It’s finally here, the Capstone class that completes the last semester of my MBA. In it, we break up into teams and play a computer simulated game where we compete against each other in a mock business world. At the beginning of the class our professor said, “I would suggest meeting in person, teams that meet over video historically haven’t done very well.”

This slightly upset me since I work at a video company and truly believe that teams meeting over video can be just as effective as teams meeting in person. I thought to myself, challenge accepted, and set out to prove my professor wrong.

Every Thursday night my team meets over video to review the previous quarter’s results and submit our sales/marketing, operations and financial decisions for the next quarter. Granted I have an unfair advantage over the rest of the teams since I have access to an interoperable cloud meeting room which allows us to join over different platforms. I use Cisco Jabber, our “CFO” uses Skype and our “COO,” who does not have a webcam, simply uses her browser.

During the meeting, I share my screen so the team can easily view the supporting data, follow along and focus on what decisions we need to make. We all take turns sharing our thoughts and opinions and, since it’s harder to interrupt over video, raise our finger to signal we would like to speak next. After each set of decisions are entered, we review to ensure the numbers are correct and then submit them.

It’s been four weeks since we started and, not only are we in first place, our stock price is more than double that of our closest competitor. Obviously a lot can change in the remaining weeks; all it takes is one bad decision to knock us out of position. Even so, I can’t help feel victorious in proving my professor wrong.

I simply love video and all of its uses. Last semester, one of my professors had to cancel class due to a business trip. Instead, he sent us the PowerPoint slides with audio clips to deliver that week’s lecture. It was the absolute, most boring hour of my life and nearly impossible to stay focused. I had to listen to each audio clip at least twice because my mind kept wandering.

Looking back, I wish we could have had the class over video. We all could have joined in a cloud meeting room and the professor could have delivered his lecture while we followed along with the PowerPoint slides. It’s amazing how easily video can bring together students and enhance the learning experience; I know I would have retained a lot more out of that class session.

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The Impact of Video in Education

Fashion is considered an art form to many people and New York City’s semi-annual Fashion Week is the event of the season. More than 500 fashion shows attract over 230,000 attendees as people gather from around the world to view the latest creations from New York’s top designers. In fact, according to a statement from NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Fashion Week generates an economic impact of $865 million annually.

The pressure to produce and present high-quality, unique garments is felt by everyone from the designers to seamstresses, fabric providers, models and modeling agencies, and more. Fashion changes faster than almost any other industry; therefore, the ability to produce the right designs with the right quality at the right time is critical for success.

It’s no wonder that design houses, like Tommy Hilfiger, are turning to video conferencing solutions to support their operations. Communicating with seamstresses and sending fabrics and designs back and forth can become cumbersome; not to mention expensive, when using an international courier. Telepresence solutions eliminate many of these challenges by allowing designers to stay in contact with suppliers all over the world.

With high definition systems, designers can see the quality of fabrics and clothing samples down to the actual stitch. They can browse fabric rolls and choose prints as if they were walking through the warehouse resulting in a quicker selection process. Since the feel of fabric is of utmost importance, samples of selected fabrics can then be sent to the designer for final selection and approval.

After fabrics have been selected, samples of the clothing designs must be created by seamstresses. Telepresence allows designers to give directions while seamstresses pin alterations in real-time to ensure the garments align perfectly with their vision. The misinterpretation of comments and alterations from communication or cultural barriers can be avoided. Plus, it significantly reduces the cost and time of sending samples back and forth reducing the time required to finalize designs and get them into production.

While clothing collections are the spotlight of Fashion Week, there is just as much to do when planning a show. Selecting the right models is critical to ensure the collection is displayed properly. In addition to proper fit, skin tone must accent garment colors for optimal impact. Design houses can use video to pre-screen models in the same way corporations use it to screen job applicants. As a result, designers can easily approve model selection while finishing the last minute details of their collection.

In the fast-paced and ever changing fashion world; designers must find new ways to stay in touch with consumer needs and create collections in an efficient and effective manner.


A couple of weeks ago, a juror summons made its way into our mail. Thankfully it was addressed to my husband because the thought of taking the New York City subway by myself gives me heart palpitations since I’m a bit of a germophobe and slightly claustrophobic when it comes to crowds.  This morning, I dropped my husband off at the train station and he joined the rush hour commute into Brooklyn – standing in a crowd the entire way. As he spends his day in court, I can’t help but think about the judicial system.

Budget cuts have had a significant impact on courts as state and local governments are having trouble keeping up with the day-to-day operations. In fact, budget cuts forced the closure of the Tulare County courthouse last month, as well as, three unpaid furlough days in Kentucky this year. Even worse, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye warns that budget cuts are threatening the judicial system after a Sacramento father watched his “wife disappear out-of-state with their son after his child custody case was delayed because of court cutbacks.”

How can federal, state and local courts cut costs without crippling the judicial system?

Investing in video conferencing  is a good place to start. Video arraignments reduce the staff and resources needed to transport detainees to the courthouse which is especially beneficial for extremely dangerous or high-profile inmates that require escalated security detail to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Video arraignments also allow courthouses to speed up the arraignment process for non-violent detainees; minimizing their time and expense in jail.

Additionally, the City of San Antonio Municipal Court recently implemented video court services for traffic violation hearings. Not only does this allow the judge to hear the maximum possible cases per day; it allows citizens to easily fit a hearing in on their lunch break. A friend of mine recently received a ticket because the registration sticker on her license plates had either fallen off or been stolen. She had to take a half-day off work to go to the courthouse with all of her documentation to contest the ticket which was extremely frustrating.

With continued budget constraints federal, state and local government agencies are dealing with the need to handle their docket of court activities with fewer resources. Video conferencing solutions help cut costs and process cases in a more efficient manner. A Pennsylvania court reported saving taxpayers more than $21 million annually with its video deployment. Plus, cloud video services make implementation and operation easier than ever. Multipoint bridging services allow citizens to easily connect to the court’s video equipment via Skype or Google Video Chat without compromising the security of the network.

While jury duty is part of our civic duty, perhaps one day soon you can try to weasle your way out of a speeding ticket from the comfort of your own home.

Video Conferencing in Hollywood

The power of video conferencing to enable true collaboration is something that is understood by everyone who uses the technology. When thinking about industries and occupations that rely on collaboration one has to look no further than film and television production. These are incredibly collaborative mediums that require the deep cooperation and team work of writers, producers, directors, editors, and many others.

Some of today’s biggest blockbusters have crews that number in the thousands. Coordinating that effort can be incredibly daunting, especially with many remote filming locations and production experts spread throughout the world. It’s no wonder that Hollywood has adopted video conferencing as key member of the production team. There are many different applications for video within a film and television production environment including:

Post Production
The editing and post production (sound, special effects, etc) of a film can take more than a year to complete, sometimes longer. Coordinating the director’s schedule with the editor to get a cut of the film completed can be challenging (in many cases the director has moved onto shooting their next film, while the current film is still being worked). Many production companies make use of video conferencing to connect the editor, the director, and other post production team members.

Perhaps what is most amazing about this is how long Hollywood has been utilizing this method. Back in the early 90s, Steven Spielberg had finished filming Jurassic Park in Hawaii and had moved on to shooting Schindler’s List in the middle of a harsh European winter. He would be out shooting the difficult subject matter of the Holocaust during the day and then during his down time he would be reviewing edits and special effects shots from Jurassic Park via video conferencing. This is now status quo in many productions and has allowed creative teams to hit their deadlines despite their location and demands of new projects.

On the television side I can provide a first-hand experience. In 2001 I worked as an intern on the NBC television series, Third Watch. We were shooting throughout New York City on location and in a small studio in Brooklyn. The post production of the show was handled back in Los Angeles. Many times throughout my internship I was able to participate in editing sessions with the director (in NY) and the editors and producers back in Los Angeles.

Production
A new trend has emerged with video and Hollywood and that is video conferencing to help direct during production. Steven Spielberg (our model example again!) and Peter Jackson worked very closely on the recently released Adventures of Tin Tin. This film was not shot in a traditional sense; it was actually actors on a motion capture stage. Cameras captured their movements and this was translated into 3D imagery that could then be manipulated. Spielberg and Jackson were able to “co-direct” several scenes over video and determine the best camera angle, movement, etc.

Casting
Casting for a film can take months or even years. The same challenges exist in getting producers, directors, casting agents, and talent in the same location. Using video, potential stars can do their auditions and readings via video, to be viewed by anyone on the production team anywhere in the world. This certainly doesn’t replace the face to face interaction needed between actor and director, but it provides a good first introduction to new talent.

With film budgets well over $200 million in some cases and schedules that can carry-on for years, video has provided a way to keep everyone connected and on schedule throughout the long process of producing a movie or television series.

Additional Resources:

Bad Robot Case Study from Polycom

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