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October 7, 2015

Inside Cisco’s boardroom of the future

News: Giant screens and robot assistants, Cisco uses its boardroom to show off the best of what it can offer.

By Charlotte Henry

The inside of big corporate boardrooms retain a sense of mystery to outsiders, with many of the discussions that take place in there understandably staying inside the four walls.

Cisco is taking a slightly different approach though, moving beyond the smoke filled room, and making its boardroom in San Jose a showcase for where it believes technology is going.

Cisco wants customers to be able to see what technology it can offer, both physical and in terms of connectivity, in the room where the decisions are made.

Most noteable is the wall sized screen behind the chairman’s seat. It is a touch screen, on which every element – chat boxes, video feeds, graphs, can be moved, swiped, and resized. Playing with it feels like a scene out of Minority Report!

Rowan Trollope, a general manager at Cisco, said that he believes such monitors are "going to be cheaper than painting your wall."

There are other smaller screens around the room, and of course, each seat has an iPad to make sure everyone and everything is connected. From inside the boardroom security monitoring can be called up, chat conversations taken part in, and major breaking news followed.

Also buzzing around the room is an assistant to a senior vice president. Except Holly is in Texas.

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A high quality video feed allows her to communicate, with a minimal delay, but she is also an all singing, all dancing robot that the human Holly controls and moves around from thousands of miles away.

Sensors stop her banging into walls and people, as demonstrated when she guided us to the boardroom. Holly joked that now there is no place where her SVP can hide from her!

Boardrooms will always remain the nerve centre of a firm, so in one of his lasts acts as CEO, John Chambers wanted the newly designed boardroom to be an example of what firms can achieve in terms of executive technology.

As was so often the case during his tenure. It looks like he got his way.

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