Last year, a lot changed. For those who could work from home - well, they started on a new trek, one that would be riddled with challenges, nonetheless. "Having meetings at home?" A friend once remarked to me - the notion of home meetings was an odd one. I could not understand what he meant then because I had worked from home for several years at that point.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, however, I rediscovered something that used to plague me - background noise. I use the word "rediscover" because background noise is something I eventually grew to "deal with." I was savvy and knew - there were various tools available at my disposal, ones that could reduce and even cancel noise, like my neighbor yelling at the delivery guy to move his truck.

Or my partner, asking me if I wanted ice cream in the middle of a meeting because they did not realize I was in a meeting. Today, there are much more sophisticated tools available for those who leverage video conferencing and collaboration software like Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. They are often third-party, but developers at companies like Cisco, for instance, sometimes get it right.

This is something undoubtedly most home and remote workers can empathize with. Am I right, or am I right? I would be remiss if I did not mention those in education (including students), healthcare, those at tech companies, and those in various state, local, and federal governments who also needed/still need to connect, all the while experiencing similar pitfalls.


16 billion minutes of background noise removed since 2020

Cisco's worked quite diligently at solving this seemingly eternal issue, writing in a blog post that it has removed over 16 billion minutes of background noise since 2020. Cisco Webex launched its deep-learning-based background noise removal for captured speech in September 2020 - shortly after the acquisition of BabbleLabs.

The handy feature; first debuted as an optional one for Webex users - with Cisco noting in that same blog post - the feature proved so popular - a decision was made to enable background noise removal by default on every variation of the Cisco Webex app for mobile devices and PCs.

Since the feature was released in 2020, Cisco Webex said it has removed the background noise from over 16 billion minutes of user speech. According to Cisco, that adds up to roughly 29,000 years of noise to date. And this is just the beginning, according to Savita Kini, Director of Product Management, Webex Audio Intelligence, who further said in the company blog post:

"The popularity and effectiveness of Webex audio intelligence (background noise removal) inspired us to invest in even greater accuracy, efficiency, and features."

Kini said the company has hopes to fine-tune the speech experience for every noise, voice, and collaboration experience, concluding: "We are looking forward to reporting when the first millennia of the quiet speech pile up."

In April 2020, Cisco announced that the team collaboration app hosted over 20 billion meeting minutes, news I reported at the time. And companies like Microsoft have hit all-time meeting minute records, too. Back in April 2020, the company reported hosting over 2.7 billion meeting minutes in a single day.