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Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence highlight Webex Innovation at Cisco Live EMEA 2024


The new Webex logo
Source: Cisco Blog

The EMEA flavor of Cisco Live is being held in Amsterdam this week (Feb. 5-9, 2024). Although much smaller than the global event held in the U.S. in June, the show typically carries a flurry of news surrounding innovation, and this year was no different. While there were product announcements across many technology categories, this post focuses on Webex innovation, which included advancements in artificial intelligence and sustainability.


Webex: Low Carbon Mode

The first notable announcement was the introduction of Low Carbon mode for Webex, which will optimize Webex settings based on the user’s location and energy environment. From within Webex Control Hub, administrators can manage energy consumption. For example, in Low Carbon Mode, the Webex app can be set to delay updates, which is an extremely power-intensive activity. This is like “low power mode” on an iPhone, where email and app updates are paused until the phone is fully charged.

For IT pros, features like this are critical. During the pre-briefing, Webex CMO Aruna Ravichandran provided some interesting stats from Cisco’s research. IT emissions account for about 4% of global carbon emissions. Within that, 70% is related to electricity usage, so this feature can go a long way toward helping customers hit their Net Zero goals. Low Carbon Mode should be particularly attractive to EMEA-based businesses where sustainability is a much bigger factor in IT purchasing, and energy usage is more expensive than in the U.S. Last year, during a CIO roundtable I moderated in London, the CIO of a UK-based company told me sustainability now accounts for 20% of their decision-making process.

This follows the sustainability news announced at Cisco Live EMEA 2023 when Webex announced Carbon Emission Insights within Control Hub, the ability to set office hours to turn Webex off when not being used, and device circularity (which, per UL, is the concept of extending the useful life of a material/product and recovering/repurposing it at its end of life).


Updates on Cisco AI Assistant for Webex

Another announcement is that the Cisco AI Assistant for Webex, announced at WebexOne 2023 (which I wrote about here), is now generally available for Meeting Summaries and Vidcast; change tone and translation, as well as chat summaries, are now in beta. While there are many aspects to AI in collaboration, AI assistants can add tremendous value as they help users complete tasks that are typically burdensome.

Post-meeting, it’s often important to quickly send out an accurate summary so team members and stakeholders have a good sense of action items. The problem is that most people don’t have the time or organizational skills to do this effectively. Top-tier executives have admins and chiefs of staff, but most of us do not. The Cisco AI Assistant for Webex can fill that gap and give us all that capability.

One of the things I liked most about Cisco AI Assistant for Webex is that it works with little human effort. The demo shown at WebexOne was of a meeting participant who stepped away to answer the door. When that person returned, Webex automatically prompted the user and asked if they would like to “catch up.” That small bit of automation will significantly increase adoption as it removes any complication for the worker.


Extending the Webex & Apple Partnership

The other two announcements are an extension of Webex's partnership with Apple. Webex and Apple have a long history of integrations, including CarPlay, iPad multitasking, iPhone mobile camera sharing, and a robust Mac client. At Cisco Live EMEA, Cisco announced Webex integration with Apple TV 4K. While this is more of a prosumer play, many businesses have Apple TV units in their meeting spaces to let at-home workers turn Apple TV into a Webex client. Integrating third-party devices and third-party UC providers with Cisco devices has been a big but welcome shift for Cisco who has been criticized for being closed and proprietary over the years. While that was once true, it’s no longer the case.


Webex in Apple VR

The last piece of news is that Webex is now available for the Apple Vision Pro virtual reality headset. This lets users conduct an immersive, virtual meeting anywhere they can put the headset on – from one’s backyard to a hotel room to the factory floor. All of the features of the Webex app, including real-time translation, Slido for Q&A, polling, whiteboarding, and breakout rooms, can be done in the Apple headset.

I certainly don’t expect people to sit in their cubes wearing a Vision Pro, but I think there are several interesting vertical use cases. A medical team could collaborate on an upcoming surgical procedure and have access to medical records and virtual tools to diagnose a patient. Manufacturers could interact with machine components in a virtual environment to speed development.

This was a strong set of announcements from Webex as it addresses some big trends in EMEA, notable sustainability, and hybrid work. The company has been very contact-center-heavy over the past year, and it was nice to see innovation in UCaaS. Also, Enterprise Connect is in a little over a month, and I’m expecting a heavy dose of both at that show.


Want to know more?

Check out the following articles on Cisco and Webex: