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Cisco to upgrade Webex after BabbleLabs acquisition

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Jeetu Patel, senior VP and GM at Cisco Security and Applications Business Unit.
Jeetu Patel, senior VP and GM at Cisco Security and Applications Business Unit.

Cisco is at the advanced stage of acquiring Silicon Valley-headquartered start-up BabbleLabs, in a move that aims to improve the audio quality of the networking giant’s Webex conferencing service.

In an announcement during a webinar last night, Jeetu Patel, senior VP and GM at Cisco Security and Applications Business Unit, explained the planned acquisition builds on Cisco’s strategy to continuously integrate intelligence into the Cisco Collaboration platform – helping users work smarter and be more productive, while promoting customer privacy and cloud security.

Founded in late 2017, BabbleLabs uses advanced artificial intelligence techniques to distinguish human speech from unwanted noise, enhancing the quality of communications and conferencing applications. The start-up says its offerings go beyond existing noise suppression technology solutions by also removing background noise in real-time, and enhancing the voice to elevate communication, regardless of language.

With the addition of BabbleLabs, Cisco says it will bring native noise removal capability to its entire business collaboration portfolio. Initially, Cisco will focus on integrating BabbleLabs with the Webex Meetings application to improve the audio experience for users, whether via a conference room or mobile device.

“A great meeting experience starts with great audio,” said Patel.

“We’re thrilled to welcome BabbleLabs’ team of highly-skilled engineers. Their technology is going to provide our customers with yet another important innovation – automatically removing unwanted noise − to continue enabling exceptional Webex meeting experiences.”

Cisco Webex is a cloud-based collaboration platform that lets users host online meetings with HD video, audio and screen sharing,acquired by Cisco in 2007 for $3.2 billion.

The impact of the global COVID-19 crisis has led to a rapidly growing video communication service market, as tech giants battle it out to introduce new remote working services or expand their existing offerings.

According to media reports, Cisco’s Webex platform reported 324 million users in March 2020, while Google’s video-conferencing service Google Meet added three million users per day in April. Zoom's daily active users surged to more than 200 million in March, up 21% since the end of 2019.

Cisco says BabbleLabs complements its focus on secure and private collaboration by processing noise removal 100% at the source where the noise happens. In doing so, BabbleLabs aligns to strict data policies that underpin Cisco’s culture of security by design.

The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of Cisco’s first half of 2021, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approval. Upon completion of the transaction, the BabbleLabs team will join the Cisco Collaboration Group, which is part of the Cisco Security and Applications Business Unit, and is led by Javed Khan, senior VP and GM.

BabbleLabs says it has been researching, implementing and measuring innovative noise reduction algorithms over the past 40 years, using a consistent metric for quality and a consistent speech data set.

“BabbleLabs is excited to become part of Cisco and the Collaboration Group,” said Chris Rowen, CEO and co-founder of BabbleLabs.

“The BabbleLabs team is eager to get to work on integrating our technology into current Webex product families and creating never-before-heard speech capability to take collaboration to a new level. Our mission for being able to deliver the most natural and noise-immune speech communications and interface technology to hundreds of millions of people will now get pulled in by years.”

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