Buyers' Guide to: Conferencing Solutions
Conferencing solutions have gone mainstream in big enterprise environments — now we take a look at the different approaches to bringing people together.
By Alice Kok, FutureGov.net
Go green, cut costs, reduce travel, work collaboratively — conferencing solutions allows large public sector organisations to do all this and more. The era of conferencing solutions has arrived. In Asia Pacific as a whole, the market is predicted to leap fromUS$293 million in 2007 toUS$403 million in 2012. And the figures for government sector in Asia Pacific rises fromUS$64 million toUS$88 million within the same timeframe. Ovum predicts the largest volume growth in conferencing revenues to come from China and India with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10 per cent over the next five years.
Even the current financial crisis expected to impact the entire economy is not expected to slow the market down, according to Har Yen Yen Senior Industry Analyst at Frost and Sullivan.
"We believe conferencing technologies by their very nature, are better positioned to weather this storm. We expect videoconferencing and other video-based communication solutions such as telepresence to continue gaining momentum in the next 12 months despite a slowdown," says Har.
Lucy Hipperson Analyst at Ovum concurs: "Vendors and services providers are being smart about how they sell video conferencing and are now offering tools to demonstrate the return on investment."
Across the board, the conferencing market is expected to grow despite tightening markets. As Lars Rønning President Asia Pacific Tandberg tells, the current financial situation "will definitely fuel the demand for videoconferencing solutions moving forward".
Deployed either at the desktop or in dedicated conferencing rooms, conferencing solutions eliminate the need to travel for meetings - saving time, money, and the environment.
Bjarne Munch Principal Analyst at Gartner explains that the technology now is easier to deploy and use: "Previously it was difficult to set up and use, sometimes you get the image but not the audio and the conference has to be set up on two different systems. It does not happen when the network technology has moved to anIP base. There is a lot stronger interest now in video conferencing as compared to five or six years ago."
Not all government organisations are equal — so initial deployments are expected to be in the larger countries which currently suffer from the tyranny of distance. Remote education and healthcare applications are going to be key areas of focus, followed by judicial and security agencies.
"We expect the demand to expand from central governments to state and local government agencies as the adoption ofIP networks increase," adds Frost & Sullivan's Har.
Savings and safety
In healthcare, the University of Michigan Medical Centre in 2000 started using videoconferencing for psychiatric patients' involuntary admissions court hearings. Its Telemedicine Resource Centre expectedROI to be realised in the first year of operation, with savings projected through five years to be approximately US$315,000.
Janis Price Section Administrator of Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan says that to date, it has helped improve the safety of patients, staff, and faculty along with productivity. "More importantly, it opens up a telemedicine system for use by other Psychiatry andUMHS faculty and staff… It provides for clinical consultations, administrative meetings and distance education."
"Australian schools have been using video conferencing for remote teaching onISDN network and having it move to anIP base can only promote it further," says Munch. Since 2004, Spencer Gulf Rural Health School, The University of Adelaide & The University of South Australia have deployed videoconferencing solutions as a way to educate undergraduate medical, nursing and allied health students in rural clinical schools. The new rural clinical schools were funded to deliver 50 per cent of the clinical years of medical education in rural settings and additional information technology funds were offered by the Department of Health and Ageing to support this programme.
Another school to install videoconferencing solution is the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. The university deployed videoconferencing to facilitate five educational programmes run by a Singapore-MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Alliance. The system is used to beam live seminars by theMIT faculty toNTU. "And, the voice delay is less than a second between the Cambridge, Massachusetts classroom and the Singapore classroom," says Associate Professor Daniel Tan Director of Education Development NTU.
Bhutan's only government hospital, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) has been linked with Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in India. Their venture into telemedicine is the first ever international telemedicine connectivity to be set up with Bhutan in October 2008.The televital software will be used to transfer the patients' records, which would be interpreted by thePGI consultants. This has helped in cutting down the travel expense without wasting time as patients do not have to travel unnecessarily and can get online advice.
KK TalwarPGI Director says, "The next country is Sri Lanka which shall take another few weeks. Subsequently tele-education shall also be started wherein the faculty can exchange their expertise."
What to evaluate
The pages run on long for the benefits of conferencing solutions, but strangely, Har tells that many agencies however are not ready to move "simply because awareness on videoconferencing collaboration and integration is still low."
For agencies to gain a proper understanding of the solutions at hand, they need to know the bandwidth readiness they require to deploy the solution, that videoconferencing does have user-friendly features, and that the investment they make is compatible and interoperable with other applications and solutions.
Praveen Kumar Vice President Services Asia Nortel says: “The value of video conferencing is directly related to how easy it is to use. If video conferencing systems are difficult for non-technical employees to operate, requiring IT professionals to set up every call and guide participants through the complexity of using different equipment on the calls than it becomes more of a hindrance than a solution.”
But essentially, buyers must thoroughly understand how conferencing fits into a company's unified communications strategy and overall business processes. The need to migrate to videoconferencing solutions will only come about when government gains an understanding of how videoconferencing fits into their unified communications needs.
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