Saving our most precious resource: time

Over the past few months, I’ve seen quite a number of videoconferencing systems, ranging from the desktop to huge room-sized affairs. The room-sized are probably beyond the remit of this blog. …

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18th May 2008 at 11:10 am

Over the past few months, I’ve seen quite a number of videoconferencing systems, ranging from the desktop to huge room-sized affairs. The room-sized are probably beyond the remit of this blog. And I’ve written about some of the desktop ones before. I’m hoping to write about a new one very soon which, frankly, blows the socks off everything else I’ve seen. Sadly, I’m sworn to secrecy.

In the meantime, I’ve discovered a high quality but well-priced system from a company called LifeSize. Targeting organisations with distributed offices or partnerships it has recently announced an interesting entry level package which is sold world-wide. In America, it costs just $5000 per location. I say ‘just’ because, when you weigh it up against business class flights, car hire, accommodation and the time you expend on face to face visits, it actually begins to look like a bargain. All you need is access to IP-based broadband. Best if you can grab 1MB in each direction but the quality will scale to the bandwidth available.

The UK distributor for LifeSize is longtime videoconferencing specialist, Touchline Video. I turfed up for what I expected to be an unconvincing demo’ of the system. With a high definition monitor hung on the wall, well above eye level, I was sure it would be an unnatural experience.

When Craig Molloy, the founder of LifeSize, appeared, we seemed to be looking straight at each other. As you may have guessed from the product name, he looked life-sized. Eye contact was natural and our conversation buzzed along, even though we’d never met before. The only uncomfortable bits, as in any conversation, were when we spoke at the same time. There was probably a fractional delay but I’ve experienced worse in more expensive systems.

If you or your staff are fed up with jumping in cars and onto aeroplanes, then you may find that a videoconferencing or telepresence system such as LifeSize can save you money and improve the quality of your life. As the Touchline folk said, “time is the one thing you can never get back.” It also improves your environmental credentials into the bargain.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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