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Legal executives push video conferencing to the forefront of strategic planning

February 18, 2010 at 11:55 am PST

Earlier this month, the Annual Legal CIO and CTO Forum brought together technical executives from top law firms around the country to discuss new trends in the legal industry and share best practices. One hot topic was how video conferencing has become integral to technical planning. In fact, one presenter noted that video conferencing is a “game changing technology.”

Why Video?
One panelist classified telepresence and video conferencing among the “Top 3 Technology Trends.”  Why? Simply put, in this era of cost cutting and rapid decision making, it has the ability to instantly bring people together face-to-face no matter where they are at a fraction of the money and time spent traveling. In the legal industry, this is critical as it allows for more face time with more clients, which translates to billable hours.
Video technology is also much easier to implement and use than even a few years ago, making it more attractive to a broader audience. Moreover, decreased cost for bandwidth has enabled law firms to increase their investment in infrastructure, so their networks are ready to support high-quality video conferencing and telepresence across the organization. This helps drive greater collaboration without increasing costs, vital to competing in the changing industry landscape.

Why Now?
In addition to providing competitive advantage, several new trends in the legal industry are driving the need for video conferencing’s cost-effective, face-to-face communication, including:

  1. Consolidation of large law firms – A recent survey indicated that respondents expect there will be an increase in merger activity in the coming year.
  2. Globalization of legal services and firms – In an effort to serve large, transnational companies, law firms are globalizing their practice.  As a result, mega law firms are emerging with several thousand professionals in dozens of countries.
  3. Push for more efficiency – To combat the price/value gap and remain profitable, law firms must become more efficient.
  4. Need to be untethered – Just like the business world as a whole, attorneys and legal personnel need to be able to conduct their business regardless of their location.

As Lumen Legal President and CEO David Galbenksi wrote in a recent article, “Law firms will need to evolve how they deliver service to their clients.  They’ll need to discover how they can do it faster, better, and how to make it less expensive…And, law firms will need to change with the times—or wait until the market forces them to change.”

Video conferencing and telepresence can help law firms do all of these things so they can get ahead of the curve.

Proposed bill would give tech lift to community colleges

February 16, 2010 at 7:07 pm PST

The Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund was designed to help schools and libraries in the United States with discounts and funds to help acquire broadband access and telecommunications technology and equipment. The discounts are relative to the poverty level of the area, and are intended to help schools in areas of high poverty level the playing field and offer the same technologies that are available to other students across America.

Now, a new bill introduced in the United States House of Representatives called the “E-Rate 2.0 Act of 2010,” would add a five-year, $750 million broadband pilot program for community colleges and head start programs.

With the Obama Administration’s focus on improving our education systems, and specifically community colleges, this concept can truly go a long way in making an affordable, quality higher education available to students who may find a four-year institution of higher education out of their financial reach.

The fact is, increased broadband availability at community colleges and other educational institutions is the key to many high-bandwidth, but amazingly effective educational tools. One of those tools is video teleconferencing (VTC).

VTC can increase broadband adoption and level the playing field for community college students by bringing them previously unavailable educational opportunities, all while saving money and resources. Community colleges could share professors with larger colleges and universities. Also, additional courses could be offered that previously were unavailable due to a lack of knowledgeable teachers by having them teach from a distance via VTC.

The House bill introduced by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) may be far from being passed, but it definitely seems to have potential for improving America’s community colleges and bringing a high quality, affordable higher education to American students. The increased adoption of broadband and the implementation of advanced technologies like VTC will help break down the walls between students and a bright future and career. Now that’s a new way of teaching…and learning.

Delivering Solutions to Language Barriers

February 16, 2010 at 5:51 pm PST

A recent article in ITnews discussed how Interpreterline, a Victorian translation firm, has started couriering video conferencing kits in unbranded boxes to schools and at least one regional community health service center to save on interpreters’ travel costs. Interpreterline’s chief Ismail Akinci said the company had toyed with the concept because there was a finite source of interpreters available for some languages in Australia. Also, the cost to send an interpreter to some locations in Australia was three times more than the professional service being delivered and was dependent on the interpreter having time to travel in the first place.

They turned to video conferencing because it could support three people in conversation, necessary so the interpreter can interject when they have enough to translate. Now, for just $30 Interpreterline is able to ship a video conferencing kit, the TANDBERG E20 is their unit of choice, to any place the company’s services are needed. This cuts back on the extra time, money, and carbon emissions required to fly an interpreter to be there in person.

With the reduction in both the size and cost of video conferencing products, it’s no wonder that businesses of all sizes and industries are finding new and creative ways to take advantage of all that visual communication has to offer.

One of our previous blog posts mentioned a USA Today article which notes that airlines and hotels are “spooked,” as more companies continue to invest in technology. Interpreterline is a prime example of why they should be; with their creative approach to resource allocation the interpreters are able to be in more places at once without the use and costs of airlines or hotels.

How has your company taken advantage of smaller sized video conferencing devices?

Meeting the Inevitability of Telework Head On

February 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm PST
TANDBERG 1700MXP personal telepresence system helps keep teleworkers connected face-to-face

TANDBERG 1700MXP personal telepresence system helps keep teleworkers connected face-to-face

A recent article in CIO discusses the inevitability of remote working. It states that it is particularly demanded by the younger staff members that require more flexibility and mobility with their work schedules. Employers are still highly fearful of flexible working; sighting concerns such as: “How do I know my mobile workers are actually working? What’s in it for me as a manager to have the boundaries disappear? Will ideas suffer?”

These concerns are valid, but can be met head on with the right solutions. With the many different personal video conferencing devices out there it is becoming increasingly easier for employers to “see” their employees working and to maintain that personal working experience that is important to both employer and employee. The right communication tools can keep the boundaries from disappearing. A manager and his or her employees can still hold face-to-face meetings and supervisory guidance can still be given in a personal way through video conferencing. Ideas don’t have to suffer just because an employee isn’t in a conventional office setting. On the contrary, with all parties involved in a meeting having the ability to be at different places and in different time zones at once, one can argue that the time for creativity is now greater and easier to come by than ever.

A recent study by Lumison found that 73 percent of office workers believe that they would be more productive if they worked from home, and 65 percent claim to work longer hours when they do. Society has shifted from the typical 9-5 workday to more of a 24/7 approach. It makes sense that not all of these hours can be spent in an office and the time for more flexible working arrangements has arrived.

How do you think that remote working would benefit your work productivity?

Military technologies break down the wall to improved disaster response

February 11, 2010 at 5:55 pm PST

A recent article in Emergency Management Magazine discusses a current trend that’s being seen among state and local governments. In an effort to increase the effectiveness of their emergency and disaster response, local governments are turning to an unlikely source, military technology.

The article goes on to discuss a handful of examples. For instance, Burlington Country in New Jersey, the state’s largest county, was struggling with directives to make their emergency response and recovery more streamlined and efficient following 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The solution came from a communications system developed by L-3 Communications, which was previously used in the nuclear submarine the USS Greeneville.

The same system was implemented by the Coast Guard in Miami, FL, who was struggling with having multiple devices and handsets for different radio spectrums. The new device streamlined the system and allowed all users to access any spectrum from one device.

Although it’s great to see local government agencies and organizations looking to military technologies to ensure that their disaster response and recovery can operate in the event of catastrophe, there are additional technologies being embraced by the military and federal government that can make significant strides towards improving disaster response—most notably, video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions.

VTC solutions are incredible tools during disaster recovery operations since they allow natural, rich face-to-face interaction between people regardless of the distance separating them. When crises occur, many audiences who don’t often communicate find themselves needing to cooperate and interact. These audiences are often unfamiliar with each other’s nonverbal cues and other unheard forms of communications, often resulting in misunderstanding.

When a disaster or catastrophe occurs, subordinates need to receive clear direction. Different agencies need to communicate clearly and effectively. There is no time and leeway for misunderstanding and miscommunication. This is why video is so important.

Breaking down the walls between the agencies and individuals responding to a disaster, now that’s a new way of serving and protecting. Can your emergency response and recovery afford to not be using VTC? Can your citizens?