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In Times of Trouble...Use Video Conferencing

July 5, 2013 | Telepresence Options

bart protest

Story and Images by Phil Edholm / NoJitter

The BART strike shows the value of video communications--and the potential costs of some of the options.

Most of you probably do not realize, but the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) employees are on strike here in the San Francisco area. And with temperatures regularly exceeding 100 degrees the last few days, it is creating a fairly hot situation. With ridership of almost 400,000 on weekdays, that is a lot of commuters to dump out onto already crowded roads. In some places the commute time has doubled, and many of those routes are already among the worst in the country.

One company has made an offer to help commuters out: Zoom, a new cloud video service entrant, is offering free video conferencing to Bay Area commuters. In the email I got announcing it, a great deal was made of how, "Zoom is a video conferencing system that provides HD solutions for those people who are unable to make it into the office. Unlike all other competitors in its industry Zoom does not require a Wi-Fi connection, allowing their customers the option to work from hope instead of flocking to their nearest coffee shop for an internet connection. Most importantly in this time of crisis, Zoom is free to users, offering unlimited HD video conferencing calls for up to 25 participants." (the "work from hope" was in the email--not my change).

This offer got me to thinking about two things: First, how remote communications use is accelerated in a crisis. A few years ago I was in China right after the SARs epidemic. SARs caused two major changes in work life in China: Many organizations adopted VoIP to allow their employees to work from home so they would not have to be exposed to the epidemic; and also, private car ownership soared as people no longer wanted to ride on buses or trains or in taxis.

This got me to thinking, having gone to the "World War Z" movie last weekend, could the new slogan for the video industry be: "Use Video Conferencing and Protect Yourself From Zombies!!!" The last thing you would want to do in a Zombie apocalypse is flock to a coffee shop--Remember the pub in "Shaun of the Dead"? Nothing worse than getting surrounded by Zombies whilst trying to use WiFi for your video conference.

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