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Cisco Introduces Push-to-Talk Application

08/20/2013 -Cisco Systems, Inc., announced on Monday that it’s releasing Cisco Instant Connect, a new push-to-talk service that allows mobile users to share audio, photos, and live video feeds without expensive infrastructure additions.

“When I was a product manager at Motorola, we used to sell rooms full of equipment in the backroom to make push-to-talk work,” says Dan O’Malley, Cisco senior product manager. “It was all circuit-based, and if you ever wanted to patch people together, it was like Lilly Tomlin at a switchboard. And it was huge and expensive, and now it’s a virtual application running in a data center…. It’s existing equipment that’s in the data center, you just install our software.”

While on site, users can connect using their corporate Wi-Fi connection. However, off site connection requires additional data plans through a carrier service that can then be connected to the network.

Android smartphone users can use Instant Connect by downloading the Cisco Instant Connect App available through Google Play. Once users download the app, they log in, pick a channel they’d like to connect to, and then push a green halo-like button to talk to those connected to that channel. “As soon as you push that button, we start sending audio…so there’s like 10 milliseconds, and there’s virtually no voice truncation,” says O’Malley.

Some smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy Pro and Cisco wireless phones, also have push-to-talk buttons built into the design of the phone.

Users can also set external sensors to send alerts using voice alerts or e-mails to users on the group, and activate policies based on time of day or conditions to rearrange group communications. Instant Connect also allows managers with administration privileges to add and delete users from groups.

Instant Connect allows security officers to upload their own live video from a smartphone to channels they’re communicating with. “And if you’re a campus security officer, there’s a shooter on your campus, you want to be able to pull up live video feeds right from your application,” you can do that, says O’Malley.

Further aiding security guards, who often use traditional and legacy radio systems, Instant Connect allows them to use a Cisco router to access push-to-talk radio and be connected to the network, in addition to other possibilities for connection, O’Malley says. “We’re offering what’s called a touch screen turret. This is an easy way for a security officer that needs to talk to 30 groups at the same time, they can touch a screen on their dispatch and talk to each group individually, or talk to them all at the same time,” he explains. The turret handles unified operations and dispatch for all radio, voice, telephony, and cellular communications over all networks and has a touch screen interface.

Instant Connect is targeted towards manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, and lower and higher education because of their moves towards expanded Wi-Fi coverage throughout their facilities. Push-to-talk is another application that can be run using their existing networks, O’Malley says.

Cisco is currently offering a Cisco Connect Trial to qualified customers at no charge.