Digital Signage – The Browser Takes Over!

InternetThe browser is slowly taking over as the user interface and connectivity platform for Unified Communications (UC). Voice, video and content sharing are all available from your browser, whenever you want. There is no longer a need for special applications to be installed on your devices allowing you to communicate with others. Less plugins and add-ons allow the browser to enable these types of programs and more native browser code enables the applications to work across browsers. UC technology is moving to the browser, this trend is gaining momentum and it makes sense.

Using a browser makes it easier for businesses to connect with consumers right from their web pages without having to worry about having an app like Skype or Facetime installed on the user’s device. For users, having the browser as the common tool for accessing applications, web content and UC makes life simpler because there is no need for specialized applications for each task.

Digital Signage is Moving from a Player Based to an Open Web Based Architecture

In a previous blog on the Next Phase of the Digital Signage Market, I discussed how the 2nd phase of the corporate digital signage market is characterized by the ability of the digital display platform (DDP – an evolution from just digital signage) to be open.

Phase 1 of the digital signage market on the other hand, was characterized by what I call a Player Based Architecture (PBA). The development of this market was described in this blog. The key feature of this architecture is the focus on the player that is attached locally to each screen. The player software and often the player hardware are proprietary. This approach solved a lot of IT scarcity issues as the market for digital signage developed, but today this approach has limitations within the enterprise that are not easily managed across the organization.

The Player Based Architecture has led to:

  1. A fragmented marketplace with 100’s of solutions confusing buyers looking for a corporate solution
  2. Departmental decisions being made for digital signage solutions and corporations who now find themselves with numerous digital signage providers that cannot be reconciled into a single platform
  3. Almost no interoperability between players and content systems from one vendor to another. They are totally isolated silos.
  4. The user departments mentioned above in #2 wanting to move the support of the digital signage solution they purchased from their department to IT, because it is an IT solution
  5. Corporate customers who want to leverage the network of digital displays across their organization as a single platform that is capable of digital signage and much more

The Browser is a Key Piece of Unifying IP Technologies

An open digital display platform (DDP) that is IP based allows customers to use the DDP for digital signage and much more:

  1. You can switch from digital signage being displayed on the digital screens to any other content – easily, centrally, without additional hardware, cables or manual intervention at the screen location
  2. Other IT platforms can easily integrate to the DDP
    1. Live streams – Telepresence, broadcast, webcasts, webcams, etc.
    2. Internet of Things systems – Security cameras, fire alarm systems, etc. ( here is a blog by Geoff Mulligan, “Interoperability Is Key to Unlocking the Internet of Everything” which underscores this point)
    3. Live database updates – SQL, Oracle, etc.
    4. Potentially thousands of web widgets and content sources developed by hundreds of companies
    5. Any other Internet compatible content

Looking at what is happening in IT from an architectural point-of-view, the browser is becoming the focal point and the common platform for:

  1. User interface
  2. Applications
  3. Common development languages and tools

A web based architecture (WBA) makes a real open system.  The browser and IP are the unifying technologies.

More and more technologies are moving to the browser. Unified Communications (UC) is a perfect example. In a recent blog on Skype and Skype for Business coming together, I wrote about how Microsoft also seems to be heading in the direction of the browser despite their massive base of Skype application users. UC is moving to the browser, via WebRTC. The browser is where the market is heading, and by taking advantage of this trend, you will simplify your systems, save money and speed deployment.

An Open, Web Based Architecture

The transition to a digital signage open, web architecture means using the browser as the player software, instead of proprietary software. Moving to a web based architecture has lots of advantages:

  1. Players – Your choice of player widens substantially and costs go down
  2. Capabilities – As the browser manufacturers enable more and more features within them, programmers in turn, can build richer capabilities within their browser code
  3. Browser choice – software that runs in a browser can easily run on any standard browser – Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.
  4. Compatibility with other technologies that use a web based architecture, e.g. UC, Internet of Things. This allows what were formerly islands of technology to easily connect with each other.
  5. Improvements to the browser are occurring constantly and cost the consumer nothing at all.  When the browser software clients are improved, updates are easily deployed.

YouTube

Let’s use a very simple example to illustrate the freedom and capability that a WBA can provide over a PBA.  Almost everyone is familiar with YouTube.

What if you wanted to play a YouTube video as part of your digital signage Show? If you were using a PBA, you would first, have to figure out if the player software would support playing a YouTube video. Many would not. But the progressive PBAs have built some capability into their player software to handle some web content.

Not any web content, but some web content. Player software is not a browser.  It is a custom made application. The app may have enabled some browser like capability within the player application, but it certainly would not have the full capability of a browser. An analogy would be, Microsoft enabling some Internet Explorer capability within Word. They could certainly enable some browser functionality in Word, but Word would never be like Internet Explorer or Edge, Microsoft’s new browser.

What happens when you click on a YouTube video on your PC or mobile?

The video begins to play – right away, and the video stream starts to buffer while you are watching the video. This same simple process does not happen on your digital sign with a PBA, assuming that it is capable of supporting a YouTube video. The PBA must first stream the entire YouTube video to the player software client. Then the player software has to incorporate the YouTube video into it and initiate the play of the new Show that contains the YouTube video. This whole process can take a while.

In a Web Based Architecture, the browser is the player software. So when you tell a Show to start playing a YouTube video it does so immediately just like playing a YouTube video from a browser on your PC. With a WBA, you can also:

  1. Update just a part of the Show with new content without having to first stream and then restart the Show
  2. You can immediately start playing a new Show without having to first stream and then restart the new Show
  3. Play any kind of Internet content without requiring modifications to the player software
  4. Track playback of any content on the player using simple cookies and audit trails
  5. Cache content on the player using the latest Application Cache features of HTML5, to continue playing even when the network fails

Your Greatest Strength, Is Your Greatest Weakness

The greatest strength of a WBA for digital displays is that Google, Apple, Microsoft, Mozilla and others will continue to develop and enable the browser with more functionality and capability. This will make a WBA architecture even more powerful over time and since browser software is free, you won’t have to pay for any of these improvements.

This can also be a disadvantage, because you are at the mercy of the companies who own the browsers to continue to enable them with greater functionality. In the first phase of the digital signage market the WBA was at a disadvantage, because browser functionality was limited and so was network capacity and availability. Those limitations are no longer there, but each of the different browsers has its own quirks. You can mitigate the quirks as you become more familiar with options and tools.

I believe that the digital signage market will become dominated by solutions that are based on web standards and Internet Protocol. That is where other technology is heading and digital signage needs to interact with these technologies in order to continue evolving as a platform.

The Next Phase of the Digital Signage Market

In my last blog I wrote about the “Technology Market Lifecycle of Digital Signage”. The blog described the evolution of the first phase of the Digital Signage market which is just starting to commoditize. And just as Phase 1 starts to commoditize, Phase 2 of the market is just getting started.

Phase 2 is logical extension of the first phase and there is overlap, especially with the different adoption postures that customers have. But how do we know we are at a secondary phase of the market? A new phase is never defined by new technologies but by the customer’s needs and how technology can meet them. We stepped through the customer need and subsequent customer questions in a technology lifecycle, as those questions relate to the digital signage market, in the last blog and you can see the graphical depiction in the image below.

Technology market phases

In this blog I am going to write about the first two customer questions that define Phase 2:

  • Does this work? (Can the customer need be met?)
  • Does this solve my business problem?

Does this work?

What is the customer need in this phase of the market?

Customers with digital signage networks are asking the question: Can I use my existing network of displays to do other things? They don’t want to stop using them for digital signage but they do want to do more than play content files on their network of digital displays. That network of digital displays can be leveraged to do a lot more, and some of the things they want to do are pretty critical.

What exactly do they want to do with their existing and growing network of digital displays? They want to use the displays:

  • For instant Emergency Broadcast notification
  • For Town Hall communications, allowing an executive to take over the digital display network and to speak live on the displays
  • To connect other technologies in their buildings to their display platform and communicate status, feeds and other information
  • To play internal advertisements or to make money by playing other advertiser’s messages
  • To easily display content from other corporate technology platforms and from any Internet source (I will address this in my next blog)

Each one of these items is a topic onto itself, and I hope to dedicate a blog to each of them, but for now, here is a high level overview.

Emergency Broadcast

In the event of an emergency – a fire, bad weather, bomb threat, a shooter, and other emergency situations, there is an increasing requirement to immediately take over a single existing digital display network or multiple independent digital display networks and unify them into a single emergency broadcast. In the case of some Higher Ed institutions, this requirement is becoming more important than the digital signage itself. Studies show that students on campus pay attention to the digital displays. In fact, 96% notice digital signage immediately and can recall its content. And when something happens, Emergency Ops need the ability to instantly take over what is playing on the digital screens because seconds count.

The digital signage network is one of the most effective ways to communicate in the event of an emergency to in-building occupants or the on-campus community.

Town Hall Communications

Most digital signs are placed in common areas where people congregate or pass by, e.g. lobbies, foyers, cafeterias, lunch rooms, atriums, hallways, branch locations, etc. Corporations, government and educational institutions have a constant need for their top executives to communicate to their constituents live. It isn’t economical or practical to assemble everyone in one location but you can assemble them in the common areas of their work locations. If you can turn your digital signage network into a live broadcast network without having to buy a lot of extra equipment or having to switch the equipment sending the signal to the digital display, then you have a really viable solution for Town Hall updates.

Connecting to Other Building Technologies

The amount of technology that is making its way into everything we own or come in contact with is increasing every year. Buildings are no exception. They are filled with many different systems that have an increasingly higher proportion of digital technologies in them – fire alarms, security cameras, door locks, lights, HVAC, etc. Historically these are islands of technology and they do not communicate to each other, but as they become more digital, they are transforming to IP technology and if they have an IP address they can talk to each other. This is a big part of the Internet of Things (IoT) story.

Digital signage is one of the best ways to communicate information from other building systems. Both:

  • Status updates, e.g. real time energy savings or building maintenance updates
  • Real time information, e.g. security camera feeds on the digital sign

Advertising

Some organizations play their own ads on their digital signage displays but others are willing to play other people’s ads. For those who don’t mind playing other people’s ads, what easier way to use your digital display platform than to make some money from it.

Surveillance

Surveillance

What do All These New Requirements Have in Common?

Some of these items aren’t new, but they are either being done in a less than optimal way or it is just too difficult and costly to implement them based on the digital signage platform that is in place. Very few existing digital signage networks deliver these kinds of capabilities except in very rudimentary ways. The player based architectures that were so successful in Phase 1 of the digital signage market just do not provide the integration flexibility required to interface with all the other technologies.

A new architecture is required to give the digital signage network the capability to easily adapt itself to all these new requirements in an elegant way. An architecture based on web technologies, or as I call it – a Web Based Architecture.

The Ability to Easily Integrate – Solves My Business Problem

Phase 2 of the Digital Signage Market Technology Adoption Curve, is just beginning. Phase 2 technologies will help users solve their need to integrate their digital display network with other technologies to be able to use them in the ways that they want. To make them a platform for different types of communication which can be triggered to switch content manually or by automated triggers.

With a player based architecture (PBA) it is very difficult to do all these things, but with a web based architecture (WBA) all this is possible. Phase 2 of a market takes us to a new curve with new technology delivering new capabilities. Here is what that market evolution looks like for a technology that has re-invented itself.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 11.06.49 AM

It is the same curve starting all over again. And for the digital signage market it is based on a new architecture that can easily INTEGRATE to other technologies.

Easy Integration:

  • To web content, e.g. YouTube, Social Media, other live sites
  • To allow triggering of content – manual or automated, for Emergency management and more
  • For IoT connectivity
  • To enable Town Hall forums
  • And more

In my next digital signage blog, I will contrast in more detail, the Player Based Architecture of Phase 1 of the market with the Web Based Architecture of Phase 2 of the market.  I hope to demonstrate the flexibility the WBA provides and difference it makes.

The Technology Market Lifecycle of Digital Signage

A History of Digital Signage

In one of my recent blogs, I pointed out that Enterprise Video Communications will be the fastest growing segment of Internet traffic over the next 5 years. Video communications is made up of a number of communications tools, both real-time and on demand. Digital Signage is one of these communications tools and according to the IDC is expected to grow at a 35.7% compound average growth rate.

Digital Signage has been more of a “nice to have” technology than a “mission critical” technology, but that is quickly changing. Digital Signage is evolving from its current Phase 1 technology evolution curve, to its Phase 2 technology evolution curve, by becoming a Digital Display Platform that is capable of much more than content communication.

It will take a few blogs to give you the entire picture of the current state of the digital signage market, so with this first blog, I will describe the first phase of the evolution in Digital Signage – a historical perspective that brings us to the current state of Phase 1.   This perspective is critical to not only understanding how we got here, but in subsequent blogs, what the new Phase 2 technologies look like and how to distinguish them from Phase 1 technologies.

First, a high level definition of what Digital Signage is and the list of the components that make up a Digital Signage solution. Wikipedia says that digital signs are a sub segment of signage, and that they “use technologies such as LCD, LED and Projection to display content such as digital images, video, streaming media, and information and can be found in public spaces, transportation systems, museums, stadiums, retail stores, hotels, restaurants, and corporate buildings etc.”

What is a Digital Signage solution made up of?

A Digital Signage solution is made up of many different components coming together. If one or more of the components falls short, it can jeopardize the success of the entire initiative. The different components include:

  • Hardware – server(s), displays, players and other sundry connection or signal distribution components
  • Software – server and client (player) side
  • Network and/or signal distribution
  • Project management
  • Physical installation
  • Content creation
  • Ongoing support

With this brief definition of Digital Signage and what a Digital Signage solution is made of, let’s dig into how this technology has evolved.

Historical view of the Digital Signage Market Development

Every technology goes through different stages of development as it comes out into the marketplace. Frank Lynn & Associates have created the following graph to show the stages of a technology’s lifecycle and the key customer question that each stage seeks to answer.

Technology Market Lifecycle: Frank Lynn & Associates

technology market lifecycle

Stage 1: Does this work? – Content Show Creation

Digital Signage technology first came to market in the mid-1990s and the Scala solution was one of the first, if not the first, Digital Signage solution in the market. The problem that the solution providers were trying to solve was to make a software solution, that would allow a user to build a customized “Show” that could then be played smoothly on a digital display. The Show would be built using image and video files that would then be played on a screen just like a TV show or commercial.

Stage 1 of the Technology Lifecycle, is where a technology either solves the first problem or the technology dies. With Digital Signage the software suppliers were able to create the software to allow users to create and play a show locally on a screen.

The show could be created, but now it had to be able to operate in a commercial environment.

Stage 2: Can you solve my business problem? – Content Playability

The challenge was to make the show play at many different locations, on an affordable player (PC) that had enough power (this is the time when Windows XP ruled) to play the content files without having the playback of the show be “jerky”. It had to play smoothly and without a glitch.  Just like watching a TV Show.  Oh – and the content had to be delivered to the players on networks of 15-20 years ago.

The Digital Signage suppliers solved the business problem by doing a number of things:

  • They created custom hardware players that had powerful and fast processors with enough muscle to play “fat” or “heavy” content files and Show effects like tickers running across a screen which are very compute intensive, as they require the image to be re-drawn on the screen every time the image moves over 1 pixel
  • They built customized player software which enabled local caching and playing of content
  • They built compression algorithms for the content enabling it to be sent over the networks more efficiently and de-compressed at the players

The solution providers built an architecture, which was based on working around the scarcity of IT resources – player power and limited network capacity. It was brilliant!  And that architecture continues to dominate the first Phase of the Digital Signage market.

Stage 3: Can you make this easy to buy, deploy and support? – Digital Signage Deployment Manageability

The DS suppliers had solved the first two problems and they now had to address the next market problem, i.e. making their solution easy to buy, deploy and support.

They worked with resellers and integrators, especially in the AV market, who understood the inherent AV nature of the hardware requirements. These resellers worked with their local customers to sell, deploy and support the solutions.  But the DS suppliers also had to build IT manageability into their solution so that a network of 10, 100, or 1,000+ digital screens could be managed remotely.

These remote management capabilities included:

  • The ability to see what was playing on any screen
  • To determine if the show was playing
  • To monitor the network status and;
  • The ability to re-boot players remotely

Finally, after the major problems had been resolved and the technology continued to mature, customers demanded better price performance and new competitors sought to differentiate their solutions by doing things better and cheaper.

Stage 4: Can you reduce my purchase cost? – Agnostic, Low cost players

intel comput stickI think most readers have heard of Moore’s law, which says that the power of processor technology will double roughly every 2 years. Networks are also much faster and more robust today than they were 5-10 years ago. The ironic thing is that the “scarcity” problems that had to be worked around in Stage 2 are becoming obsolete in Stage 4 of the market. Today you can buy agnostic hardware players for the Windows, Linux or other operating environments that are just as powerful as the proprietary players that were created in Stage 2 of the market.

The image to the left is an Intel Compute Stick. It is very much like a USB stick, and it connects directly into a USB port, but it is a bit longer and wider than a standard USB stick. It sells for between $100-$200 depending on features and whether you want a Windows 8 OS loaded on it or Ubuntu. This player and many others like it, are eliminating the requirement for the proprietary players in Stage 2 of the market and bringing the player price point down by a factor of up to 10 times.

When you combine these players with a Digital Signage software solution that does not charge player software licenses you save even more money.

Here is the same Technology Lifecycle Market graph with the different Digital Signage stages overlaid on top.

technology lifecycle digital signage stages

What happens to the Technology at the end of Stage 4?

The market will either commoditize, or the market will evolve to a second phase, where the same curve starts all over again, based on new market requirements and the technology that meets those market requirements.

This is what I see happening in the Digital Signage market. Stay tuned and learn more about Phase 2 of the market.

Video Communications Growth Accelerating Quickly

Is Your Organization Prepared?

Video Conferencing, Live Event Streaming, Video On Demand, Digital Signage, Security Camera systems and Video Chat are all different forms of video communications. By video communications, I mean a communication that is watched and heard. According to Cisco’s data, video is the biggest and fastest growing segment of all Internet traffic.

cisco IP Traffic chart

Figure 1: Global IP Traffic: 2014 – 2019 (Cisco)

Video traffic used by Consumers in 2015 is already more than 60% of all Internet traffic and by 2019 Cisco predicts it will grow by 2.5 times, accounting for almost 70% of all Internet traffic.  See Figure 1.

Business video is the fastest growing segment in the enterprise use of the Internet. In 2015 it accounts for just under 8% of the global IP traffic, the 4th largest category, but by 2019, it will become the 2nd largest global IP traffic category accounting for 11% of global IP traffic.

Growing by more than 3 times between 2015 and 2019, Business video will be the fastest growing segment of global IP traffic. Business global IP video traffic will grow from 5,711 Petabytes in 2015 to 18,618 Petabytes in 2019.

Why is business video usage growing so much?

Video is, by-far, the most compelling communications method to engage customers and employees. It is also the most effective method for disseminating company-wide information.

Business video communications, in all its forms, should be something that is important to every CEO and CIO.   Unlike the consumer video traffic segment, business video is not dominated by the streaming of entertainment such as movies and TV shows. The business video segment of global IP traffic is made up of the following primary categories of video usage (in no particular order):

  • Video Conferencing
  • Live Event Streaming
  • Video on Demand (VoD)
  • Digital Signage
  • Security Camera (streaming and VoD)
  • Video chat

Each of these segments can be considered as a market on its own, but more and more there will be relationships between these segments, and businesses that are able to easily connect them together will realize advantages over their peers.

Business colleagues in video conference


Enterprise Class Capabilities

When an enterprise deploys a new technical capability, they need to make sure that the solutions are up to snuff in order to fit into the enterprise IT world. Security is always the primary concern but it is certainly not the only criterion that a new IT solution will have to pass the test on. Here are some items to consider:

  1. Security
  2. Deployment requirements
  3. Enterprise directory integration
  4. Recording capabilities
  5. Archiving and retrieval
  6. Tools to manage the deployment of new infrastructure
  7. Serviceability of the new technology
  8. And more ….

Each one of the categories above has a consumer solution(s) which could be used in an enterprise.  These consumer solutions are not enterprise hardened technology solutions because they don’t address the list of items above. Here are some examples:

Technology Consumer Solution Enterprise Hardened Solution
Video Conferencing Skype; Facetime Cisco (H.323); Skype for Business; Vidyo
Video on Demand (VoD) YouTube Kaltura; VBrick; Qumu
File Sharing Dropbox Box

Enterprise Readiness

The data tells us that business video will be bigger than the business use of the Internet for ‘Web & Other Data’ in 2019.  That means that enterprises who have not already done so, need to be ready to provide and manage IT solutions in each of the business video categories.  They will need to ask some questions on behalf of their organization:

  1. Do we have a solution or platform for each of the business video categories?
  2. Are each of these islands of technology or will they integrate with each other?
  3. Do we need an in house solution or a fully managed cloud solution?
  4. Does the solution meet our enterprise technology requirements?
  5. Who will use the solutions and how will we deploy the technology and train the users?

These are just some of the questions, but some important ones.

Enterprises are already seeing the value of video.  According to Wainhouse, 4 out of 5 enterprises say that video use improves productivity and efficiencies in their organizations.  Further, 73% want their organizations to expand the usage of video.  But as video technology becomes more pervasive, its uses will expand into applications that most people have never heard of.  For example, video magnification will provide new capabilities to organizations.

By magnifying recorded or live video:

  1. A Doctor can take the pulse of a patient they are talking to over video while their normal conversation is going on by automatically magnifying the skin of the patient until the pulse can be seen and measured.
  2. Security personnel can reproduce entire conversations, even if the people being viewed have their backs turned away from the camera. The conversation the people are having is causing objects all around them to vibrate and that vibration when focused on and magnified can re-create the conversation.

These are just a couple of examples of how one small niche video capability will provide new uses few people ever imagined.

With the explosion of video communications, there will also be a corresponding increase in the requirement to record, archive and retrieve video communications.  Some of these capabilities are already in place and sometimes the services of product specialists are needed.

Over the next few blogs I am going to delve deeper into some of the video communications categories other than video conferencing.

We have written many blogs on video conferencing and I personally use the technology so much that when I have a call that doesn’t have video, its uncomfortable because something is missing.  I feel like I am driving a car without my seatbelt on. Here is a partial list of some of our prior blogs related to video conferencing.

  1. The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made in Determining Screen Real Estate in a Video Conferencing Room
  2. Screen Real Estate – a Critical Factor in Making Video Calls As Good As “Being There”
  3. Pros and Cons of Using Skype for Business Video Conferencing Calls
  4. Will Desktop and Mobile Video Kill the Market for Room Based Video Conferencing and Telepresence Deployments?
  5. 5 Myths of Telepresence and what they mean to your business
  6. What Conferencing Technologies Should be Available in Our Meeting Rooms?
  7. What is a Corporate Communications Framework?
  8. Why I Choose Videoconferencing to Collaborate
  9. Is your Communications Technology Framework a Patchwork or Tapestry? Why it Matters
  10. Is being in the same physical space critical to improving collaboration?
  11. The Difference Between a Virtual Audio Call and a Virtual Video Call?
  12. Does Rich Communication accelerate the velocity of collaboration?
  13. Honey – They Seriously Shrunk the Cost of Telepresence!
  14. What is your Organization’s Attitude to Video?
  15. Has video conferencing crossed “The Chasm” to the mainstream market?
  16. The Rise of the Virtual Meeting Room
  17. Video in the Cloud
  18. Transforming the Healthcare Collaborative Ecosystem

Stay tuned.

I welcome any comments – please leave them.  Also questions or requests which I will respond to as best I can.

Driverless Cars and Driverless Buildings

If you were sitting at home and I told you that there was a Google driverless car in your driveway that was going to take you to work today – Would you get in the back seat and let it drive you to work? You would be able to do other things during the drive instead of focusing on the rush hour, bumper-to-bumper traffic.

But would you have the confidence in the technology to just … trust it?

We know that the driverless car is here and it is quickly gaining acceptance as a viable technology. Like the driverless car, buildings are also becoming “driverless” from a real-time operations point-of-view. The technology is here and has already been deployed in many buildings around the world.

And for good reason.

Commercial real estate buildings consume 40% of all energy and 70% of all electricity.  So if you are a commercial building owner, it is worthwhile to make sure that your building(s) are optimized to consume the minimum amount of energy.

There are two ways to get the most out of your building:

  1. Mechanical and structural performance optimization. Ensuring the building performs the best that it can. This technology eliminates the building’s deficiencies or faults and optimizes the building for efficiency and performance
  2. Real-time operational performance optimization. Ensuring the building is run optimally, i.e. using the least amount of energy possible

These are very different mandates although they may seem similar.  Let’s use the analogy of a car further to explore the differences between the two.

Mechanical and Structural Performance Optimization

There are many ways that a car’s performance can be optimized.  Here are a few examples that most of us would be familiar with:

  • Make sure you have the right amount of air pressure in the tires. The right tire pressure will reduce wear on the tires, give you better gas mileage and make the ride better for the passengers.
  • Make sure the carburetor is providing the right amount of oxygen.  When the air mixes with the fuel, if there is not enough air mixed with the gas, then the vehicle will burn more fuel than is necessary.
  • Use grease – not only will it lubricate bearings, suspension, etc., but if it is applied to gaskets on the carburetor, it will make them easier to re-use and prevents them from sticking to the intake manifold or the carburetor.
  • Make the car more aerodynamic. The less wind resistance the car has the better the gas mileage. That’s why you see pick-up trucks driving around with their tailgates down.
  • Make sure the engine is tuned. A well-tuned engine provides the best balance of power and fuel consumption.

We could go on and on with ways to make a car perform better.

Car performance is taken to the ultimate degree in the Formula 1 racing world. The items I mention above are barely a starting point. Formula 1 teams consider fluid dynamics, different tire types for different driving conditions, airfoil shape optimization, air-cooling flow, and many other factors. If you do a Google search on ‘F1 performance optimization’, you will find reams of material on the subject.

By doing mechanical and structural tuning to make sure the car performs the best it can, you optimize the performance of the car and save gas (energy).

Likewise, you can do many mechanical and structural things to optimize the performance of a building, i.e. make it more energy efficient, in terms of how much energy is required to heat or cool the building, or how much electricity it uses. You are probably familiar with some of the ways to make your own home more energy efficient:

  • Switch to LED lighting
  • Insulate your home better
  • Get energy efficient appliances
  • Install solar panels
  • Etc.

The same types of things can be done in a commercial building but the scale and scope are much greater. Some of the things you can do cost little or no money, but there are also things that will take operational investment, like identifying faults in the building and fixing them, and there are others that will require capital investments, like replacing old boilers or HVAC units.

Honeywell has a very good service, which helps building owners with the mechanical and structural performance optimization of their buildings. It is called the Honeywell Attune Advisory Services. They state that, “Honeywell’s energy and automation experts work directly with your company to provide the information you need to make energy-efficient and money-saving business decisions.

Using state-of-the-art technology, paired with a global reach of over 10,000 energy and operations experts, Attune Advisory Services meets you wherever your buildings are on the energy-and-operational-efficiency spectrum. They provide support to gain baseline awareness of building performance, make improvements to reduce energy and operations costs, and define an ongoing strategy to manage and optimize each facility.”

Just like your neighbourhood car mechanic or even an F1 racing crew, the Honeywell team of 10,000 global experts, will help you get the most out of your building. And just like the F1 teams, they even have software that monitors performance in real time and provides reports to help you make adjustments.

But what they don’t do, is operate your building for you in real-time, in the most efficient manner. But there is another company, Building IQ, that does provide this service, and they do it well.

Real-Time Operational Performance Optimization

The driver of a car operates the car the entire time the car is en route to its destination. They accelerate, turn, brake, make adjustments to traffic conditions, navigate, etc. It is a task that requires the full attention of the driver. A driverless car takes over all these tasks from the driver. Technology is used to take over all the operational responsibilities of the driver.

Most commercial buildings have someone who operates the building day-to-day. They are responsible for ensuring that the systems that provide the heat or air conditioning are turned up, or on, well before people arrive at work and that the building maintains the right temperature all day long so that people are comfortable in the building.   They are also responsible for many other things in the building and often do not have the time to operate the building in real-time from one minute to the next. However, they may make adjustments from time to time if tenants complain about the heat or lack of heat depending on the time of year.

The driver of a car can minimize gas consumption if they drive the car by avoiding as much acceleration and braking as possible. Maintaining speed, is more fuel efficient than accelerating or decelerating. Do you drive your car and optimize its fuel consumption? I would guess that very few people do, but they could.

Driverless cars are much better at minimizing gas consumption by avoiding as much acceleration and braking as is possible. They are also better at slowing down ahead of time for congestion or avoiding congestion altogether because they get that information well ahead of time through all of their programming algorithms. They also know where the best-priced gas is and can determine if it is worth filling up at one gas station or another.   They know when the weather is going to be bad and can mitigate the impact weather has on the operation of the car.

Minimizing the fuel consumption of the car by operating it efficiently is very different from getting fuel efficiencies from a well-tuned car. In order to minimize fuel consumption of either, a well-tuned car, or a car that is very poorly tuned, you simply avoiding accelerating and braking as much as possible.

Driving a car that is BOTH well tuned and is driven in a way that minimizes fuel consumption will give you the best overall fuel savings.

The same is true when getting energy efficiencies from a building. You can increase the energy efficiency of a building by having it tuned up (Honeywell’s Attune Services) and you can operate the building more efficiently by using Building IQ’s technology. These two approaches compliment each other and should be used in unison for maximum building efficiency.

Building IQ is the leader in real-time operational energy savings for commercial office buildings.  Building IQ’s Predictive Energy Optimization reduces your operational energy consumption and cost, using sophisticated algorithms running in the cloud and connected to your building’s HVAC system.  The foundation of these strategies is a customized thermodynamic model, which has been assembled from the building’s actual energy consumption, coupled with algorithms for real time information from: the weather, occupancy, energy pricing and control system data. Building IQ can save 10 to 20% of a building’s HVAC energy costs, without impacting building comfort, because you tell it what temperature you want it to be – zone by zone.  They can save building owners energy whether their building is well tuned or is not well tuned.

Just as the driverless car takes over the real-time operation of the vehicle, Building IQ takes over the real-time operation of the HVAC units of the building.

When I asked you at the beginning of this blog whether you would get into the back seat of the driverless car and let it whisk you away to work, I suspect many of you, like myself, would be a little hesitant to jump in the car. But if you could sit in the driver’s seat and take over control of the vehicle any time by simply grabbing the steering wheel and depressing the brakes, you might not hesitate to take your first driverless ride.

The same holds true with the Building IQ technology. A lot of building operators would be hesitant to let a cloud based computer take over the operation of their building’s HVAC systems. But if they could take back control with the press of a button (and they can), then maybe its time to try and find some more energy savings by operating the building much more efficiently than the building operator is able to.

To learn more about the Building IQ technology and how it can help you save energy in your building, please contact us.

Cloud Video Conferencing (VCaaS) – Is It Worth It?

Cloud Computing Infographic-4

Milliseconds make a Difference

The Traders Edge

One of the themes I have written about quite a bit is the huge benefits that are garnered from business cycles or reduced timeframes. In fact, probably the greatest ROI opportunities for existing companies lie in the ability to reduce the time it takes to get things done. But, can shaving milliseconds off a transaction time make a difference?

Michael Lewis Flah Boys

Milliseconds Make All the Difference for Stock Traders

I recently read the book “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis, the same bestselling author who wrote, “Moneyball”. “Flash Boys” provides an insiders view into the world of online trading.

Many people have bought and sold stocks using an online investment account – some people are investors and some are traders. The difference comes down to how long you hold onto the stocks. If you buy and sell in the same day you are a Day Trader; and if you hold for the long term appreciation of a stock, you are a Long-term Investor. These two terms (Day Trader and Long-term Investor), define the two extremes of the timeline on which investments are held.

No matter where a buyer of stock falls on that scale, eventually he clicks “Buy” in his account. “Then what? He may think he knows what happens after he presses the key on his keyboard, but, trust me, he does not. If he did, he’d think twice before he pressed it,” Lewis explains.

Lewis then takes the reader on the equivalent of a ‘cloak and dagger’ mystery, but with real life Wall Street characters and their story. I couldn’t put the book down, and although I have a strong interest in both technology and investing, the story is still very compelling regardless.

ThinkstockPhotos-177288712

Front-running – the Technology Has Taken Over

The Wikipedia definition of Front-running, “is an illegal practice of a stockbroker executing orders on a security for its own account while taking advantage of pending orders from its customers.” Front-running has been happening since stocks first started trading hundreds of years ago. But as the technology of how stocks were traded changed, front-running also had to change. When stock trading was automated, people figured that the opportunity to front-run a stock trade had disappeared. That is what the general public thought and it is what most of Wall Street thought, but something did not seem right to Brad Katsuyama, an RBC trader who had moved from the RBC Toronto office to New York.

Flash Boys revolves around the story of Brad and his search to explain what could not be explained. As Brad uncovers the truth, with a team of unlikely colleagues, he not only educates himself, but ends up exposing the workings of the high-frequency trading firms that had proliferated on Wall Street. This unlikely Canadian from a small Wall Street firm (RBC) ends up becoming the expert. The high-frequency trading firms had exploited technology to shave just a few milliseconds off of the time of a transaction, making them the front-runners in the world of electronic trading.  No-one knew that they were doing this or how they were achieving this until Brad uncovered the truth.

Modern day front-runners had been, and still are compressing timeframes by a few milliseconds and this gives then a huge and illegal business advantage. Instead of shortening a business process, the high frequency traders used the time savings to short-circuit the trading process and create an advantage for themselves. These high frequency traders are using the same principal of shortening processing time, by milliseconds, to get an unfair advantage in an open market.

Brad Katsuyama, the Canadian RBC trader, took on an industry and exposed it when most people in the industry didn’t even know what was going on. Even as he shined a light on these practices he was ridiculed because it is almost impossible to prove that front-running was occuring. Lewis writes, “Brad Katsuyama explained to the world what he and his team learned about the inner workings of the stock market. The nation of investors was appalled – a poll of institutional investors in late April 2014, conducted by the brokerage firm ConvergEx, discovered that 70 percent of them thought that the U.S. stock market was unfair and 51 percent considered high-frequency trading “harmful or very harmful”. And the complaining investors were the big guys, the mutual funds and pension funds and hedge funds you might think could defend themselves in the market.”

“The narrow slice of the financial sector [high-frequency traders and the exchanges that support this practice] that makes money off the situation that this book [Flash Boys] describes felt the need to shape the public perception of it. … Then came the unfortunate episode on CNBC, during which Brad Katsuyama was verbally assaulted by the president of the BATS exchange. … He [the BATS President] hollered and ranted and waved and in general made such a spectacle of himself that half of Wall Street came to a halt, transfixed. … I was told by an CNBC producer that it was the most watched segment in CNBC’s history … His defining moment came when Katsuyama asked him a simple question: Did BATS sell a faster picture of the stock market to high-frequency traders, while using a slower picture to price the trades of investors? … The BATS president said no … It wasn’t true … Four months later, BATS parted ways with its president.”

If you are interested, here is a 4-minute compilation of the highlights of the CNBC segment.

If you want to watch the whole 20+ minute segment, here is the link.

I don’t think I have played spoiler by writing this blog.  The unfolding of the Flash Boys story is fascinating and Lewis is at his best.  I have to say that I felt a little patriotic reading about the Canadian, Brad Katsuyama, playing such a pivotal role in one of America’s biggest business stages.

Compressed Timelines – Business Processes Sped Up

Applying communication tools to compress timelines can give you huge advantages in your business.  But anything in the wrong hands can be used in illegal ways as well.  Brad ended up with a very creative approach to level the playing field, which ultimately involves an unlikely twist involving Goldman Sacks.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy the book!

Making Your Meeting Places Audibly Accessible

Is your company AODA Compliant?

Different real time communications technologies, (audio, video, content, and interactive whiteboarding), can be combined in unique ways to suit each collaborative situation. A collaborative session is like a spinning top made of varying amounts of each of these four technologies. The tops may be different shapes and sizes, each top suiting the needs of the participants in the collaborative meeting, but the point of the top is always the audio technology. If there is no audio, there is no real time collaboration session – the top will not spin.

Audio technology is often taken for granted. Even though it is the most fundamental of the conferencing technologies it often gets the least focus. Audio technology has been compromised ever since mobile phone technology has become ubiquitous and more prevalent than landlines. Why? Because a mobile phone call gets packed into an 8kbps call.

A digital music file compressed into 128 kpbs sounds pretty good, however, at 64 kbps the fidelity drops off significantly and a 32 kbps song is hardly worth listening to.  An 8kbps voice call, which people have become accustomed to, does not provide good audio quality.

Why do we put up with this inferior audio quality?  For the convenience that the mobile phone gives us.  We sacrifice a lot of audio quality for mobile convenience, but good audio in a conference call is fundamental. It is often the difference between communicating and not communicating.

You can get the right technology to make the audio portion of your conferencing better, so people can hear what is being said properly – better communication.

Hearing Impairment

listentech-theater_42Our world can be challenging for the hearing impaired. According to the Canadian Hearing Society, hearing loss is becoming more and more prevalent:

  • Nearly 1 out of every 4 adult Canadians reports having some hearing loss
  • Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in older adults and the most widespread disability. Its prevalence rises with age – 46% of people aged 45 to 87 have hearing loss
  • Aging is the number one cause of hearing loss and the incidence of hearing loss is poised to climb dramatically as our population ages

You can get the right technology to make the audio portion of your meeting places better, so hearing impaired people can hear what is being said properly – accessible communication.

Legally, you don’t have a choice.

Equip your Organization with the Necessary Formats for Accessible Communication

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) recognizes the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario and aims to implement and enforce standards to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. This includes providing tools necessary for persons with hearing disabilities to be able to attend and/or participate when in an assembly area.

The 2012 International Building Code states, “Each assembly area where audile communications are integral to the use of the space shall have an assistive listening system.”

An assembly area is defined as any space where people gather, whether it’s a boardroom, a banquet hall, or a classroom.

When the AODA was passed its goal was to make Ontario a more accessible province to all people with disabilities by 2025. As part of this act every obligated organization will be required to provide accessible formats of communication to persons with disabilities upon request.

So what does this mean for your company?

First, you must determine by what date your company must be AODA compliant.

Affected Organization Compliance Dates
Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly January 1st, 2014
Designated public sector organizations with 50+ employees January 1st, 2015
Designated public sector organizations with 1-49 employees January 1st, 2016
Private and not-for-profit organizations with 50+ employees January 1st, 2016
Private and not-for-profit organizations with 1-49 employees January 1st, 2017

 

At this point the Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly must already be AODA compliant as well as designated public sector organizations with 50+ employees. As stated in the table above designated public sector organizations with 1-49 employees will be the next group that must get up to date with their accessibility provisions and lastly private and non-profit organizations.

Assistive Listening Systems or Devices help to reduce background noise and compensate for distance from the sound source and are specifically of great value to persons of varying degrees of hearing loss when present in a space of assembly, be it a government institution (i.e. courtroom) or an organization’s conference room.

ET Group offers the ListenRF, ListenIR, ListenLoop and ListenWiFi systems that provide the flexibility for any person to adapt to a wide range of meetings.

The ListenRF system is great for large and small boardrooms. It is on an FM frequency and allows anyone with a receiver tuned to that frequency within a certain distance to connect to the transmitter.

On the other hand the ListenIR system is most effective for closed spaces where private conversations are held such as courtrooms and private boardrooms. With the ListenIR system only receivers that are in the line of sight of the transmitter will connect so that no one outside the room with a receiver will be able to hear what is being said.

The ListenLoop is a great system for stadiums, schools, auditoriums, places of worship and other place where large groups of people gather. With the ListenLoop you create a virtual boundary where anyone with existing hearing aids that support T-Coil technology will be able to connect.

Lastly the ListenWiFi provides you with all the same benefits of the ListenRF system but it is more secure and can host more channels.

Having an Assistive Listening System may be the law but it is also the right thing to do. Make sure that anyone and everyone that comes to your assembly areas are given the opportunity to have the best experience possible.

Contact the ET Group today to find out which assistive listening system would be best for your organization.

Click the button below to check out the Assisted Listening options that ET Group has available and find out which system will work best for you.

Assisted Listening Systems

Collaboration is an Investment that has a Compound Return

Accelerating Workflow in the Justice Collaborative Ecosystem

In two of my recent blogs, I wrote about how the ecosystems of Healthcare and Higher Ed are being transformed by technology. The Healthcare example was about applying technology tools to creatively transform the way a specific part of healthcare works. In the Higher Ed example, new technologies are being applied in bits and pieces throughout the ecosystem, which will eventually transform how the Higher Education model will work.

These are both examples of an ecosystem that has been transformed to be more collaborative where timeframes are compressed and the richness of communication is greatly increased. One is a purposeful restructuring of part of an ecosystem; the other is an erosion and reformation of an ecosystem.

Technology is changing how all industries and the ecosystems that they are a part of, work. An organization can choose the degree to which they will embrace the purposeful evolution of their ecosystem. The organizations with the strongest embrace will lead the innovation of their industry. Modern day innovation is the domain of teams of highly collaborative people versus the great insight of an individual innovator

To accelerate collaboration in your organization, to purposefully restructure the “how”, use the 5 Guiding Principles for Accelerated Collaboration:

  1. Shift to “real time” communication
  2. Build “rich” communication experiences between people
  3. Target high ROI collaboration benefits
  4. Compress process timeframes
  5. Small teams

See this blog for details on the 5 Guiding Principles

Technology tools enable these five principles. Let’s look at how applying them to the Justice ecosystem can help transform it.

The Justice Collaborative Ecosystem

The Justice ecosystem is a complex system that has evolved over hundreds of years hand-in-hand with the development of society itself. It is the “Law & Order” part of our society.  Is it possible to apply new communications tools to realize drastic economic benefits?

From the “5 Principles” blog, there are 3 broad categories for improving communication:

  1. Training
  2. Process improvement
  3. Technology – better communications tools

All three categories can make communication better, but only technology can transcend its category and affect the other two categories by enabling better processes and more cost effective training. This is especially true in more traditional organizations where the processes are hardened and training is already well ingrained into the culture of the organization

Depositphotos_52994355_mThe Justice system is a traditional ecosystem with hardened processes (laws are about as hardened a process as you can get) and well established training initiatives.

The Justice ecosystem, in a simplified view, has four different components to it: Judicial, Law enforcement, Legal and Corrections.

In this ecosystem of organizations, the opportunity to make communication better lies in the application of technology, precisely because the processes are hardened and the training is well ingrained into the current culture.

With this backdrop of concepts let’s see how the three categories of ROI – Operational Savings, Productivity Improvements, and Strategic Transformation – can be applied to the Justice Ecosystem, to transform it with collaborative technology and compound the initial ROI business case.

Remand Appearances

Remanded inmates are individuals who do not qualify for bail and who instead are being held in pre-detention facilities, waiting to have their trial. When they are required to appear in front of a judge it is called a Remand Appearance. Remand Appearances require a lot of people and activity to hold. Accused individuals typically need to spend a whole day being moved from the detention facility to the courtroom and then back. This requires accompanying guards (at least 2, sometimes up to 4), specialized vehicles for transport, all the costs of being away from the facility for the day – food, gas, etc, facilities at the courthouse to hold the prisoners until it is time for their hearing, and the risk of moving prisoners around is inherent in the undertaking.

Operational Savings

The lowest hanging fruit in any ecosystem are operational savings. Operational savings are when you either stop doing something you used to do, or do it differently in a way that allows you get the same result but with less cost.

This chart from Statistics Canada shows that Remand Custody has increased significantly in Canada since 2000:

remand custody

Applying video conferencing technology to facilitate Remand Appearances is a perfect example of how substantial cost can be taken out of the ecosystem, maintaining the same end result.

The Operational Savings = Cost avoided / Cost of video conferencing technology

I couldn’t find actual costs for all the components involved, but here is an estimate of the cost that could be avoided.

Costs Avoided
1)    Guards (avg of 3) for a day = 3 x 8 hours x Burdened hourly rate of Guards = 3 x 8 x $50 = $1,200 day
2)    Cost of transportation – specialized vehicle + expenses = $750 / day
3)    Facilities requirements to handle prisoners in courthouse = $300/day

So one Remand appearance is probably costing taxpayers about $2,000. Multiplied by the number of appearances in a year that could be delivered via technology ~ 14,000 x $2,000 = $28,000,000 / year. Over a 10-year period, that is $280,000,000. Even if my estimate for the cost of one Remand Appearance is high by 50% there is still significant opportunity to realize operational savings.

Estimating the cost of the technology is difficult to do in this blog, because there are a lot of variables, but investing in the infrastructure required to facilitate these hearings would be significantly less than the 10-year cost of doing it without technology. One of the key investments in this process is the technology in the courtroom that allows the Remand Appearances to be conducted remotely.

In any organizational ecosystem there are always rooms where people from different parts of the ecosystem come together to meet. In the judicial system, these are the courtrooms in the various courthouses across the country.

A courtroom is where the 4 different constituents (Judicial, Legal, Law Enforcement and Corrections) come together to conduct their trials and is the focal point for moving the judicial process forward. To enable new communications tools to change the processes, the courtrooms must be equipped with the technology required to conduct the electronic communication, which are rich experiences – just like being there. To get the maximum benefit from the courtroom technology investment the 5 Principles referenced above must be used as a guide.

Productivity Improvements

Courtrooms that have been enabled in this way can now be much more productive in processing the courtroom workflow – the proceedings.   A Judge in court can hold Remand Appearances sequentially, connecting with prisoners who appear, via video, from various correctional facilities – one after another. The physical scheduling and logistics that used to be a key component of the old way of doing it, suddenly becomes vastly simpler and less costly.

The simplified scheduling and logistics of Remand Appearances through the use of video conferencing technology would also increase the processing of Remand Appearances in the system. The beneficial results of doing this:

  • Less facilities required for Remand prisoners (see graph earlier) – less time required in Remand facilities
  • Greater use of Judge’s time, as well as other court personnel, and their ability to handle cases (therefore less Judges and court personnel are required)
  • Less backlog of cases to be heard

Clearly these productivity improvements, which were not planned for as part of the operational savings business case, would likely add even more financial benefits to the business case. Often, the productivity benefits that are realized in an ecosystem will quickly out weigh the operational savings provided.

Courtroom Technology

Law Flat IconsThe courtroom technology must be designed and deployed in a way that is both powerful in capability and is easy to use. People in the courtroom and remote participants must be able to see and hear as if they were all in the courtroom.

Communication technology in the courtroom, which provides a rich experience and is easy to use with no set up required, will greatly accelerate the velocity of workflow (collaboration) in the courtroom.

When the capabilities of the technology are not fully appreciated, people will try to cut corners to save money. But if cutbacks compromise the experience or slows down the velocity of workflow, you are simply transferring the cost saved up front, onto the users of the system for the lifetime of the use of the technology. And when the benefits are significant, up front cost savings, which compromise the velocity of workflow or the richness of experience, are a bad idea.

Why? Because they can inhibit you from realizing all the potential benefits. Saving money in implementation transfers the costs to ongoing operations, which will far outweigh any upfront saved dollars. This does not mean you should spend as much money as possible on your technology investment. A prudent courtroom design that meets the following criteria will work:

  1. Easily replicable: A standard technology platform that can be deployed at the Town, City, Province/State, or Country level. It must be able to be deployed en masse
  2. BYOD (bring your own device) Support: It must be ready to allow connection to any laptop or mobile device via analog or digital connection
  3. Digital Audio: It must support digital audio, have RF immune microphones, a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) with tuned audio signals for the purpose of clean, intelligible audio court recordings
  4. User Adoption: It is critical that the individual user, which could be a different person each day or each hour, have the ability to operate the court technology to its greatest potential.  The technology should be a part of the room and not require set up.

Once the initial building blocks of the technology are in place, there are a number of places it can expand to further accelerate the velocity of collaboration in the ecosystem.

The opportunity for greater productivity in the Justice Ecosystem can be found in many other processes. Many jurisdictions have learned that leveraging video can reduce — or eliminate — many of the hidden delays and costs of the Justice system associated with logistics such as travel time for a variety of participants including witnesses, interpreters, attorneys and inmates. In an ecosystem where everyone wants to talk to the inmate (prosecutors, probation officers, public defenders, Judges, etc.) easier access via video can accelerate workflow.

  • Judges can hold sessions across a wide variety of locations one after the other all from the courtroom or chambers
  • Cases get processed faster – no delay waiting for critical mass of cases in remote locations
  • Bail hearings can be enabled by video
  • Plea bargains can be implemented much faster (don’t need a 2 hour process to get into the jail to see prisoner), which means less time in jail for visitors, which means less requirement for facilities
  • Video testimony – Expert witness (can greatly reduce cost),
  • Vulnerable witness – appearing in court is dangerous, disrupting and disturbing but their testimony can be critical, video makes it easier
  • Interpreters – can handle multiple sessions just minutes apart in different locations. Therefore overall need goes down because of the tremendous compression of time.
  • Telemedicine in prisons
  • Visitation

An example of what I am talking about is LA County, which has enabled video conversations with inmates. An average of 2,500 conversations per month has translated into savings of $3.7 million in time and cost per year.

Making the ecosystem more productive has tremendous benefits but the biggest payoff comes when the ecosystem takes the next step of capturing strategic ROI further compounding the collaborative investment.

Strategic Transformation

As the new communications infrastructure and endpoints are put in place, the Justice ecosystem is being unintentionally transformed with far greater capability than was initially envisioned. The people who are using the new communications tools will start to apply the same tools to situations that were never envisioned at the start of the ecosystem’s transformation.

Let’s look at three real life examples of strategic transformation in the Justice ecosystem:

1) International Trials

With the globalization of business, there are now occasions where the globalization of court communications could greatly help the operation and productivity of trials that happen where multiple countries are involved. Our company, ET Group, facilitated a trial like this where two courtrooms, in two different countries were in a single combined session, at exactly the same time. I will write a blog with the details in the near future, but the benefits were tremendous.

  • Air travel was substantially reduced
  • Unproductive lawyer’s time for all that travel was eliminated
  • The proceedings were able to progress faster because both courtrooms in both countries were connected to each other in real time.

One court session brought together two different jurisdictions simultaneously.

Very powerful!

ThinkstockPhotos-176810772

2) Using VMRs (Virtual Meeting Rooms)

I wrote a recent blog about “The Rise of the Virtual Meeting Room”. The use of VMRs in a collaborative ecosystem typically happens at a later stage in the development of the ecosystem. VMRs are very powerful because they can:

  1. Drastically reduce costs
  2. Drastically accelerate the workflow (the velocity of collaboration) of both existing processes and re-engineered processes

In the Justice ecosystem a perfect example of using VMRs would be to allow the general public to pay their traffic tickets with a hearing in a VMR. When you use a VMR you don’t need a courtroom (massive cost savings), and you allow a person who received the traffic ticket to call into the VMR for their trial. The judge, the officer, the lawyer (if required) and the defendant would all be participants in the VMR. The travel savings for all involved would be huge.

I know that if I get a ticket, I have to seriously consider whether I want to go to all the trouble of fighting it versus just paying the fine. It is easily a half-day of my time, during business hours to go to court. If not for the significant implications on my insurance, I would elect to just pay the ticket because it would be cheaper to do that than to take the time to make an appearance in court.

If I could just dial into a VMR from my browser instead of going to traffic court that would be a huge benefit for me.

The Healthcare system is probably the most evolved in terms of using the VMR to change its processes and do things in new ways. Here is a blog that provides an example of how Healthcare is doing that.

Using VMRs as described in the Traffic Ticket scenario above would also require some software to be written that would mimic the workflow of the traffic court. People would need to check in online, be held in a queue waiting to see the judge in the VMR with the other participants. But this extra expense is minimal compared to what could be saved through the strategic use of VMRs within the Justice collaborative ecosystem.

3) Collaborative Portals

With the technology infrastructure in place, new things can be implemented that were not possible before. With some additional software, recordings of the courtroom proceedings can now be captured in a way that was not previously possible. Video and audio streams can be recorded simultaneously from the different cameras and microphones in the courtroom and can be captured as the record of the court.   These court records can be:

  • Instantly archived in the courtroom, with two layers of back-up (courthouse and datacenter)
  • Instantly retrieved whenever required by authorized personnel
  • Tran scripted instantly
  • Distributed with different pieces redacted in the recording, depending on who needs to review the record
  • Used as evidence in a court of law and have the veracity to stand up to any challenges
  • Be used in an online secure portal for authorized personnel to collaborate by reviewing and commenting on the record

Extending the technology capabilities leverages the initial investment in technology already in place and further accelerates the velocity of collaboration in the Justice ecosystem – a compounding of the collaborative investment.

There are more than just these three strategic transformation examples which will have further impact on the business case for investment in a new collaborative technology platform. Being able to continue to conduct business in the face of a SARS like crisis using VMRs is another example.

Conclusion

The natural evolution of a collaborative ecosystem is to capture operational savings first, then to realize productivity gains as a by product through the extension of the technology to new processes; and finally, hit the home runs through the strategic transformation of the ecosystem.

It is a journey, and it is hard to envision the final destination other than to know that when the transformation is complete, your ecosystem will perform 2 to 6 times better than when the journey began.

It takes considerable fortitude by those steering the ecosystem to make the investment without truly understanding how the ecosystem will function when the collaborative technology is fully enabled. They must resist the temptation to cut corners and compromise on the building of the platform that will become the foundation for transformation.

The first steps you take in transforming your ecosystem will be the springboard to the future of becoming a highly enabled collaborative organization. Take strong, well thought out steps and don’t compromise.

 

Is Higher Education having a Kodak Moment?

Kodak did not embrace the changing marketplace, and they became a “Dead Company Walking” until they ultimately went into bankruptcy. Higher Ed’s current industry state is similar to Kodak’s situation at the dawn of digital picture technology. Higher Ed is at the inflection point of radical change.