The construction industry has been particularly hard hit by the recession in the last few years. First residential construction slowed then commercial projects started dropping off. Fortunately, like many other segments of the economy, the construction industry is beginning to recover, albeit slowly.

Construction can fall under many different categories. It can consist of building single-family homes one at a time or it could be building out huge housing developments with hundreds of units. On the commercial side, it could be a single office building or a skyscraper full of new offices. Whatever the project at hand is, the process requires many of the same steps. Initial drafting and design, client review, project management, construction, billing, punch lists and more.

Many construction organizations are turning to video conferencing and unified communications solutions to help streamline the process. For many of these organizations, this technology has become another tool in the overall construction of any new project. There are several key areas that are particularly helpful for a construction organization when using video conferencing:

Initial Project Design and Review
During the early phases of any construction project architectural blueprints are created to outline the overall project. These plans are extremely detailed and created by a highly skilled architect. Reviewing these documents used to require in-person meetings or expensive shipping of large document tubes around offices. Now, thanks to high-definition video and document cameras, these plans can no only be reviewed in-depth over video but annotated and revised.

Connect with Remote Construction Sites
It’s not abnormal for a company to have multiple projects in progress across the country and the world. Keeping in touch with multiple sites can become time consuming and cost prohibitive. Video, especially with smartphones and tablets, allows the main office to easily check in with remote teams. Additionally, thanks to the portability of these devices, it is possible to “walk” around a construction site with the PM to review progress and address any potential issues. Video can also be utilized to connect the architect back into the project for any revisions or clarification of a project design.

Customer Review
For home builders working directly with customers it is important to deliver a first class service experience. Customers who are building or renovating a home have a lot of decisions to make. Once they have decided on the layout of their home, they need decide on even the smallest of details like the door knobs! Video kiosks can be setup in model homes to provide customers with additional information and allow them to connect back to the home office as well as any vendors involved. Imagine how powerful it would be if your customer has questions about a particular countertop and you could connect them right to a product expert at the manufacturer!

Within any industry, video conferencing can provide many additional advantages. Travel cost reduction and increases in productivity can be realized across all areas of a construction organization. With a fragile recovery in place, providing the best customer experience and keeping costs down will result in projects that are on time and more profitable.

Additional Resources:
Portable Video Conferencing

If there is one feature in the world of video conferencing technology that has undergone the most improvement over the years, it is the quality of video itself. We have gone from lower resolution images to life-like high definition and immersive telepresence experiences. It is fair to say that when properly configured with the right amount of bandwidth, the quality of video conferencing today is pretty amazing.

What continues to be more challenging is the reach of video conferencing and more specifically, the ability to easily connect to anyone you want. The term B2B refers to video calling between different organizations, but this can include individuals as well.

If you think about your cell phone, you dial the number of anyone you want to reach and simply connect. Unfortunately, video conferencing has not made it to that level of ease and connectivity. But why? Here are some of the hurdles holding video back from achieving total reach, and some solutions.

Network
To achieve the highest level of video conferencing quality, many organizations choose to implement a private network dedicated to video conferencing. The advantage of this is that video is separate from the rest of the organization’s network traffic, ensuring the highest level of picture and sound quality. In addition, many organizations will place their immersive telepresence systems on a network exchange from a telecom or other cloud services provider which provides connectivity to others on the same exchange. Again, the highest level of video and audio quality is available, but the challenge with this setup is that users can typically only talk to other video and telepresence systems on the same network. So if you are on a private network of your own and a partner organization is on a different telecom network exchange, you’re out of luck!

Security
This could be placed under the network category, but security is also a major factor preventing true B2B calling. For organizations that implement video conferencing, firewalls are incredibly important for protecting internal applications and data. Firewalls, however, can cause major issues with video conferencing. Fortunately, the technology offered from many of the video conferencing manufacturers provides the ability to get around this roadblock. Products that enable firewall traversal have made B2B video a little easier to achieve, assuming your network has connections to the public internet.

Mobility
With the introduction of camera equipped mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, video conferencing has an entirely new audience. The problem that presents itself is the ability to get these mobile users connected in a standard B2B conference. With so many users taking advantage of these devices, it is incredibly important to make these connections possible. Fortunately, a number of cloud services have been brought to market to address this issue.

Process & Expertise
Perhaps even more challenging than the technology and network issues of B2B video conferencing are the issues of process and expertise. Even if networks are able to connect to one another and firewalls are properly configured, there are still challenges on how to physically dial another system, how to ensure audio and video flow seamlessly, and how to bring mobile devices into the loop. On top of all of these challenges, how do you determine who is on what exchange, who you need to talk to for support on connecting those exchanges, and how do you make sure your iPad is connected as well? Organizations must build processes and have the expertise to execute on these challenges. This can be built internally or outsourced to a managed service provider.

There are many challenges to B2B calling, but the technology is constantly evolving and there is hardly a day without a new announcement bringing new innovation to connecting disparate technology and networks. With the pace of this change it’s only a matter of time before true B2B video calling is ubiquitous.

 

In most organizations, highly interactive working sessions not only occur but are considered crucial to the business. Unfortunately, many times subject matter experts and other team members are located different offices. While video conferencing helps, it doesn’t quite offer the level of interactivity needed for high-pressure situations or critical projects.

Picture this: it’s almost 7:30 pm in New York and the Tokyo stock exchange is set to open in about a half an hour; but first, there’s a quick strategy meeting with the Japanese office. There’s a long list of trades that need to happen plus the futures market is looking a little shaky and needs to be discussed.

Everyone takes their seats around the center table while the call automatically connects with Japan. A document with the trades is displayed on the whiteboard and participants located in New York and Japan are making changes back and forth.

When the market finally opens; real-time ticker data is projected on the screen to the right while trade data is being noted on the whiteboard to the left. Carl is slightly stressed out and is pacing around the room watching the ticker and listening to what everyone else is saying.

How is that even possible?

Well, start with a Cisco CTS 1300. Then add a large, interactive SmartBoard and integrate it with Cisco WebEx. Throw in a projector and second display screen for good measure and don’t forget to replace the standard conference table with a few café-height tables.

The end result: An Active Collaboration Room.

This true technology mash-up provides a collaboration experience like none other. Participants are no longer confined to a chair; they can move around as needed, enhancing creativity, inspiration and innovation. Remote participants can share, annotate and create documents as if they were in person; expanding teams to include the best and brightest individuals within an organization. Complex projects are completed faster with improved quality and reduced errors driving efficiency throughout the organization.

The benefits are endless and the collaboration seamless; innovation knows no bounds with a Cisco Active Collaboration Room.

Additional Resources:
Cisco IBSG Whitepaper: Transforming Business Models by Accelerating Distributed Team Performance
Brochure: Active Collaboration Room

As video conferencing continues to become ubiquitous in the business and consumer world, the entertainment industry has taken notice and continues to integrate the technology into the plots and characters of television shows and movies.  Here’s a look at some of the more popular instances of video conferencing appearing in our favorites!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
With the planet in peril once again, the Transformers must maintain communication with the command center of the NEST (Non-Biological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty) team.  The Transformers are in the field with their human counterparts, meeting with national security advisors and heads of defense departments. The briefing is about the latest threat and how to address it. How do they meet? Via telepresence. There is no better way to see the power of video communication than to have Optimus Prime laying down the law 4 inches away from the camera!

NCIS
NCIS (Navy Criminal Investigation Service) is one of the most popular television series on the air today. The premise of the show is a team of Navy officers who investigates crimes within and related to the Navy. The show has its fill of quirky forensic specialists and one liners (what crime drama is complete without them)?  Video conferencing comes into play with the quirky forensic specialists.  In many cases they are able to connect to the field teams to review the evidence they have analyzed back in the lab and this helps guide the next moves of the men and woman investigating and interviewing.

24
24 has been off the air for a few years now but represents the first major appearance of telepresence in entertainment and Cisco went as far to promote its inclusion in several ads and promotions.  In the show, telepresence is used in several different instances. Throughout the entire series, the plot focused on the current sitting president.  In many occasions this president is isolated and must communicate with their cabinet and national security teams remotely. Telepresence provides the life-like communication needed to make decisions that could potentially save the country from utter doom!

Up In the Air
George Clooney hired to fire you? Ouch. In this movie Clooney flies around the country as a hired gun for organizations doing massive layoffs. George loves to travel and not deal with what’s going on with his life on the ground. Video conferencing plays a pivotal role in the plot as a young new hire attempts to replace the in-person firings of the entire company with an outsourced, video conferencing based approach. This threatens Clooney’s way of life but also makes him deal with the reality of his life. This is an application of video conferencing we hope never comes to be!

Clearly video in entertainment is ever growing, just as it is in real life!

With the rising popularity of video conferencing applications on mobile devices and desktop units, it is easy to forget that this technology once had the most appeal with c-level executives such as CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs. Video conferencing has transformed from an elite technology used mostly by corporations with big IT budgets to a ubiquitous communications tool that now reaches a large portion of the business and consumer markets. However, c-level executives are still a group that has much to gain from use of the technology and its implementation throughout their organizations.

When executives use video conferencing for meetings with staff members or clients they expect the calls to run flawlessly every time. They neither have the time to wait for issues to be fixed nor the patience to sit through troubleshooting. The only solution that is appropriate for c-levels is one that includes high-quality systems paired with a managed service that provides total monitoring of the people, processes, and technology that are required for video meetings to be successful every time.

Interestingly, while executives enjoy great benefits from using video conferencing including reduction in travel time, holding more meetings throughout the day, and the improved quality of interactions that comes from face-to-face collaboration, video also appeals to executives because of how the organization as a whole benefits from use of the technology. The following are some of the ways corporations benefit when c-level executives implement visual communication solutions company-wide:

Increased shareholder value: Good communication is the foundation of any successful company. Video conferencing provides the ability to hold instant, face-to-face meetings with colleagues or customers located across the globe.  A company that communicates well is more efficient, increases productivity and creates value for the shareholders.

Competitive advantages gained:  Video is one weapon in a company’s arsenal that adds instant competitive advantage. For example, video helps cross-functional teams get products to market faster thanks to higher-quality collaborative meetings that can take place more frequently. Video also gives   organizations an edge by improving customer call center interactions, facilitating board and management meetings, and uniting disparate team members at a moment’s notice.

Corporate culture enhanced: Employees that join companies today have vastly different expectations for the work environment than they did even a few years ago. Mobile devices, combined with the use of video collaboration, mean that team members can do their work from just about anywhere with an internet connection. Job flexibility, such as working from home, and the reduction in travel time and expenses not only add great appeal to a company but help meet corporate initiatives like going green.

While c-level executives have unique concerns and requirements for the use of video depending on their role in the company and the type of industry of which they are a part, all executives share two common goals: making the best use of their time each day and ensuring the company is earning revenue in the most efficient way possible. Video helps executives achieve these goals while gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace.