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High-energy physicists use international video system.

Since 1989 the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory, in Waxahachie, Texas, has been designing and is now building the most powerful subatomic particle accelerator in the world.

Completion is targeted for 1999 when the SSC will propel two beams of protons in opposite directions at velocities near the speed of light before colliding them into huge detector halls. Scientists will record the debris from these collisions so that they may study the results to learn more about the fundamental particles and forces of the universe.

According to SSC officials, the energy of the proton collisions will be so great that they will recreate conditions that may have prevailed near the very moment of creation of the universe, the moment of the "Big Bang."

In designing, building and maintaining the SSC, the most advanced communication technology must be readily available for scientists and project leaders at SSC Laboratory to access the most current scientific information from affiliated laboratories.

As demand for this expedient exchange of information increased, so did travel costs. The apparent need for a more convenient and inexpensive way to communicate nationally and internationally led the SSC Laboratory to consider videoconferencing equipment from Austin-based VideoTelecom Corp.

Because of the solid foundation that SSC's existing information technology network provided, videoconferencing seemed to be the natural progression for SSC Laboratory. The laboratory needed a system capable of multiple conferences with multiple sites, and they needed the quality and ability to transmit information at a low rate.

Subsequently in 1990, SSC Laboratory purchased a videoconferencing system from VideoTelecom for its Stoneridge Complex in Dallas. A Digital Video Branch Exchange (DVBX) also was installed, then another at Fermi National Accelerator Lab (Fermilab) in Batavia, Ill., allowing multiple site conferencing between Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California, Fermilab and SSC Laboratory. A DVBX enables videoconferencing for up to 14 sites simultaneously.

The PC-based systems provide SSC Laboratory with compressed, digitized video, audio, computer data, graphics and annotation that is channeled into a data stream transmitted over low bandwidth circuits of the type used for standard national and international telephone communications.

A key factor that swayed the SSC Laboratory toward VideoTelecom is its ability to apply a number of techniques that reduce the volume of data carried at any one moment by the circuit.

"The volume of data is so reduced by their technology that we can take advantage of very economic circuits and services," says Greg Chartrand, the SSC Laboratory's director of telecomm services. "The system operates in full duplex and combines high quality digital sound and image information that can be transmitted over communications circuit with a carrying capacity of only 128,000 bits of data per second.

"By comparison," Chartrand says, "a conventional television signal requires a circuit with many times more information-carrying capacity. In fact, conventional television is impractical for transoceanic transmissions via undersea cable."

By expanding the system, SSC Laboratory added the ability to link to KEK, a high energy physics lab in Japan, and with scientists in Pisa, Italy, at Harvard University in Boston, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, SSC Laboratory also purchased an additional videoconferencing system for is central facility in Waxahachie.

In SSC's standard size conference room, engineers, designers and physicists from or visiting the facility use the equipment to conduct approximately 40 meetings a month. The meetings, lasting an average of an hour and a half, usually involve executive briefings between two or more sites. The equipment is also used for training sessions between the Computer Security and Quality Assurance personnel at SSC Laboratory.

Because of the user friendly equipment, SSC employees easily adapted to the system.

"Our original expectations for the equipment's performance has been exceeded substantially. Users refuse to go back to previous expensive time-consuming travel methods. The equipment has made quite an impression on the High Energy Physics community," said Rick Housler, an audio/video technician at SSC Laboratory.

"It is increasingly evident that not having a videoconferencing system would greatly reduce productivity and increase costs."
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Title Annotation:Audio/Video Teleconferencing; Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory uses VideoTelecom's Digital Video Branch Exchange videoconferencing system
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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