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Some 'Smaller' Companies Are Using the Public Videoconferencing Rooms.

Video teleconferencing was once mostly the promise of a brave new world in business communication. Like the video telephone and the "ofice of the future," the ability to hold group meetings by means of television was often more theory than it was reality.

Today, for an increasing number of innovative companies and their professional and support employees, video teleconferecing is indeed a reality, often reducing travel costs, always boosting productivity, and improving the quality of management decision-making.

Very simply, video teleconferencing is the ability for two or more people in different locations to communicate face-to-face across great distances by combiing both speech and vision, complete with graphics display and the exchange of data and documents. Video geleconferencing is the ability to easily hold meetings, seminars and conferences in which many participants communicate, can interact and, most importnaly, can react among themselves as if they were actually present together at the same location in the same conference room.

More than 210 Systems Are in Use by US Companies

Television, with its ability to transmit both sight and sound simultaneously and instantaneously, makes video teleconferencing a reality. Over 210 video-teleconferencing systems are currently in active use in the US by some 75 companies, of which 30 are among the Fortune 1000.

But video teleconferencing isn't just for "corporate giants" able to afford their very own video-teleconferencing system. For the smaller company, nonprofit organization or government agency currently without a budget to purchase its own videoteleconferencing system, but with the need to hold live, full-motion, interactive video meetings, using the services of videoteleconferencing public rooms on a pay-as-you-use basis is a cost-effective introduction to videoconferencing.

"Many of our customers are smal but information-intensive organizations that find it much-more convenient to use our public video-room system for a video teleconference than to trvel to a distant location of an in-person meting," explains Alex Battey, accound executive for the Meeting Channel, the Atlanta-based full-service communications company whose 16 public video-teleconferencing rooms around the US are open to any and all users.

Meeting Channel rates of $1100 per hour for the use of two video rooms includes both room costs and the cost of transmitting the live, color, full-motion TV picture from room to room. Novice users are instructed in the how-to of the simple-to-operate video system, so that even first-time meeting participants feel comfortable with thecontrols and procedures and thus are able to concentrate on the meeting and not on the video technology that makes it possible.

Theatrical Production Details Are Handled by Video

Before using video teleconferencing, the Alliance Theather of Atlanta budgeted a considerable sum to pay for frequent travel to New York for in-person consultation with stage and costume designers hard at work on the Georgia theater company's theatrical production needs.

"Now trips to New York aren't necessary," says Battey. Working with stage models and the actual costumes themselves, design details are easily reviewed using the Meeting Channel facilities.

Imagine your company ncurring travel costs that exceeded $6.2 billion annually. Unfortunately, this is the US government's travel budget. Some government agencies have adopted video teleconferencing as a way to save both time and money. While NASA has its own "in-house" videoconferencing system, the Office of Public Buildings and Real Property, a division of the General Services Administration with regional offices in Atlanta, utilizes the public-room videoconferencing facilities for many intra-agency meetings.

According to Ron Johnston, director of the design and construction division, the goal of reducing his travel budget motivated him to try videoconferencing, but avoiding the hassles of travel motivated him even more.

"I'd awake at 5 am, arrive at the airort at 6 am, fly to Washington, participate in several meetings, then fly back to Atlanta by 7 pm. After my return, I'd feel too weary to be fully productive for the next day or two. On the other hand, with videoconferencing I drive 20 minutes to the Atlanta Meeting Channel room, meet with my associates in Washington for the next couple of hours, then make the 20-minute drive back to my office. With local videoconferencing, a day's trip to Washington is equalled in the course of a few hours."

Architects, Engineers Visit Project Site via Video

Johnston realizes that videoconferencing can't substitute for every out-of-town meeting, but he has found many very useful applications. Recently his team of engineers met via the Meeting Channel with architects in Kansas City to discuss the design of a courthouse under construction in Birmingham, Alabama. The two groups studied site-adaptation maps of the geographical area surroundign the courthouse. These were transmitted clearly via the room's overhead camera, as were colored renderings of the architect's overall design concepts. When Johnston zoomed in on a three-dimenstional scale model of the actual building, an architect in Kansas City commended that the picture blown up on the five-foot-diagonal screen rendered the illusion of flying in a helicopter over the actual site.

This videoconferencing session allowed everyone involved in the project to meet simultaneously, scrutinize, and then discuss the details of the architect's plans. The videoconferencing session was done more cost-effectively than traveling, and it was accomplished with much-less wasted time.

Different Businesses Find Different Purposes

Other uses of public video rooms include:

* Real Estate Investment--A Virginia-based consulting firm uses videoconferencing to discuss and recommend investments in various land-development projects to its clients. By showing videotapes of sites, as well as having the expertise of architectects and site engineers on hand, the client can make investment decisions with accurate knowledge and little time taken away from the business day.

* Interior Design--A major corporation's design-engineering and site-planning staff, located in the Midwest, met with the corporation's East Coast architectural and design contractor via videoconferencing to review and make decisions on structural and interior designs of the corporation's East Coast offices. From electrical specifications to artwork, all of the necessary decisions were able to be made via videoconferencing in a matter of hours.

* Merchandising--A large retail chain uses videoconferencing so that its various buyers can communicate with each other as new products, designs,and other merchandise are selected for the upcoming seasons. They avoid conflict and duplication of effort and have consistency in their merchandise by using videoconferencing facilities.

The Meeting Channel uses digital compression-transmission equipment from Compression Labs, San Jose, California, so that video transmission costs are often found to be less than the price of what one round-trip airline ticket between the meeting locations would cost.

What happens when satisfied customers are so pleased with public-room video teleconferencing that they want to buy a system of their own?

"We'll be able to provide one for them," explains Battey, as US Telecom, which operates the Meeting Chanel, not only hosts public video-teleconferencing rooms but sells and services video-teleconferencing systems as well.

Some companies have purchased their own videoconferencing system and, when not using the system for their own meetings, they then rent out such "semi-public" rooms to other videoconference users.

Insurance Company Will Rent Its Facilties to Others

"We'll rent our videoconference rooms and the equipment to outside businesses and other organizations in an effort to make our videoconferencing system even more productive," reports Timothy Schade, who is assistant vice president and the director of communications services for the American General Life Insurance Company in Houston, which currently operates its own videoconference rooms in Sacramento, Houston, Nashville and Baltimore.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Hall, Fentress
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1986
Words:1221
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