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Cisco Opens Up on Programmable Future: Page 2 of 2

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Collaborative Programming with Webex

Providing learning opportunities for developers, engineers, and partners is apparently high on Cisco's lists of priorities. In addition to the new developer initiatives, you couldn't go anywhere at Cisco Live without seeing training labs, demos, or developer workshops. And within those workshops, as I discovered, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a question for which Cisco didn't have online documentation, resources, or even virtual sandboxes to help you get your answer.

For collaboration, all Webex desk and room devices -- except for the Webex Board -- are fully programmable, Stève Sfartz, API evangelist for Cisco DevNet, told me in an interview following one of the workshops he led at the event. (And Webex Board programmability is coming soon.)

Enterprises want customized meeting experiences -- without having to add new capabilities via yet another remote or control system, Sfartz said. And Cisco can help them create those experiences by opening access to its video system APIs, he added.

Developers can use embedded APIs to extend Webex device capabilities in several ways, Sfartz said. They can create user interface buttons enabling users to control IoT devices like lighting and A/C via a Room Kit device controller, for example. They can take this a step further, setting if-this-then-that policies that trigger the IoT systems to lower the blinds and adjust the lighting when a video meeting starts or someone begins sharing a presentation via a projector, for instance.

However, the extent to which a developer can alter a Webex meeting experience is somewhat limited, or controlled, by Cisco, Sfartz told me. For example, Cisco's standard Touch 10 room system control tablet comes configured with two buttons, one for starting meetings and another for sharing content. While developers can add their own buttons, as mentioned, they can only add so many. For one, Cisco fears the addition of too many buttons would negatively impact the user experience. And, Cisco is eying system preservation; it wants to be sure these computers, and the controls on them, still work 10 years from now, he explained.

Developers can leverage these APIs to pull data on meeting room use for analysis and decision making. Because Cisco room systems include technology like facial recognition, they're able to identify the number of people in a meeting room. An enterprise could use that insight to better plan its meeting room estate, perhaps reducing the number of large rooms in favor of smaller spaces optimized for the most meetings -- which, in turn, could lead to increased productivity.

You can take this data analysis even further by tracking things like content sharing and the use of augmented reality during meetings. Enterprises want to know how they can maximize their investments by knowing what happens in meeting rooms, Sfartz said. "Your meeting rooms are talking," he said. "Are you listening?"

As the Cisco Live event showcased, programmability is becoming part and parcel not just of UC&C solutions, but every component of an enterprise's IT infrastructure -- which, as CEO Robbins commented from the keynote stage, means folks can let their imaginations run free and companies can foster "innovation everywhere."

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