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Teleconferencing Will Play Key Role in Services from Intelligent Buildings.

Building developments of the 1980s are being driven by the so-called "intelligent building" and "smart design." Building developers face both soaring energy costs, and more-sophisticated and demanding tenants. Those who do not adopt the new technologies inherent to an intelligent building may find themselves locked out of an increasingly competitive market.

According to R. Craig Blackman, director of the telecommunications program at Barry University, "Intelligent buildings, quite simply, will be the competitive edge in higher tenant occupancies and profits. Many will ignore this great opportunity, but this is a significant trend that will not go away."

Intelligent buildings propose to link all operations through a central, or host, computer-communications system. Thus, all environmental control, energy, lighting, fire, safety and security systems will be centrally controlled to the extent that they will almost run themselves. The intelligent building also contains systems that support telecommunications, data communications and virtually all other information technologies available today.

Boulder, Colorado-based Cross Information Company has completed an indepth market research study, and projects that most building, large and small, will some provide a wide range of enhanced or intelligent services. The reasons, stemming from the above emerging forces, are:

* Tenants have a growing awareness of their ability to achieve more-cost-effective rent. This does not mean lower rent payments but, rahter, a fundamental shift from paying separately for office services to combining certain services (such as telephones, teleconferencing, data/word processing).

* There are growing compeitive pressures from other developers providing these services.

* Technological innovations now permit many formerly different services to be combined, such as electronic mail, networking and data communications.

* Improvements in real estate and building management systems now allow many separately located complexes to be centrally managed. A Matter of Timing

The development of an intelligent building is no longer in question; simple timing is the issue now. Twenty-five years ago, most offices had individual window air-conditioning units. These have been replaced by centralized, multi-tenant systems, which give better, even personalized, service at a lower unit cost. The intelligent building is emerging along these same lines, in a more evolutionary than revolutionary process. Technological innovations in computer and telecommunications technologies have been the principal forces behind intelligent buildings.

In designing intelligent buildings, it is necessary to understand these new technologies, as well as review the management styles and communications infrastructure of organizations that will use the intelligent building. Intelligent buildings require intelligent designs to integrate new technologies into the design of the tenant organization. Information technology, especially office automation, is likely to change the way in which organizations make decisions on the allocation and types of spaces needed.

Another reason for a comprehensive planning approach is that not all organizations benefit equally from the multi-tenant approach. Developers must identify prospective tenants of an intelligent building, and plan for their needs. Intelligent buildings are, for the most part, geared towards multi-tenant services. Large companies, which can afford their own computer and telecommunications equipment, are reluctant to get locked into a building system that duplicates what they already have, or, in some cases, appears to be less reliable than their own equipment.

Medium-sized and smaller companies, however, benefit from an in-house network provided by a building developer. Smaller companies often cannot justify the cost of owning their own equipment, but can lease high-tech services just as they do office furniture. The actual cost to the tenant may be figurd on the choice of services and length of time the user is on the system.

Teleconferencing will be one of the next levels of services offered in the intelligent building. According to Paul Daubitz, president of ATI TeleManagement of Boston, "Teleconferencing is very 'network-intensive,' which translates into higher revenues for the owner/manager. The key will be in selecting the best teleconferencing system, treaining users and marketing the service not just internally, but to the surrounding geographic area."

The basic types of electronic teleconferencing concepts are: radio, video, slow-scan, audio, audiographic, visual-graphic and computer.

* Radio Teleconferening--The key considerations when using radio-based (including cellular radio) or over-the-air teleconferencing are: natural transmission medium over widely dispersed areas; comparatively low cost compared to stringing wire; cannot be used when security is required; requires special high-frequency receivers; can also be used as a paging system; can be connected to the telephone network.

* Video Teleconferencing--Some of the key features of video teleconferencing are: real-time delivery of video images; allows for personal presence; imparts body language and immediate emotions; allows for rapid decision-making; ideal for group discussions, as opposed to one-to-one; allows for "crisis" meetings to take place quickly; allows for high-impact Hollywood-style events; requires large capital commitment; requires large on-going overhead and maintenance.

Some approaches to marketing video teleconferencing in the intelligent building or office park are: dedicated (teleconferencing rooms for exclusive use by a single corporation); semi-dedicated (teleconferencing rooms primarily used by a single corporation, but available to other members at certain times of the day); and shared (teleconferencing rooms located in office parks, hotels and so on are available to the user community on a reservation basis).

The multi-tenant intelligent building can take advantage of this last approach--shared teleconferencing rooms.

* Slow-Scan Television--Some of the features of slow-scan teleconferencing are: uses normal telephone lines rather than broadband circuits; provides portability and usability at remote sites; provides non-moving pictures (presentations are similar to a 35mm slide show); provides pictures or presentations that can be recorded on audio cassette recorders or computer disks for later use; availability of low and high-resolution systems, taking from two to over seven minutes per image; very low cost, compared to full-motion video.

* Audio Teleconferencing--Among the key aspects of these different audio teleconferencing mediums are: greetings, introductions and farewells must be incorporated into the teleconference itself, because arrivals and departures are invisible, participants may remain relatively anonymous; active listening is required, so this participation generally helps keep conferees involved; volcabulary and syntax have a heightened impact on the efficiency of communication; vocal characteristics have magnified impact on the communication exchange, such as inflection, volume, speed and the like; pauses and long silences have their own value, which can be positive or negative; it can neither send nor receive visual cues, such as eye movements or body language.

* Audiographic Teleconferencing--The key features are: graphics reinforce audio teleconferencing (They must be prepared with special consideration of the special demands and constraints of the medium); visual awareness of the participants, of relevant documents and of a room's ambience at other sites is provided; graphics enable design, engineering and editorial collaborations to occur in real time; graphics allow for the sending of relevant documents during meetings, as well as ahead of time.

* Visual-Graphic Teleconferencing--The advantages of this system are: the relatively low cost of slow-scan over full-motion video (The emphasis is on moving graphics and data rather than on being able to watch people move around); spreadsheet software, featuring columns, charts, grahps and text, allow for wide application of the system in many areas; software programming on a personal computer is a substantially faster, simpler and cheaper process than a production crew shooting on film or tape, and editing involves inserting a floppy disk into the PC drive and executing the desired changes; this type of system makes use of large numbers of mainframes and personal computers now in use in many companies, so by stressing computer graphics over video, these companies can make use of existing data processing resources to make videoconferencing cost-effective.

* Computer Teleconferencing (CT)--It offers the following advantages to the corporation: CT is the lowest-priced of the teleconferencing technologies; CT uses even more creative software systems in helping to develop models for better decision making. (With the growing emphasis on decision support systems, expert systems, and artificial intelligence and management tools fo graphic display of information, CT accommodates newer and newer modeling systems without radically changing user interaction); CT provides the key advantage of long-term record and electronic filing; interruptions from telephone calls are reduced, and information is passed when the receiver can best accept it; the ability to organize messages and responses, allowing for the most logical presentation, is improved (The discipline of putting thoughts into writing before communicating them improves the quality of communications); electronic "footprints" keep everyone involved in a project informed from beginning to end (People can enter the process at any point, and have full documentation to evaluate the process to date). A Number of Benefits

In conclusion, the key advantages of teleconferencing are improved communications, improved time management and management down time, increased productivity, improved staff morale (allows additional colleagues to participate), increased speed of communications for more timely decision-making, reduced delays due to meeting scheduling and a reduction in both organizational and travel costs.

Teleconferencing must be perceived as a means of improving the overall "quality of life" in the intelligent building, rather than a way to eliminate enjoyable travel to other cities.

Intelligent buildings play a very important part in teleconferencing. The systems of an intelligent building, from telephone to wiring, allow for simplified implementation of teleconferencing. Teleconferencing has special applications in long-distance communications, such as nationally or internationally, between intelligent buildings. In addition, as the revenues from long-distance toll decrease, teleconferencing will be one of the most important services sustaining usage. Management Is the Key

The building developer/owner must provide a range of services, including teleconferencing to meet the needs of the tenants. However, the real key to successful shared services in an intelligent building is management of those services. In a number of cases where shared services have failed or were marginally successful, the underlying reason was the lack of proper management by either the building owner/manager or the equipment supplier. In the long run, the successful intelligent buildings will be those that are not just technologically advanced, but, most importantly, fully leased.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Cross, T.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1985
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