Be Two Places at Once with the Roominator

Strap on your Roominator and get ready, because now you can be in your office and running down the streets of Manhattan at the exact same time! Gone are the days of jugging work meetings with personal commitments. The Roominator, coupled with the Blue Jeans service, allows collaboration whenever, wherever, and with whichever device they please.

So say goodbye to the days of stuffy conference rooms and poor video connection. Blue Jeans provides high-quality video collaboration that expands the boundaries of video collaboration to the outdoors while the Roominator provides a business like setting to conduct your meeting. You simply set up a meeting using Blue Jeans’ web interface then can instantly connect with someone via smartphone, tablet, or laptop, from the beach, soccer practice or even the delivery room!

Need proof?  Watch the video below. I mean, its on the internet, so it has to be real! Right?

Stay in Place and Cut the Waste

The federal government has experienced the benefits of video conferencing and now new legislation is being introduced to demand it. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania has introduced a new bill, the Stay in Place, Cut the Waste Act of 2013, into the House of Representatives that encourages the usage of collaborative solutions, such as video conferencing, to reduce the amount spent on travel by federal agencies. If this bill passes, at least 50% of federal travel expenditures will be cut, saving taxpayer dollars.

Many of the benefits of video conferencing have been mentioned in the bill. While it will not only save money, it will also cut down carbon emissions as there will be less of a need for travel. It will also help in facilitating staff training, meetings, and enhance employee productivity.

The bill cites previous legislation, like the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which required every federal agency to establish policies that enable remote working and greater flexibility in management of the federal government’s work force through the usage of telework programs. Combining the intentions of these two bills will ultimately create a beneficial system.

Other governments worldwide have already discovered the benefits of using video conferencing. The UK government put Operation StepChange into effect in order to plan for the chaos of the 2012 London Olympics. This plan encouraged business professionals to change their working practices and utilize video conferencing, particularly with the excess amount of tourism in London. There is also discussion of making this change permanent, depending on the plan’s success, “Depending on the success of Operation StepChange, there are those who advocate making these reforms permanent. This could transform the civil service as we know it – and that is getting the interest of some of Britain’s political classes,” says Max Smolaks.

The introduction of this bill indicates that video conferencing has become a priority for the political system in the United States. Hopefully, the United States will pursue this need as other countries have and encourage the use of video conferencing in order to gain greater sustainability and create a more efficient workforce.

To Collaboration and Beyond

Collaboration is the new buzzword in business today. Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about a new way to connect people together. And why not? Collaboration features tremendous benefits including driving creativity and innovation. As a result, many organizations are trying to foster more collaborative environments through the development of a collaboration strategy.

Pixar, the animator of our favorite blockbuster hits, created a highly collaborative environment and has been reaping numerous benefits. Every single one of their films has been a hit from the early days of Toy Story and most recently Monsters U. Ed Catmull, President of Pixar, truly recognized the importance of collaboration in the creativity process.

In an HBR article he states “creativity involves a large number of people from different disciplines working effectively together to solve a great many problems.” While developing and then producing a film seems to require far more creativity, many enterprise organizations can benefit from this process. Creativity doesn’t just have to be in the form of art; it can come in the form of a new product that revolutionizes the market or a new, more efficient process that reduces costs.

Getting people to work together effectively can be tough though. Trust is a key component. As we previously mentioned, trust allows people to freely express their ideas because they’re not afraid of being judged. Therefore, Pixar promotes “an environment that nurtures trusting and respectful relationships and unleashing everyone’s creativity.”

A trusting environment is the foundation of any collaborative organization. If people are not free to express themselves and their ideas they will simply follow the status-quo instead of challenging the norm. Pixar encourages their employees to express their ideas in three ways. First, employees can approach members of any department to solve a problem without having to go through management. Second, animation work is shown daily and members from any discipline within the organization can note what they liked and didn’t like and why. Third, by encouraging new employees to speak their mind and challenge the way things are done.

“My intent is to persuade them that we haven’t gotten it all figured out and that we want everyone to question why we’re doing something that doesn’t seem to make sense to them. We do not want people to assume that because we are successful, everything we do is right.” – Ed Catmull

While the animation sessions are very industry specific, all organizations should encourage fresh perspectives and ensure that different departments can work together effectively. There are many technology solutions that can facilitate this; however, simply implementing technology is not enough. A clear collaboration strategy that focuses on strategic collaborations that deliver upon the organization’s goals must be in place.

How To Create Effective Collaborations

You’ve likely heard a lot about collaboration lately. Collaboration is now considered an integral part of corporate innovation and success. According to this study by IBM, the CEOs of top companies all give collaboration skills top billing for driving firms’ achievements:

“CEOs regard interpersonal skills of collaboration (75 percent), communication (67 percent), creativity (61 percent) and flexibility (61 percent) as key drivers of employee success to operate in a more complex, interconnected environment.”

Choosing a “Collaborative Architecture”
But what trips up a lot of companies’ leadership is not whether they should create a collaborative environment, but how to do it. According to this Harvard Business Review article, companies are often in such a rush to implement collaboration that little, if any, thought is put into the nuts and bolts:

“All too often firms jump into relationships without considering their structure and organizing principles—what we call the collaborative architecture,” write article authors Gary Pisano and Roberto Verganti. They’ve come up with a method to identify the best strategy for your company, which begins with these key questions:

“Given your strategy, how open or closed should your firm’s network of collaborators be? And who should decide which problems the network will tackle and which solutions will be adopted?”

To help you create such a structure, here are some tips to create a healthy and productive collaboration project.

7 Tips to Help Build a Better Collaboration:

  1. Move from individual idea-generation to a group, and then back to solo work.
  2. Mix virtual and in-person meetings, if possible, and use a variety of methods that will give attendees visuals and important cues, like body language.
  3. Create a great physical space that’s comfortable, encourages participation and fosters great ideas.
  4. Keep your supporting documents and files organized.
  5. Use a mix of technologies to create a virtual collaboration environment, including integrating mobile components to adapt to the increase in mobile application use.
  6. Keep collaboration groups small and fix a beginning and an end to a collaboration project to avoid overwhelming participants and scope creep.
  7. Create collaboration events, like 3M does for its employees from different divisions to get innovation happening.

Choose Your Tools Wisely:

  • Online: You can look to a product that designed for collaboration, like 37Signals Basecamp or Teambox. As the value of collaboration has become more recognized, the amount of programs designed for collaborative projects has kept pace, so test drive a few to find the best fit.
  • Video: Video conferencing technology has improved to the point that great visuals, complex data, and real-time performance mean long distance collaborations are no longer second rank to in-person meetings.
  • Social: Take a look at WebEx Social, which is a social network for corporations. Some companies are exploring ways to use Pinterest, which now has business accounts, and Google can be a good tool as well.
  • In-person: Maybe you agree with Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer that physical presence leads to better ideas, in which case create areas around your office that will foster exchange. Google likes communal areas, as does Etsy, because cubicles kill creativity.

Interested in learning more about how your company can collaborate its way to success? Contact IVCi to discuss the best collaboration solution for your needs.

Combining Complex Data with Telepresence

Now that unified communications have become commonplace and popular, many meeting participants prefer to participate in meetings from their desk. In some instances, that might work well, but in-room collaboration offers benefits that completely remote meetings do not. In-room allows participants to experience non-verbal communication and other visual cues that make collaboration more effective. Participants can get up and move around and still participate in the conversation, plus larger displays make it easier to view remote participants and data sources.

Organizations also often need to share and collaborate on complex data. This includes high resolution images where granular detail is necessary, such as blueprints or products designs, as well as the ability to display and control data from multiple sources simultaneously. In these cases, desktop collaboration just doesn’t quite cut it. Much of the detail and interactivity common among complex data can get lost over the desktop, plus users typically have to choose between sharing video or sharing content.

The solution is a collaboration room designed to support telepresence capabilities and complex data equally. A few application and teams that can benefits from these types of rooms include:

Research Teams: Participants need to view multiple images and different types of research data while on a video call.
Crisis Management: War Rooms that need multiple, high resolution video feeds to stay on top of the situation as well as collaborate with remote colleagues and teams.
Product Management & Development: Ability to view large, high-resolution design images along with 360-design previews

Cyviz is a manufacturer of a range of Collaboration Telepresence (CTP) products that support complex data and aims to bring the three essentials of modern meetings into alignment: video conferencing, data, and visualization. What’s also unique and valuable about Cyviz’s products is they’re all part of a cohesive portfolio designed to work together, depending on the end user’s needs. The 7 components are:

  1. Displaywall: 5 models available
  2. User Interface: Cyviz Display Controller central room control
  3. CTP Engine: for data management; 3 models available
  4. Video Codec: for standard C1 set-up
  5. Integration Kit: all the accessories needed to put the system together
  6. Collaboration Platform: enabling multi-room connection capabilities
  7. Furniture Module: ergonomically designed unit for each product

The product range is broad enough for most CTP situations, and their products are very adaptable and user-friendly. If you’re in need of a high-quality data visual data and conference solution get in touch and we will walk you through the options to ensure you’ll collaborate efficiently and not miss a byte of crucial information.

Connecting Countries Via Telepresence

The Milton Hershey School recently announced that it will extend its Hershey Learn to Grow Ghana Distance Learning program, which launched last fall. The program connects students in Hershey, Pennsylvania with students in Assin Fosu, a rural town in central Ghana and allows students to explore each other’s culture; such as important events or special occasions that are celebrated.

David Bruce, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Milton Hershey School, said “we believe this new approach will be more meaningful and provide a deeper understanding for the students of what it’s like to live in each country.”

Additionally, in a touching story, Ed Schermerhorn of Cisco recounts his experience of the first telepresence call between the two countries. After dealing with a power outage that was resolved by a standby generator, he describes how watching the students in Ghana and Hershey interact made it worth it. “All it took was a vision and a team of dedicated people to open doors that these students had never imagined were possible,” Schermerhorn stated.

It’s truly amazing how video conferencing technology can break through previous geographical barriers and connect people around the world. Distance learning programs that facilitate the interactions between students from different countries allow students to gain a better understanding of different cultures and provide them with experiences they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Students are able to discuss topics and listen to points of view from a different perspective which helps promote tolerance and acceptance of different cultures. Some of the best ideas come from bringing together people from different backgrounds. That’s an important lesson for students to learn and businesses to remember.

*Photo courtesy of Dan Gleiter. View the entire photo gallery here.

Battle of the Displays: Projector vs. Flat Panel

In collaboration environments there is often the need to display different types of content. Selecting the correct display plays an integral role in the effectiveness of a collaboration environment as the wrong type of display can provide a poor user experience. For example, if the display is too small for the room, participants will have a difficult time seeing the content.

The two main types of displays are flat panel displays and projection systems and there are several factors to consider when selecting a display. This includes the size of the room, the application and type of content being displayed, room aesthetics (amount and type of lighting), the budget and overall user expectations.

The size of the room has a direct correlation to the size of the display; larger spaces will need a larger display while smaller spaces can used a smaller display. Flat panel display sizes typically range anywhere from 42” to 90” diagonal but can go to 103” while projector screen sizes typically range from 119″-133″ diagonal and up.

Projection Systems:
Projectors are great for sharing text, spreadsheets or presentations as projectors can provide a larger image at a lower price point. Projection screens can also be hidden in the ceiling when they are not in use. However, projectors require low-lit or dim spaces as room light from bulbs and windows can wash out the image on the screen. Projection systems are either rear project or front projection systems.

In rear projection implementation, a projector is placed in a projection room and the image is bounced off a series of mirrors on the projection screen. This allows the projector to remain hidden, eliminating any projector noise and is also less sensitive to ambient lighting. However, collaboration rooms must be large enough to accommodate a projection room. In front projection implementation, the projector is hung from the ceiling or hidden in a drop down platform and the image is projected directly onto the front of the screen. While this setup eliminates the need for a control room, it is more susceptible to ambient light and does not hide projector noise.

Flat Panel Displays:
Flat panel displays are typically used for video conferencing as well as presentations. Flat screens offer a clear, vivid picture which is ideal for high resolution images. They are not as susceptible to ambient light; however, for an optimal experience organizations may still want to cover windows if there is a substantial amount of direct natural light coming into the room to prevent a glare. There are three types of flat panel displays including plasma, liquid crystal display (LCD) and light emitting diode (LED).

Plasma displays use gas to excite light photons which produce color on the screen. They provide the highest and most accurate representation of color and a consistent brightness to the image which can be important when displaying images or other content. However, plasmas are typically heavier, not as bright and consume more energy than other types of displays.

LCD displays use pixels that contain three colors (red, green and blue) plus a backlight. The liquid crystals, when energized, block certain colors from showing and produce the desired color. LCD displays are lighter and consumer less energy than plasmas and are typically at a lower price point.

LED displays are similar to LCD displays and use a cluster of red, green and blue diodes that are driven together for form a full color pixel. LED displays are the lightest and most energy efficient of flat panel displays. They are also brighter and provide a more accurate color than LCD; however, they are at the highest price point.

When faced with a display decision, it is important to understand how and where the equipment will be used along with the budget requirements. While a 103” plasma display might provide a lifelike experience; it is not the most affordable solution. An organization must consider the application and types of content being displayed to determine the right type of display technology.

AV Buyers Guide CTA

This Month in Telemedicine – April 2013

April’s This Month in Telemedicine by the American Telemedicine Association, hosted as always by Jonathan Linkous, Chief Executive Officer, and Gary Capistrant, Senior Director of Public Policy discussed state and federal updates, collaborations, and quality assurance.

State Licensure Remains a Hot Topic
Gary Capistrant went over the basic situation of licensure, including a proposal that would let Medicare recipients to (virtually) cross state lines for care but would impose a requirement that the patient and doctor have a previous relationship, i.e. an initial consultation in person has to occur. While some states do allow that a legitimate patient-doctor relationship can be established via video, this proposal does not recognize that and could be a “step backward” for telemedicine, plus require states to enforce a prior relationship where they hadn’t done so before.

“In terms of our principles on licensure, we want to be regulated the same as in-person services, not held to a higher standard or a lower standard,” said Capistrant. The ATA has set up a petition. Also, some states are deciding that telemedicine needs regulating but are doing so by treating it as a separate health service, even though telemedicine was already active under the current medical regulations.

State Activity
Three states have enacted full parity with private insurance: Mississippi, plus Medicaid and state employee benefits; Montana, including parity with private; and New Mexico. Connecticut and Missouri passed parity bills in Senate, which are now moving to their respective Houses. New York recently introduced a parity bill, and Ohio will soon follow suit.

ATA is finalizing state best practices guidelines for home telemedicine and remote monitoring, and in the works: school-based care, telemental health, and more.

Federal Action
A workgroup was recently announced, a joint effort between the FDA, FCC, and Office of National Coordinator. A report is due in January 2014 examining the overlap of some issues that are overseen by the various agencies, including consumer health devices, electronic health records, and clinical decision support.

“It’s a little bit of a mess right now in terms of the regulation and one of the reasons they have this is group is because there’s a little bit of uncertainty amongst the different agencies over who’s taking the lead on what,” explains Linkous.

Quality Assurance
A big area of activity for ATA is quality assurance, which, although it’s flown under the radar somewhat, is getting plenty of attention now. ATA’s next board meeting will see the approval of the organization’s practice guidelines for online video-based telemental health. “A very important role for ATA is to weigh in and try to get some meaning and some semblance of order to what’s happening,” says Linkous.

ATA’s board has also approved the move towards ATA becoming an accrediting body with the end goal of becoming a reliable information source for consumers. They’re also involved with some trade associations to improve consumer awareness. Linkous: “It’s important that consumers know that if you’re not getting access to telemedicine, you could and you should and you need to ask your doctor about it.”

Next year, look for a cohesive effort by patient and consumer groups to expand telemedicine, including physician communications, consultations, lab results, etc., which should all be accessible online by patients.

The Q&A: A Selection of Questions Asked & Answered

Q: Define telemedicine, telemedicine, etc.

A: I think we should come up with a contest to see who can come up with the most names that relate to telmedicine. E-consults, e-health, telemedicine, telecare, e-care, telepractice, remote care. About 6 or 7 years ago we had a board meeting in Chicago and we talked about changing the name of the ATA. We talked about what we should change it to…we spent about 3 hours of the board meeting [discussing this] so at the end, we just threw our hands up in the air and left it as it is.

We define telemedicine very broadly as providing healthcare to patients or consumers using telecommunications.

Q: How can companies assist ATA in the process of getting legislation passed?

A: ATA has a Circle Membership and Industry Council and we have corporate members representing anything from large, multi-national, multi-billion dollar companies to a small ma and pa [businesses], but all of them have a stake in this. And if there’s a large corporation that has a Washington office with a staff of people who are full-time policy people, yes, please let them get in touch with us. We’d love to talk with them about what they do. Or if you’re an organization that has a consultant online who does work in Washington, or if you’re a small company in another state and you have an area representative…it’s important that you get very active…There’s always things to do at the state level.

Annual Meeting
ATA’s annual meeting will be held next week in Austin, Texas, from May 5 to 7. For a free exhibit hall pass, click here to register and enter  the code VIPcomp13.

Determining the Right Collaboration Environment

Collaboration technologies are making their way into many organizations as executives realize the benefits collaboration can bring to their organization. In many cases, there is a need to connect groups of people in a collaborative room environment; whether it’s to encourage collaboration on documents or other deliverables, video conference with remote teams, or hold a training session for new hires or policy updates.

They myriad of choices between the technology, room layouts, furniture and more can become overwhelming; especially for organizations designing a collaboration environment for the first time. Here are a few tips to help navigate through the process.

When determine what types of technology the room needs, an organization must first decide what the room will be used for. The majority of functions fall into three categories:

Connecting People
Video conferencing is often used to connect remote teams and the technology typically depends on the size of the room and number of participants. For smaller groups, a single camera with manual pan/tilt/zoom functionality can be adjusted to capture the entire room. Larger groups, however, may need the ability to automatically switch between a panned-out room view and a zoomed-in view of the active speaker. In this case, dual cameras are necessary. In some cases, panoramic room or lifelike views of room participants are needed.  Multiple cameras that capture images from left, right, and center segments are used to create the immersive telepresence feel.

Presenting Content
The ability to present content is standard in almost any collaboration room. When utilizing content sharing during a video conference; it may be necessary to have dual monitors as one is dedicated to viewing remote participants while the other is dedicated to viewing content. In rooms where video conferencing is not needed, a PowerPoint or training video can be displayed with a projector and screen. In some cases, teams may need to create, modify and annotate documents instead of simply displaying them. Interactive whiteboards allow teams to brainstorm ideas or markup documents then send the changes directly to a computer.

Interactive Collaboration
Some environments require the ability to display and collaborate on complex data. This includes high-resolution images, such as blueprints or product designs, where granular detail is necessary. This also includes the ability to display and control data from multiples sources simultaneous. For example, when designing a new product the prototype from one participant’s laptop can be displayed at the same time target markets and product messaging is displayed from another participant’s tablet. Video feeds can also be integrated so remote participants can view, display and control content from their location.

Once an organization determines the key functionalities of the room; they can begin reaching out to audio visual integrators to help select the technology that best fits the room’s requirements. The integrator can then begin designing the collaboration environment that will meet the organization’s collaboration needs.

Learning the Cloud Way – Part II

As cloud services pick up speed in the private sector, questions about security, cost savings, implementation and best-practice models have emerged in concert with its rapid growth and adoption. But are institutions of higher learning following suit? Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Consulting turned their focus on 12 universities in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, India, and New Zealand, surveying CIOs and IT directors for their July 2012 report “Cloud Bursts Into Higher Education.”

They found out how and why these schools are employing the cloud; plus they give some suggestions as to where the partnership between higher education and the cloud is headed.

So, how do schools who adopt the cloud compare with businesses?

A Forrester survey from 2011 asked 920 companies which were the most important factors in choosing to deploy SaaS. The top 4 were:

  1. Improved business agility (72%);
  2. Allows us to focus resources on more important projects (66%):
  3. Speed of implementation and deployment (64%);
  4. Faster delivery of new features and functions from SaaS/as-a-service providers (60%).*

*“Lower overall costs” actually tied for 4th place with 60%

As previously noted, Forrester found that universities were adopting cloud services to boost productivity. Plus, speed, budget and scalability were the top three features universities valued most about the cloud. When it comes to the cloud, universities are aligned very closely with businesses.

Forrester also found that cloud-forward schools have three commonalities. First, a common corporate-to-education talent migration means schools’ CIO or IT directors often have firsthand experience of successful cloud implementation, and are endeavoring to bring knowledge and practices up-to-date at their universities. Second, schools with big technology components—academic programs that need and/or can get the most use out of cloud services, like IT training, animation, and fashion—are the most enthusiastic about adopting cloud technology.

Third, U.S. schools are ahead of the pack, with, Forrester estimates, international universities lagging behind by about 12 months. Forrester cites “lack of knowledge and understanding” as the biggest barriers to cloud adoption, noting the while these universities are turning more to the cloud, they’re doing so much slower and more carefully than their U.S. counterparts.

In the future, expect to see more inter-departmental collaboration between IT and academic departments. Additionally, funding will move from IT to academic departments as those departments take on more IT autonomy, and team up on projects.

New realities are driving more direct control of technology by leaders of non-IT organizations, internal users, and customers—empowered by their own technology use. These changes herald an IT organization in which CIOs build agile and nimble teams that enable empowered employees and customers to be successful directly using technology for education.” – Head of Information Technology at a New Zealand University

Related Articles:
Learning the Cloud Way – Part I