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VTC manufactures a better way of working

March 30, 2010 at 4:58 pm PST

The American economy has been shifting over the course of the last few decades, away from manufacturing and more towards services. This shift has been compounded by the current recession, as sales shrink companies are forced to reduce production, cut down on costs or close shop.

Although many cities have made the successful switch from a manufacturing-oriented economy to a services-oriented economy, some have struggled. This has led to significant unemployment, and has resulted in population loss.

In fact, a recent Bloomberg article cited government data to show that manufacturing powerhouses are seeing their largest declines in population since 2000. Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania accounted for eight of the 10 industry-dependent metro areas experiencing the largest population losses. Aside from New Orleans, whose population loss is attributed to Hurricane Katrina, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit saw the largest population drops directly attributed to the economy.

This drop in population and tax revenue is a major problem for these cities, as it creates a large number of budget concerns and infrastructure issues.

Although American manufacturing has made a slight rebound since the beginning of the year, there are other ways that these cities can help retain their existing populations and even operate more effectively and efficiently in the face of declining populations. One of those ways is widespread adoption of video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions.

Following are a few examples of how video can be utilized:

- Education. Video in education provides high quality education for students at a fraction of the cost. VTC enhances education through distance learning opportunities and sharing teacher resources via video instead of transporting students from one side of the county to another.

- Judicial systems. Utilizing video in the judicial system allows cities to reduce the need to transport criminals, which is an expensive and dangerous process. It also can reduce the need to have experts physically appear in court and can help judges issue warrants and perform other duties faster while improving the safety of American citizens.

- Telework. What if that employment was available elsewhere, but available without the need to relocate? VTC allows employees to communicate and collaborate as if they are in the same room. It also allows managers to see their employees and eliminates many of the perceived problems some companies have with teleworking.

Helping states overcome budget crunches in this economy and giving residents a reason and the means to stay? Now that’s a new way of working.

5 Ways Financial Service Companies are Using Video Conferencing

March 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm PST

deq-logo-financial_assistance_10384_7Financial institutions are just like any other business, in order to grow they must be able to service their clients better than the competition. In order to achieve this goal many financial institutions are turning to video conferencing and telepresence for seamless, real-time, personal interactions. Employees can talk with clients and co-workers face-to-face while in different locations. Here are five areas financial institutions are reaping the benefits of video:

  1. Expanding specialty services -- Video conferencing allows the extension of services preformed by  specialty personnel without the additional costs of staffing them at every branch. This allows clients the ability to meet and work with the specialists face-to-face in a confidential setting.
  2. Ensuring professional certification - Video conferencing provides a simple way to help employees gain and maintain their professional certification by helping staff attend classes held in remote locations.
  3. Improving call center profitability -- Using video conferencing allows companies to capitalize on the profits gained by having call centers in remote locations because they are able to provide around-the-clock assistance with out the costs of travel.
  4. Reduce unproductive travel time -- Video conferencing eliminated the need for trainers to travel to different branches every time a teller left and a new one needed to be trained.
  5. Improving team communication and collaboration - When members of product management teams are spread across several different locations, video conferencing helps solidify team dynamics by allowing constant face-to-face collaboration.

By using video conferencing and telepresence in these five simple ways, financial institutions are able to increase profits and savings while reducing travel.

Any other ideas as to how financial institutions can benefit from video conferencing?

The above post is a condensed version of 10 Ways Financial Services Companies are Using Video Conferencing to Reduce Staff, Extend Specialty Services, and Increase Profitability, follow the link to read the full article.

Video traverses the highest walls: unites children with parents

March 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm PST

In recent posts on Break Down the Walls, we’ve discussed the uses of video teleconferencing (VTC) in the correctional system. We talked about how VTC is being used in prisons in CA to deliver medical care to prisoners without the need to take them out of jail. We’ve also shown cases in MI where VTC is being used along the same lines for first arraignments and during trials.

The end benefits of these VTC implementations are two-fold. Financially, the state saves significant taxpayer dollars by no longer having to transport and guard prisoners leaving correctional facilities for medical care and trials. There is also an added benefit to public safety.

However, not all uses of VTC implementations in prisons are meant to keep prisoners behind bars and separated from the outside world. Some prisons are using their VTC solutions for the completely opposite reason, to bring prisoners closer to the world, and their lives, outside of prison.

Many people forget that prisoners are more than just individuals who were found guilty of breaking the law. Prisoners are someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, grandfather or grandmother, or brother or sister.

In fact, the State of Florida estimates that 15,000 children in Miami-Dade County alone have at least one parent in jail. This is why the state recently approved a new program that was launched on March 19, 2010 designed to bring these children closer together with their incarcerated parents via VTC.

Using VTC solutions, children from Miami-Dade are now able to connect with their incarcerated parents at the Family & Children Faith Coalition office. This ensures that imprisoned individuals can continue to play a role in their children’s lives, and gives area children the parental contact so important to their development. Also, the use of VTC for visitation eliminates the need for potentially traumatic security measures and searches that are a part of on-site visitation, and eliminates any security concerns for the child by keeping them outside of prison walls.

Using VTC to break down the walls between children and their incarcerated parents is a step in the right direction for both the healthy development of the children, and the rehabilitation of the parents. Now that’s a new way of working.

A lot of wall breaking depends on getting broadband policy right

March 24, 2010 at 4:42 pm PST

Like a lot of other people, everyone here at Break Down the Walls (BDTW) has been watching the unfolding broadband debate very closely. After all, the power of video teleconferencing (VTC) requires a broadband connection. And making sure that all communities and citizens have broadband access is a worthy goal that promises good things for our future productivity and competitiveness as a nation. Here’s a good editorial from the Denver Post laying out the stakes.

We realize the devil is in the details, and we’ll leave the policy wrangling to others. It was encouraging to read how some big players have formed the Broadband Adoption Initiative and are applying for federal stimulus dollars to bring broadband to underserved communities. Fierce Telecom has the story, and a link to the group’s press release.

Your tax dollars hard at work breaking down some walls – you’ve got to love the sound of that!

Benefits of Touch Screen Integration in Telepresence and Video Conferencing

March 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm PST

There’s no denying that touch screen technology is here to stay. It’s already used in an array of products, from smart phones (i.e. iPhone & Droid) to high-end showers and washing machines. In fact, Gartner estimates that the global market for touch screen mobiles will cross 362.7 million units in 2010, a 96.8 per cent increase from the 184.3 million units sold in 2009.

“Consumers are becoming much more aware of the benefits of touch interfaces, and vendors are responding,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, in a recent press release.

Why is the touch screen interface becoming so popular? According to some, it provides faster access, makes everyone an expert, is compact and handy, and is more durable and easy to clean. What does this mean for the world of telepresence and video conferencing?

Benefits of Touch Screen Integration for Telepresence and Video Conferencing:

  1. Increased Usage: The similarity to other familiar touch screen technology, such as smartphones, makes the experience more intuitive, which will help increase usage
  2. Faster, Easier Access: Making video calls, sharing content, adding participants and accessing advanced features with the glide of a finger is easier and faster than with a remote
  3. Reduced Costs: Using a touch interface can effectively increase operator accuracy, reduce training time, and improve overall operational efficiencies, thus keeping costs down.

Any other benefits to add?

Watch this video to see the latest telepresence touch screen application: