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Former BCD Travel Exec Developing 'Global Videoconferencing Network'
May 27, 2011 | William Zimmerman
May 26, 2011 - A Brussels-based company aims to tackle one of the major stumbling blocks for companies seeking to incorporate more remote conferencing options into their travel programs. Glenn Wastyn, president and CEO of the Global Videoconferencing Network, plans to deploy early next year a global network of at least 2,000 high-definition videoconferencing units in numerous hotels, part of an ultimate goal to reach 20,000 units. GVN's role is both to manage the hardware associated with videoconferencing as well as develop methods of integrating with travel booking processes.
Wastyn said work this year is focused on investing to ensure sufficient units are in place to make it useful to corporate travelers.
"Scale is the driving force of any network solution, be it Internet, cell phones or videoconferencing," Wastyn said. "Videoconferencing doesn't have a large network of compatible and connected equipment."
While Business Travel News research this year indicated that corporate onsite remote conferencing systems have become much more widespread, high installation costs often are a barrier for small and midmarket companies. BTN's research indicated that more than half of travel buyers use offsite remote conferencing facilities to supplement their travel programs.
Interoperability also has been a challenge. While companies using their own systems naturally will always be able to communicate within their networks, not all public systems are wired to communicate with one another. Wastyn described GVN as "an intranet environment open to the public."
Wastyn's project comes as a few multinational hotel companies, including Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, are installing telepresence rooms at several key properties around the world. While those efforts largely have concentrated on gateway cities such as New York, London and Washington, D.C., Wastyn said he's also focusing on getting smaller markets into the game.
"Some will require telepresence at the highest level, but we have to be able to serve hotels in Springfield, Mo., and Boise, Idaho, and in any corner of the world," he said. "Some will be two-, four-, six- or 12-person meeting rooms." Besides the technology, Wastyn said GVN also is focusing on booking integration. In April, GVN announced a partnership with Whygo, a provider of an online booking portal for remote conferencing. Whygo itself last year partnered with BCD Travel to provide remote conferencing booking options for clients; Wastyn formerly was BCD's vice president of supplier relations for several European countries.
For now, GVN uses Whygo as-is, through its own site, but Wastyn said the ultimate goal is to develop a platform that can combine both private and public networks, synchronize with hotel booking tools so hotels can manage their own bookings and integrate with travel management companies, online tools and offline booking processes.
"We need an open platform for others to hook into that can mimic all the different distribution channels of travel," he said. "We want to make sure the business traveler has no obstacles, with exactly the same process as when you book a hotel room, and this can include booking tools, payment solutions, loyalty schemes and everything that exists."
While several buyers have integrated remote conferencing into the booking process in the form of notifying travelers of options at the point of sale, few have gone as far as integrating the actual booking of such systems, according to BTN research. The cost associated with this technologically intricate task has been a barrier for many buyers.
The article originally was published in Business Travel News.
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