Program development begins in Cisco Centre

New director says collaborative possibilities of centre are still being assessed

Garrett Elias

On Jan. 1, Professor Herbert Enns began work as the first director of the University of Winnipeg’s Cisco Innovation Centre for Collaborative Technologies.

The centre was established through a $2 million donation by Cisco Systems, along with two of its Telepresence systems.

“Cisco has attached very few strings to this opportunity, so it’s up to the university as a collective to break down the technology and reimagine it in new kinds of configurations,” said Enns.

Enns could not elaborate on what strings are attached to Cisco’s contribution.

Based in the Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex, the Cisco Innovation Centre is an innovative tool that will utilize fibre optic networks to facilitate collaborations and research projects, said Enns.

“The centre will nurture, foster, support and promote interdisciplinary work. I imagine this lab to be a place where those students and faculty members who are interested can work together,” said Enns.

The functions of the centre are still being developed.

This week, Enns will be meeting with John Corlett, vice-president academic, to discuss the possible uses of the centre, said Enns.

Enns is unsure when the centre will be fully operational, but said its development will be a project-based initiative.

The centre could be used in a vast array of disciplines, including computer science, computer engineering, music, English, film, theatre and astrophysics, he said.

Enns, a professor of architecture at the University of Manitoba, will spend 60 per cent of his time at the U of M, and 40 per cent at the U of W.

Nitin Kawale, president of Cisco Canada, said the Telepresence System is a cutting-edge, high-definition improvement over existing videoconferencing technology.

“We have succeeded in creating an in-person experience. We’ve reduced going from one city to another city, to going from one particular room to another,” Kawale said.

According to Kawale, the system reduces carbon footprints by cutting down on the necessity for corporate travel.

The creation of the centre came about through Cisco and the university’s commitment to the role of technology played in facilitating education, said Kawale.

“The University of Winnipeg has been a customer of ours for quite some time. We have a long-standing relationship and a shared vision in the role of technology played in facilitating education. It was quite natural we would have dialogue,” said Kawale.

The Telepresence systems are worth $3 million, said Kawale. One system is in Richardson College and one is in the Buhler Centre.

While the U of W is the only Canadian university on the Telepresence Network, the system is easily adapted to allow for communication between Telepresence and non-Telepresence users, said Kawale.

Globally, Cisco has 52 per cent of the videoconferencing market share, making it possible to conference with companies across the world, Kawale said.

Spenser Keenes, second-year biochemistry student and president of the Students of Science Association, said he looks forward to the benefits the Cisco system promises.

“It was a very generous donation and it’s a great way for groups that are separated by vast distances to connect and make collaborations more personal,” said Keenes.

Published in Volume 66, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 25, 2012)

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