Did you know that a desktop videoconference using three T1 lines can shut down a whole company? That's right: Most organizations have one to five T1 lines running to their facilities, and four people calling at one time uses up a T1 line.
In the wake of 9/11, as companies rush to purchase videoconferencing systems to replace face-to-face meetings, some are learning the hard way that they don't always work as a replacement.
“Don't buy equipment that you'll never be able to use,” says Thomas Sullivan, president, Rockpointe Broadcasting (www.rockpointe.com), a Washington, D.C.-based production company.
Sullivan helps companies evaluate their meeting strategies and examine options for alternative methods of delivery. But he's also the first to say that not all face-to-face meetings can be effectively replaced with technology.
Take board meetings. Sullivan says they're best suited for the lowest-tech, least-expensive technology: teleconferencing. The facilitator can e-mail slides to attendees, who then print them out for reference. The teleconference option is appropriate for groups of about 12 people, Sullivan says.
For major meetings that you would like to take regional, he suggests a satellite broadcast, which can be simultaneously delivered to multiple hotels. For dinner meetings, rather than flying in a speaker, try creating a CD-ROM of a speaker's presentation and giving it as a gift during the evening.
“The key is that different events require different media,” says Sullivan. “Not everything has to be done live.”
Tamar Hosansky is editor of CMI's sister publication .
VIDEO vs. WEBCONFERENCING
Which works best — and when?
A videconferencing primer
The question to ask when choosing between webcasting and videoconferencing is: Do you have to broadcast live? Yes? Then videoconferencing is your best bet. If your information can be sent out in CD-ROMs or you want to publish it on a Web site for on-demand usage, webconferencing makes better sense. If your goal is to include a speaker who cannot attend a meeting, they would look much better projected on a screen than via a webcast.
In other words, consider your objective first.
Different forms of videoconferencing use ISDN, T1s, satellite, the Internet, or regular phone lines. However, special software and/or equipment must be installed on the originating and receiving ends of a videoconference. The quality of the image depends on the available bandwidth. Many videoconferences are held in controlled environments such as hotels or videoconferencing centers.
To hold a satellite videoconference, you will need an uplink and/or downlink truck at your location, or find a local site that is already set up to broadcast (a television studio, a hotel, etc.). The following questions will get you started:
Will the broadcast be point-to-point or point-to-multipoint (how many reception sites)?
Is this an insert to an existing program or is it the primary program?
How many presenters will there be?
Will there be more than one camera?
Will there be a local audience?
Will there be audio interaction (local and/or networkwide)?
Will there be speaker support (live on camera or via Internet)?
Do you want to archive the presentation for posting on the Internet, or distribute it in other media?
Mary Ann Pierce is president of Events Digital Corp (www.eventsdigital.com), New York. Events Digital provides on-site Internet access and Internet solutions: webcasting, Internet kiosks, networked presentations, and event-specific Web sites for meetings, special events and trade shows.
BEAM IN THE SPEAKER
What is this new thing called teleportation?
Picture a videoconference at which you feel as if you are in the same room as the people on the other end of the call. It might sound far-fetched, but the technology is already out there.
Known as “teleportation” and developed by Teleportec Ltd. (www.teleportec.com), Dallas and Manchester, England, it lets you send an image and audio of a speaker over three ISDN lines. It also works using satellite transmission and the Internet 2 technology that is being developed by an academic/government consortium.
Although the image people see is two-dimensional and projected onto semi-reflective glass, it creates a powerful illusion of 3-D. The result is so impressive that when it was used to transmit the image of a physician in Dallas to a meeting of 450 people in Birmingham, England, the doctor received a standing ovation. “To my knowledge, it was the first standing ovation for a speaker who wasn't actually there,” says Jim Young, Teleportec chairman.
Teleporter units come in three sizes: A lectern-sized device that projects the upper half of the speaker's body; a 20-by-11-foot unit that projects as many as five speakers from head to toe; and a theater-sized unit for large-scale stage shows.
For now, Young is careful not to over-hype what Teleportec can do. “You can't touch and you can't shake hands,” he says. “But when there's a benefit to being face-to-face but great difficulty in it [being physically present], this is a very useful tool.”
David Erickson is editor-at-large for CMI's sister magazine Technology Meetings. He is based in Chatham, Mass.
A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE
Think teleportation is straight out of science fiction? It's only the beginning …
Picture yourself sitting around a meeting room table with your colleagues from the Japan office — except they're not real. They are hologram-like images.
This may be the future of meetings, says the National Tele-Immersion Initiative (www.advanced.org). Researchers at Advanced Network and Services, Armonk, N.Y., working with a number of universities, are developing the technology for long-distance transmission of life-size, 3-D, synthesized images. Tele-immersion creates the illusion that a person is in the same physical space as other people.
According to Jaron Lanier, who is known as the father of virtual reality, the sensation and usefulness of tele-immersion are quite different from videoconferencing.
“When you render people properly, they feel real. Your sense of their presence, your ability to make eye contact, your ability to convey your mood is quite solid because they are life-size, three-dimensional stereoscopic graphics, not small, flat video images.”
On a smaller scale, Dimensional Media, New York (www.3dmedia.com), is working on 3-D, full-color, interactive product imaging. With this imaging technology, for example, a medical student can see a simulated beating heart and then use virtual scalpels to perform surgery, with the look and tactile feel of a true operation.
As computer processing power and Internet bandwidth increase, these technologies will significantly affect how we meet. Videoconferencing as we know it will no longer exist.
Corbin Ball, CMP (www.corbinball.com), is a speaker, consultant, and writer focusing on meeting technology. He is a regular columnist for CMI.
You read that right: free. Through March, Benchmark Hospitality has added free videoconferencing — valued at $4,000 — to its complete meeting package at select properties. A minimum of 150 CMP room nights are required. The service includes a modular videoconferencing system, camera, microphones, LCD projector, and screen; three ISDN lines; 120 minutes of long-distance service; and one hour of service from an on-site technician.
Visit www.benchmarkhospitality.com for more information.
T1 is one of several ways a hotel may connect its local network to the Internet. A T1 line has a speed of 1.54 Mbs.
ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. This is a digital telephone line that can be used to connect two points for voice, data, and video. It is the most common method of connection.
PRI stands for Primary Rate Interface. A bundle of 24 ISDN lines makes approximately 1.47 Mbs. This is most commonly used for videoconferencing. It can be set up at any multiple of 128 Kbs to 1.47Mbs.
BRI or Basic Rate ISDN is a 128 Kbs ISDN Line or 1/12 of a PRI.
H.320 is the International Telecommunications Union (ITU, www.itu.ch) standard for video on ISDN used for videoconferencing.
H.323 is the ITU standard for video on IP also used for videoconferencing, but over the Internet — not on ISDN.
DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line, which is another option for high-speed access to the Internet or a hotel network. DSL speeds can vary from 128 Kbs (upload and download) to speeds exceeding 7 Mbs. A typical hotel might provide DSL service that has the capacity to upload 1 Mbs and download 7 Mbs. This would provide service superior to a T1 line.
Ethernet is the most common network in hotels and convention facilities. It comes in speeds from 10 Mbs to 1 Gbs (1,000 Mbs). It can also be wireless at 1, 2, 5, and 11 Mbs when using the 802.11b standard.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a system in which all data between two systems is encrypted so that it can use the Internet but keep the information secure.
PPTP is Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, which is a common VPN standard.
— Ken Pickle, CPCU, CMP, is manager, incentives and conferences, for Safeco Insurance Cos., Seattle.