Born out of Scott Hassan’s vision—the founder and CEO of Suitable Technologies, a Palo-Alto startup— to redefine presence by empowering people with the choice of deciding when and where to be, the company provides remote telepresence solutions that connect people all over the world. In an interview with CIO Applications, Bo Preising, the chief strategy and product officer, SVP engineering at Suitable Technologies, shares his insights into how the company is utilizing its deep domain expertise to offer out-of-the-box telepresence solutions.
Give us an overview of what spurred the inception of Suitable Technologies?
Despite the existence of various technologies like email, video conferencing, Skype and Slack, we found that many of our remote team members felt isolated working separately. In addition, when communicating with these employees, certain things were lost in translation. And in case of any work-related queries, we had to set up multiple meetings— all of which disrupted daily work.
To address these challenges faced by the modern distributed workforce, we created Suitable Technologies’ first telepresence solution—Beam. The device, which is 52 inches tall with a 10-inch widescreen, combines mobility and video conferencing to provide a natural and more personal way to connect and collaborate with people separated by distance and achieve a more immersive communication experience. Some people refer to it as Skype-on-wheels, but it is very different from that.
Beam goes far beyond other competing technologies by combining high-quality, life-like audio and video; dependable and effortless mobility; and low-latency transmission to provide impactful human presence. You are not stuck on a laptop or TV hanging on a wall, but are now physically present in the remote environment; capable of hallway and “water cooler” discussions.
Could you elaborate more on Suitable Technologies’ telepresence solutions? How can these solutions be accessed?
Apart from Beam, Suitable Technologies’ product portfolio consists of two other robotic telepresence devices—BeamPro and BeamPro 2. These two are enhanced versions of Beam, with additional features that include longer battery life, larger screen, faster speed, taller profile, more robust construction, and better enterprise productivity.
Beam is not Star Trek teleportation, but it does provide an untethered communication capability that makes users feel as though they are really visiting a remote place. It is this “Beam feeling” that makes the technology awesome, and this is the reason so many customers have purchased it
While BeamPro has a 17-inch widescreen and an enhanced noise-canceling feature that eliminates distracting echoes and background sounds, BeamPro 2 has a 24- inch adjustable display that can be raised and lowered to provide eye-to-eye contact and ambient light sensors that automatically adjust display brightness. Additional features in BeamPro 2 include multi-touch capability and next-generation cameras, speakers, and microphones that deliver complete presence and improved mobility with advanced obstacle detection.
All of the Beam devices allow seamless movement and engagement in real-time. Using these telepresence robots, organizations can effortlessly conduct corporate training and company tours, and virtually meet clients, fellow executives, and other employees in different parts of the world. Beam devices can be accessed from a smartphone, tablet, or desktop by installing an easy-to-use application— Beam App.
Once the application is installed, users can operate the Beam and move around the office, plant, store, or clinic to converse with co-workers or customers, troubleshoot issues, and hold organic, non-scheduled meetings. In order to ensure the privacy and security of communication that takes place through Beam devices, each conversation is encrypted. And, once the user is authenticated, the video connection is peer to peer. Beam technology does not store any of the video communications. The technology is secure and private, which is one reason why Edward Snowden used it to deliver a Ted talk in 2014.
Can you give us a case study where Suitable Technologies’ solutions helped a client mitigate the challenges they faced and attain desired outcomes?
Through its Beam products, Suitable Technologies is transforming the way individuals, teams, and companies interact and work together in today’s increasingly virtual world. It is helping create stronger professional relationships and cohesive corporate cultures.
Currently, Beam devices find applications in large and small businesses, educational institutions, healthcare, manufacturing companies, and sales environments to increase productivity and reduce cost. In one instance, we had a customer that had manufacturing facilities in both the U.S. and Asia that wanted to communicate much more collaboratively with the employees and teams in those facilities. Our Beam products helped them not only in connecting with their co-workers, but also in keeping track of what was going on inside the manufacturing facilities. The client was able to remotely connect to their factory in Asia, view production, and inspect the goods, without having to spend the time and money to fly there physically. It not only saved them tens of thousands of dollars, but also streamlined their workflow and sped up decision-making processes.
What does the future look like for Suitable Technologies? Any enhancement to the company’s offerings or geographical expansion plans?
Having been in the industry for over seven years now, we have built and delivered numerous remote telepresence products, across multiple industry verticals. In the days to come, we are planning to include additional features that will enable our products’ network setup to be simpler, while adding new features/hardware such as real-time whiteboarding, pan-tilt-zoom cameras and laser pointers, object avoidance sensors for easier and safer piloting of the device, as well as hybrid autonomy.
We are also experimenting with Beam-to-Beam conversations, and proprietary wireless Beam networking equipment. There are also plans to move Suitable Technologies’ sales from a CAPEX business model to an OPEX model which should help make it easier for enterprises to take advantage of this new technology. In addition to selling in North America, and partners in Europe and India, we will soon be announcing a new partner that will distribute our devices in Asia.