In a global business climate populated by organizations under pressure to keep costs low, telepresence is emerging as an increasingly significant chunk of communications in general. The telepresence market may reach $4.7 billion in revenue worldwide by 2014, predicts business research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
As such, IT professionals are scrambling to develop the skill sets necessary to work with technologies that bring people in remote locations together through video and audio feed.
Last week, Cisco announced an extension of its certification program designed in response to increasing market demand for telepresence and collaboration solutions. Cisco is releasing two specialist certifications: the Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist and the Cisco TelePresence Installations Specialist. The courses and exams are scheduled to go live by January 2010.
The Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist certification focuses on the job performance needs of a midcareer voice specialist or networking engineer who seeks to specialize in the planning, design, implementation and maintenance of Cisco TelePresence deployments. Tasks include assessing network paths for rich media, evaluating call-control design options and configuring interoperability functions. The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification is a prerequisite.
The Cisco TelePresence Installations Specialist certification focuses on the job performance needs of an installation technician seeking to master the physical deployment and construction of single-screen Cisco TelePresence Systems. Tasks include assessing room readiness, tuning cameras and microphones and installing high-definition screens. While there is no prerequisite certification, a working understanding of basic Internet-based device connections is highly recommended.
Christine Yoshida, senior manager of learning and development at Cisco Systems, commented on who these certifications are geared toward. "The Cisco TelePresence Solutions Specialist is designed for network engineers who need to add that telepresence-specific skill set," Yoshida said. "They're going to need to know how to plan, design and implement the solutions, and they're going to need some troubleshooting skills. So we've built that certification on top of the CCNA certification."
The Cisco TelePresence Installations Specialist cert, meanwhile, is for "people who actually go in and construct the telepresence room," Yoshida said. "So we teach them how to set up the room and the environment and how to evaluate the room; how to set up the lighting, sound, furniture and the conference table; and how to tune the whole system so that it's operating correctly."
According to Yoshida, essential telepresence skills vary by job role. "For the network engineer, they're going to need to plan according to the customer's needs what type of telepresence solution and installation should be implemented, and they're going to have to plan the logistics of setting it up," Yoshida said. "They'll need to be concerned with call control, the architecture and the networks that support telepresence."
Cisco's introduction of these certifications to some extent signals maturation in the telepresence space. "When we first came out with our telepresence solution a few years ago, we were new to the market and Cisco was pretty much doing all of its own design planning and installing for customers," Yoshida said. "Now the market adoption is such that we need to enable our channel partners with these skills, and even some of our biggest customers may want to have these skills in-house. It's to the point where we feel there is enough critical mass to warrant this certification. It's great because it allows the employers to know that their employees who deal with telepresence have what they need to be successful, and the individuals know that by participating in the program, getting their certifications, the skills they're proving they have are relevant to the market demand today."
To bolster this point, Yoshida cited findings of the Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2008-2013, which states that Internet video is now approximately one-third of all consumer Internet traffic, and by 2013 the sum of all forms of video will account for more than 91 percent of global consumer traffic.