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.

 Whenever video is sold or even mentioned, travel reduction is one of the first thing that comes up. In fact, the promise of decreasing an organization’s travel costs with virtual meetings is as old as video technology itself. Green initiatives, such as reducing emissions and carbon footprints, and increasing employee productivity due to less business travel are other highly mentioned benefits. 

But, how do organizations track these savings and really prove the ROI of video?

Join Aberdeen Research Director Christopher Dwyer and IVCi on September 20th at 2 PM Eastern at a webinar that will show you how organizations are successfully reducing business travel (and proving it) as they leverage video and virtual meeting technology.

In this webinar you will learn:

  1. The value of integrating video conferencing and travel/expense management systems
  2. How best-in-class organizations have leveraged virtual technology to improve meetings and events management
  3. The level of savings achieved by actual organizations currently supplementing or replacing in-person events with video conferencing

Sign up today!

The Traveler’s Guide to Video Conferencing
[Click here to Register]
Date: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Time: 2:00 PM Eastern / 11:00 AM Pacific (US)

Professional sports develop a sense of community and create unspoken bonds – or conflicts – between fans and their rivals. Teams vie for the chance to be called the best in the league each year and collect a precious ring. Whether it’s football, hockey, baseball or basketball, telepresence is integrating itself into professional sports as different leagues, team offices and athletes are increasingly using it. Here are a few ways the technology can benefit professional sports teams and leagues.

Manage the Team
Many professional sports teams are owned by a group of investors rather than a single entity. The group of owners must frequently meet to discuss various aspects of the team such as players, coaching staff, ticket promotions and more. Even individual owners need to keep in close contact with general managers and other staff about team performance and operations. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get everyone together since most team owners have other jobs and responsibilities. As a result, teams are turning to telepresence to “wow fans while helping teams streamline operations” according to a Cisco newsroom article.

General Managers can use the technology to interview players and coaching staff, like any other corporation, to see if they would be potential fit for the team. Additionally, general managers can connect with each other to negotiate the potential trade of athletes, draft picks and more. This allows deals to be reached much faster which can be critical when the trade deadline approaches at the end of the season.

Interact with Fans
Telepresence also allows professional sports teams and athletes to better interact with fans. Back in 2010, fans from 19 different countries and five continents interviewed David Beckham during a webcast hosted by Yahoo. Fans were able to ask questions and watch Beckham’s response over a video for a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Additionally, at the 2009 NHL All-Star game in Montreal, Cisco telepresence systems were set up in the arena allowing fans to chat with players and alumni in the greenroom. Facilitating interaction between fans and their favorite players not only enhances the fan experience but creates more loyal fans which can drive revenue for teams.

Disciplinary Hearings
In high-impact sports, like football and hockey, athletes can lose their cool and make a dirty play in the heat of the moment. An elbow to the head, a hit from behind or the use of unnecessary force against the opposing team is not only against the rules but can be extremely dangerous, if not life-threatening. In these instances disciplinary hearing are often needed as league officials take the safety of players very seriously.

Video can be used by league officials to conduct the hearing and interview the offending player. Then, after reviewing and determining if supplementary discipline is necessary, fines or suspensions can be issued to players, coaches and even team owners over telepresence. This is a great alternative to flying players to league headquarters for hearings; especially for smaller offenses.

The past week I had the pleasure of living down the street from the golf course where the Barclays tournament is being hosted. It was a traffic nightmare as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and about 250 other players embarked on my town. Streets were blocked off and I was barricaded in to a so-called “gated community” complete with police checkpoints that required a valid form of ID to enter.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate their concern for our safety and preventing our neighborhood from turning into a parking lot; but this made my commute to work a little difficult to say the least.  Not only did I have to drive 15 minutes out of the way because my normal route was closed; I had to deal with the increased traffic, mass confusion of people and pedestrians everywhere.

After dealing with same madness as I made my way home, the thought of getting up and doing it all over again was nauseating. Then I realized how stupid I was to venture out to the office in the first place as I would work the rest of the week from home because I had the technology.

One of the most frustrating parts of working remotely is not being able to tell if people are available for a quick chat. When you’re in the office, you can peek your head around the corner to see if they’re free; but at home, you’re out of luck.  Or maybe not. Thanks to presence information in our nifty instant messaging application, I can tell if my boss is busy, stepped away for a few minutes or is at his desk anxiously awaiting my call. I was able to quickly touch base on certain projects and have brainstorming sessions on blog topics just as easily as if I was in the office.  It was great!

Later in the week I had a meeting with a couple people from our team. We usually meet in one of the conference rooms but I asked if we could switch to video so I wouldn’t have to trek into the office.  After they agreed, I set up a video meeting straight from Microsoft Outlook which, I would like to add, was easier than trying to reserve a conference room.  The meeting went perfectly, everyone was able to connect and we finished in record time; probably because it’s not as easy to get off topic.

As I went for a jog this morning, much easier since my commute consists of walking down the hall to my office, I realized just how awesome, amazing and lifesaving unified communications solutions are. It’s Friday already and the weekend is almost here.  Over the past three days, I haven’t even felt like I was working from home because I was able to do everything I was able to do at the office.  If I missed human interaction, all I had to do was video one of my coworkers or walk down the street and say hello to the state troopers, park police and code enforcement.  Needless to say, I’ll be happy when this is all over; but, it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be.

I had to work from home yesterday because the baby-sitter called in sick and my wife had an important meeting. I figured it was no big deal because the kids could just play with their toys and then during my back-to-back meetings I could put a movie in to keep them settled.

First meeting of the day was a weekly status with my sales manager. We were discussing how to proceed with an important account when my cat Ziggy jumped up and knocked into my camera. I put Ziggy back on the floor, fixed the camera and continued my meeting; but, Ziggy jumped right back up and started hissing and clawing at my computer screen.

He really isn’t a fan of new people, I’m not sure why but he gets defensive. My friends told me I should apply to get on some cat whisperer show but that seems a bit excessive. At any rate, I grabbed Ziggy, put him outside the room and then closed the door so he couldn’t get back in and the rest of the meeting went smoothly.

Note to self: make sure Ziggy is secured before my next meeting because I’d really like to keep the door cracked in case the kids need me.

Later that day I had a call with two of our engineers about a client’s project and. I made sure Ziggy was secured and things seemed to be going well except every now and then I kept seeing them smile a little. I didn’t think much of it; maybe someone in the office just said something funny. About fifteen minutes later, Anne starts laughing. Now I know something is going on so I finally asked what was so funny.

Apparently my children had infiltrated the room and were making funny faces behind me. Fish faces, crazy eyes, the whole works. Wonderful.

As I turned around I could hear them scampering off. I apologized for the distraction and both Jason and Anne laughed it off saying how adorable my kids were. It worked out okay but thank goodness this was just an internal call. I can’t even imagine the level of embarrassment if I had been on a call with an important client or, even worse, a potential new client.

That’s when I learned the importance of self-view. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on what’s going on behind you. Perhaps it’s your children having fun, an errant pet or an angry co-worker thrashing around. You just never know.