LOS ANGELES: Cisco has unveiled a new tool called Project Squared that mimics the features seen in services like WhatsApp but aimed at businesses who want to let staff collaborate on social messaging apps but with enterprise controls.
The Project Squared app provides the ability to create ‘meeting rooms’ where staff can share messages, images and documents, as well as begin video calls using a smartphone’s in-built camera.
Staff are invited via email and then have to enter a code sent to their registered email. At present any mix of people with different email addresses can create meeting rooms.
However, Cisco posited that in future it would add more enterprise-level functionalities to the tool, such as only allowing people with relevant company email accounts to create or join meeting rooms.
The tool also allows people to share content from other platforms. Currently only Box is integrated with the Project Squared platform, but other platforms, such as Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive, are likely to be added in time.
Adding this sort of enterprise grade control is what Cisco said is needed to allow firms to strike a balance between the benefits such instant messaging apps offer, and ensuring the security of information and documents being shared.
The tool is not complete but instead the release is designed to give users the chance to test it out and provide feedback to help Cisco continue to refine its functionalities.
The launch of such a project ties in with the convergence of social and mobile trends in collaboration, which Cisco touted at its Collaboration 2014 event as the key trends now driving this area of its business.
As a result of these trends Cisco chief technology officer for collaboration, Jonathan Rosenberg, said Project Squared was not a replacement for its WebEx service or a rival to tools like Yammer, but instead addressing a new market need.
“Project Squared is about making people more productive, about giving them tools to quickly share content and ideas, rather than as a place to just host content or conferences,” he said at the event.
Project Squared senior director for business operations Alex Hadden-Boyd from Cisco told V3 the project had been in development for about a year, with 120 Cisco staff working on its development. She said Cisco had taken a different approach with the app, working with less controls and boundaries to allow it to develop more organically.
The company’s internal IT team also relaxed their restriction on in-house testing of Cisco’s own products to allow the team to roll it out to 40,000 staff for testing. It can now be downloaded by anyone to test.
The development of the tool underlines the growing shift from tech firms to offer enterprise-grade services with consumer-like functionalities. Facebook is rumoured to be working on a dedicated business version of its platform.
Meanwhile early this year V3 reported on a new tool called PQChat that mimics WhatsApp and SnapChat functions, but aimed at users requiring extreme security and privacy.