There's a study put out today from AT&T (NYSE:T, news, filings) with the headline: "Telepresence Can Reduce Corporate CO2 Emissions by 5.5 Million Metric Tons and Deliver $19 Billion in Financial Benefits to U.S. and U.K. Economies by 2020". I get a kick out of studies like this, but not because of how wonderful telepresence is or will be.
That potential is certainly great, and I hope the study is right. But do you have any idea just how many assumptions the authors had to pull out of thin air (or somewhere else) to distill its value into those two numbers? I mean, it's not easy to accurately model the effects of a new technology that is barely understood now, will be unrecognizable in a year or less, and is implemented on hardware that itself is in the midst of dual cloud and energy revolutions. All over the span of an entire decade, which in the tech world is literally 3-4 lifetimes.
Actually, it's not easy, it's impossible - unless you make assumptions, and I mean those of the embarrassingly sweeping variety that make discounted future cash flow analyses look downright accurate. The results therefore, are often no more accurate than if the PR department just made up the numbers. Nevertheless, there are obviously real savings there both in terms of CO2 and dollars. Nothing wrong with a little propaganda of course, it's part of our world and certainly not limited to telepresence. I cringe every time the government makes budget projections - no matter which political party is in charge.
More interesting though was the analysis further down, suggesting that a company with $1B in revenue implementing 4 telepresence rooms could expect to make back its investment in 15 months by saving some 900 business trips in the first year. Operationally it would help speed decision-making, improve employee productivity, and provide workers with a better work-life balance. That all just might be achievable in the near term where the projections of models actually have some merit.
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