Cisco reveals new Webex to power ‘inclusive’ future of work

With firms embarking on plans to update their networks to address the transition to hybrid working, enabling connectivity is not enough in the new normal and organisations need to deploy technology that is also flexible, supportive and inclusive, ensuring equal opportunity and voice, says Cisco.

The company says its all-new Webex suite offers innovations that can serve as the foundation for inclusive hybrid work and events, delivering what Cisco claims will be “unmatched” levels of flexibility and personalisation.

Cisco quoted research showing that 98% of future meetings are expected to include at least one remote participant, and that the new mixed mode of working – blending remote work and in-person interactions – is fuelling long-lasting implications on work culture, event engagement and technology. This, it said, requires investing more broadly beyond the traditional conference room to fundamentally reimagine the new requirements of hybrid events and a hybrid workforce.

It stressed that the way organisations worked pre-pandemic and during the pandemic will be starkly different in this next wave of work. The company argued that to be successful in the era of hybrid work, organisations need to make sure their tech is flexible, inclusive, supportive, secure, and easily managed on the back end by IT.

Cisco said the all-new Webex is the industry’s first suite for hybrid work to combine meetings, calling, messaging, polling and events in one offering for up to 40% less than the price of an equivalent à-la-carte system.

At its heart is an events feature comprising an execution and management platform that Cisco expects to be necessary in the next era of hybrid events. Full capabilities of the industry’s first end-to-end event experience at scale will become available upon completion of Cisco’s acquisition of Socio Labs.

Announced in May 2021, the purchase will see Cisco take on board a technology platform designed to provide event organisers with what they need to successfully host in-person, virtual or hybrid events. Cisco will work with Socio Labs to extend Webex Events beyond meetings, webinars and webcasts to also include large-scale, multi-session hybrid events and conferences.

This, it believes, will enable live streaming, sponsorship, networking and advanced analytics, along with continuous engagement before, during and after events with Webex features such as polling, Q&A, chat and real-time translation.

It said that polling, quizzes, Q&A and other functions powered by Cisco’s December acquisition Slido will produce the industry’s first audience engagement solution integrated across all collaboration experiences. Polling is available currently in Meetings and will come to Events soon.

Building on Webex’s noise removal and speech enhancement capabilities, users will have the new ability of speech optimisation for remote and shared workspaces through the My Voice Only feature which eliminates background noise, including speech from people in the background, and focuses solely on the main speaker. My Voice Only will be available worldwide in August 2021.

The launch also sees the introduction of next-level devices. The Webex Desk is described as a “powerful” all-in-one collaboration device designed for the desk at work or at home. Immersive collaboration experiences are also available with interactions via RoomOS, which connects workflows with less context switching​, and Webex Assistant Skills, which opens up voice-powered extensions to integrate more controls, content and applications for Webex devices.

Real-time data loss prevention for Webex, which automatically blocks and removes confidential information, will now be available in Messaging. With this real-time feature, users will be prohibited from posting classified content rather than redacting or deleting content after it is posted.

Also, Webex users across the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia (EMEAR) region will be able to host and process their content within the EU and benefit from strengthened end-to-end encryption options, including augmenting end-to-end encryption with end-to-end verified identity.

To promote wellbeing, resilience and empathy at work, Cisco has forged a partnership with behaviour-change technology Thrive Global to provide what it says is a “whole human” approach to wellbeing with Webex collaboration solutions for the benefit of users. Together with Thrive Global, Cisco says it can help promote a new dimension in mindfulness, empathy and clarity in the workplace.