Videoconferencing can help save the planet

One of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions is to limit the amount of driving and flying employees must do for work. Videoconferencing has been around for years, and the most recent incarnations of the technology could entice organizations to revisit the idea of conducting virtual meetings.

Roseanne Cohen and Matt Jackson of Polycom Inc., a Pleasanton, Calif., provider of collaborative applications for voice, video, data and the Web, spoke with Staff Writer Doug Beizer recently about how connecting virtually can be part of an agency's green information technology plan. Cohen is the company's federal government market manager and Jackson is the senior government marketing manager.

Q: What products do you have and what do they do?

Roseanne Cohen: Polycom's voice and video communications and collaboration solutions enable dispersed government workers to meet and collaborate virtually, thus reducing the need for travel.

Polycom has expanded the HDX line to now include the HDX 4000 series, personal multimedia HD systems designed for executives, physicians and small groups. The Polycom HDX 4000 desktop videoconferencing series delivers high-definition video and audio.

Q: How does it compare to the traditional way of doing the same or similar tasks?

Cohen: Achieving face-to-face communication traditionally required travel to various sites to truly be face-to-face. This included air, land and possibly sea travel, which requires large amounts of natural resources and pollutes the environment. With the advanced technology through videoconferencing, especially with HD quality, government agencies can collaborate face-to-face, in real time and without barriers. Not only does this protect valuable natural resources, it also saves government workers time and money.

As far as desktop communication, it was previously limited to real-time phone calls or time-delayed e-mail communication. Phone calls limited the ability of the participants to fully comprehend complex communication because body language and real-time content sharing wasn't part of the exchange. E-mail communication frequently suffers from misunderstandings due to missing verbal and visual clues as well as the time lag for recipients to read and respond.

Q: What are the environmental benefits of using it?

Matt Jackson: The environmental benefits of using videoconferencing, including HD video at the desktop, are:
  • Reduces the need for travel and the associated carbon emissions.
  • A decline in traffic congestion as fewer cars are on the road, which makes those [who] are commuting emit less carbon since they are not stopped in traffic.
  • For every three meetings held by videoconference instead of flying cross-country, it would be like taking a car completely off the road for an entire year.

Q: What do government agencies need to think about before deploying something like this?

Jackson: They should take these steps:
  • Identify their existing meeting and travel patterns.
  • Identify what groups would be able to use videoconferencing as an alternative way of meeting.
  • Identify applications where videoconferencing can be applied to replace travel within their organization.
  • Establish a network plan and bandwidth requirements to support communications.
  • Determine how they will schedule and manage conferences.
  • Identify if there is a need to record and/or stream conferences to enable additional personnel to participate.
  • Establish support services by determining who will maintain the equipment and manage the network.

Q: What should systems integrators consider when implementing this for customers?

Jackson: They should take into consideration these aspects:
  • Bandwidth needs for full HD (720p) are increased over current videoconferencing levels. However, four times the image quality can be achieved using the same amount of bandwidth required for traditional video calls.
  • The Polycom HDX 4000 can be integrated with the desktop PC in order to provide a single large LCD display for both PC and video conference purposes. Users can easily share PC data at the push of a button as well as customize their screen layout to allow viewing of both video and PC content.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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