended in Montreal, the screen would be swung so that it was facing the stage in Toronto and the same routine played out, only in reverse. Questions were taken in Toronto with the athlete taking the Montreal press’ questions afterward.

That unit in the conference room was from the “Profile series, which is a completely self-contained display with the codec hidden in the stand unit that the display sits on,” and has the camera built into it, Gallagher said.

The player’s lounge wasn’t accessible to press, but Gallagher said it is equipped with one of the Cisco’s newer, desktop units. “(There’s a) EX90 that’s in the player’s lounge…they have a connection to the Montreal players lounge using a smaller, 24-inch desktop unit.”

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