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5 Factors for Law Firms to Consider Re: Video Conferencing

Generally speaking, law firms tend to be early adopters of innovative, niche technologies.  Not surprising then, law firms were quick to implement video conferencing solutions to cut travel.  By doing so, they can see two immediate benefits:

  • Increased billable hours through reduced commuting and business travel
  • Improved work / life balance

Although some law firms are using video conferencing for everything from recruiting top talent to depositions, many firms are not getting the most out of their video communications investment.  As early adopters of this technology, law firms may not be benefiting from recent advances in picture quality, and operational ease.  Therefore, it is important for them to ask the following questions to re-evaluate their existing video conferencing solution:

  1. Is easy to use, even for non-technical people?
  2. Can it easily manage multiple endpoints regardless of manufacturer – therefore, protecting your investment in legacy equipment?
  3. Does it allow you to talk with other systems by utilizing firewall transversal?
  4. Does it have cutting-edge features that clients and employees now expect such as mobility and presence?
  5. Does it deliver a “high-touch” experience with the highest-quality resolution?

If you answered no to any of these questions, its probably time for you to investigate upgrades as you are probably not getting the most out of your visual communications investment.

Telehealth a hit in rural Ohio

Here at the TANDBERG Public Sector blog, we’ve talked extensively about the different ways that video teleconferencing (VTC) is currently being implemented in the healthcare space. The fact is, as HD technologies and picture quality have improved and high-bandwidth broadband has become more readily available, the ability to provide medical care via video has increased exponentially.

Rural areas are one of the main beneficiaries of these technologies. Small, rural hospitals often struggle to afford and lure big city specialists to join their staff. When a specialist is needed, it’s often the patient that suffers as they either have to be transported to where a specialist is available, or wait for one to arrive. This can take time that the patient doesn’t have and can lead to additional, often life-altering complications and side-effects.

Pediatrics is a great example of this. For rural hospitals without pediatricians on staff, the treatment of children can be a tricky proposal. Adena Health System in Chillicothe, Ohio, is currently using telemedicine to collaborate with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus for just this purpose. Utilizing VTC, the staff at Adena Health System are able to easily consult with pediatricians at Nationwide to determine if a baby needs to be transferred to Columbus for care. This has reduced transfers by almost 40% and helps speed diagnosis.

Adena isn’t the only hospital and health group embracing telehealth in Ohio, but there are complications for many. Unfortunately, rural broadband adoption has been slow in some places and the available bandwidth can’t support VTC. Also, some small, rural hospitals are struggling to afford VTC equipment.

Luckily, the Obama administration has made rural broadband adoption one of the key areas he’s looking to address during his presidency. Although this has been slow to materialize, the promise and potential for increased broadband in rural America remains. Also, $34.9 million in grants was recently awarded by the Agriculture Department to expand access to health care services in rural areas, which will hopefully go a long way in making VTC solutions available to rural hospitals.

Diagnosis via video? That’s an exciting and new way of healing. Here at TANDBERG we’re excited to be on the forefront of a medical revolution.

Putting the "social" in social studies

Maps—for many of us, they were the bane of our existence during social studies and history classes. From learning about our own state and its capital, we moved on to being required to know each state in the union and its capital. Soon we were putting together little rhymes and phrases to help us remember which Scandinavian and Latin American country was which.

For those of us with poor memories, maps were evil in paper form, rolled up and taunting us from their perches above the chalkboard or glaring at us from our desk, challenging us to identify the names of the landmasses separated by squiggly black lines and dry, two-dimensional oceans.

Once the maps were memorized to the best of our abilities and the tests taken to prove it, the rich history of these far off lands and the cultures of their inhabitants were soon narrated to us from the pages of books. We were taught by people who, more often than not, had never traversed the squiggly black lines and stepped foot in those countries.

Minds were filled with stories of battles, revolutions, military coups, the rise and fall of empires and the erasing and subsequent redrawing of the squiggly black lines. But we never once saw these places for ourselves. Many of us never would.

But that was then, and this is now. Technology innovations like TANDBERG’s video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions have since erased and redrawn the boundaries of how we teach all subjects, but especially social studies.

In 2009 a new program called the Global Classroom Project was begun at four schools, including Colvin Run Elementary School in Fairfax, VA. The Global Classroom Project utilizes VTC solutions to connect students from classrooms in places like Colvin Run to students around the world, where they can discuss their cultures, lives and outlook on world news and events.

Unlike in the past, students are now communicating face-to-face with people thousands of miles away and with very different cultures via VTC. This provides not only a window into another culture, but a first-hand look at the people and places that were previously only available in words and pictures on a page. In addition to promoting collaboration and understanding with people of other cultures, it’s also creating a feeling of oneness with people who are so culturally different, yet so similar in many ways.

The benefits to the students at places like Colvin Run don’t end with the rich educational experience and cultural understanding they receive. Awareness and acceptance of new technologies is being integrated into lessons about geography and social studies. They’re essentially learning technology and social studies together.

VTC is empowering a richer, fuller educational experience and opening a window to a world that was previously confined to the pages of a text book. Now that’s a new way of learning for a world without borders.

The Trials of Homeland Security

It’s probably safe to say that any American not born this decade can recall where they were at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. At this time that a passenger plane collided with the north tower of the World Trade Center. Some 15 minutes later, another plane would strike the south tower. Two additional planes would later fall from the sky, one collided with the Pentagon and the other crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

Sept. 11, 2001, remains one of the largest tragedies and deadliest terrorist attacks in American history. And now, more than eight years later, the alleged mastermind behind the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four other alleged terrorists are set to face charges in federal court in New York.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to put these individuals on trial for federal charges has been a topic of contention for multiple reasons. Some Americans feel they should face trial via military commission. Still others are concerned about the consequences of bringing alleged terrorists into the country, especially into a city that has been the target of multiple terrorist attacks and remains in a state of constant vigilance.

Although, much like Attorney General Holder, we believe in the abilities of New York’s police department and those of the country’s multiple agencies who protect the American people by identifying and neutralizing threats before they occur, we feel that transporting these criminals into the country and trying them in New York City is a very large risk.

Just as previous terrorist attacks, including the recent tragic incident in Fort Hood, Texas, have taught us, the actions of a single individual or small group of terrorists can be difficult, if not impossible, to foresee. The Attorney General himself said in a prepared statement, “Future dangerousness is notoriously difficult to predict.” If that’s the case, why can’t we find a way to bring these individuals to trial without increasing the risk of this kind of attack?

In recent posts on the TANDBERG Public Sector blog we’ve discussed how video teleconferencing (VTC) systems have made prisons and criminal justice systems operate more efficiently and effectively by reducing the need to physically transport criminals to court. Couldn’t this same concept be implemented to conduct the criminal trial of these suspected terrorists?

By moving these individuals from their current location in Guantanamo Bay into a city already considered a top terrorist target, we are increasing the chance of an attack and putting American citizens in danger. Conducting the trial via VTC alleviates the need to bring the accused into the country and could significantly reduce this risk.

In fact, we believe so strongly that VTC is a better, safer and more effective solution that we’re willing to do more than just talk about it.

If Attorney General Holder and the United States Government are willing to try these individuals via VTC, TANDBERG will not only applaud their decision, but supply the products and services needed to make it happen. That’s right, for the length of the trial, TANDBERG will deliver the hardware and services needed to ensure that the terror suspects never have to step foot in New York City free of charge. Why? Because when it comes to the safety of American citizens, even the smallest chance of attack is too large.

Video Conferencing Backstage I: An Easy to Manage Network

So much of video conferencing discussion revolves around telepresence and HD quality video , but there’s more to a successful video deployment than endpoints.  What about the supporting cast: the network infrastructure?  If a video network is cumbersome, difficult to deploy and challenging to manage, how effective can it truly be?

Having a management suite that is easy for the administrator to provision and update is critical to a successful video network.  Likewise, it’s the management tools that make it easy for end users to schedule meetings and connect point to point and multipoint video calls.  An intuitive management system will increase the effectiveness and overall adoption of a video system.  So what should an administrator look for when deciding on a solution that is right for them?   For starters, the ability to manage a network from a central location is crucial.  Monitoring, troubleshooting and resolving issues quickly and easily will help ensure maximum network availability.   If the tools are reliable, users will make them part of their daily business routine.  Similarly, if they are intuitive, the learning curve is marginalized, making adoption a seamless process.

A few questions to consider when evaluating a video management suite:

  • How quickly and easy will it be to provision endpoints to a large number of users?
  • Can the video network be maintained without the requirement for significant additional resources?
  • Is it easy for users to place scheduled as well as ad hoc calls?
  • Will end users embrace the technology?
  • Can the management be integrated easily with other existing scheduling tools and phonebooks like Microsoft Exchange?

Doing due diligence when researching a video network will pay dividends in the long run.  Endpoints will help transform the business, but only if they are used.  A quality management system will ensure the tools are used.