Sunday, June 29, 2008

Videoconferencing is Eco-Friendly, Stress Relieving and Is a Real Solution for Pain at the Pump ... In a Word, Vidoeconferencing is Transformative

The Los Angeles Times published a very compelling front page feature article yesterday titled "Envisioning a World of $200-a-barrel Oil." "[W]ith oil closing above $140 a barrel Friday, more experts are taking those predictions [of $200 a barrel of oil] seriously -- and shuddering at the inflation-fueled chaos that $200-a-barrel crude could bring. They foresee fundamental shifts in the way we work, where we live and how we spend our free time."

In the words of the LA Times:

"Dramatically higher transportation costs would usher in an era of virtual mobility, or zero mobility, for many workers.'We're seeing companies go to four-day workweeks, place increased emphasis on working at home, show bigger interest in setting up satellite offices -- anything that gets commute times down and gets people off the road,' said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in San Jose. Videoconferencing, touted as "the next big thing" for years, would finally have its day, thanks to improved technology and a desperation to cut corporate travel budgets. Telecommuting, or working from home, is easier than ever because of the spread of high-speed Internet access ..."
Job placement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a new report, echoes these predictions -- (1) the end of business travel and the rise of videoconferencing; (2) 4-day workweeks; (3) the proliferation of smaller distributed offices (rather than the historic massive central offices); and (4) fewer office cubicles and more open spaces to accommodate more transient workers.
Now I know that my company, SightSpeed, has not done enough to tout the natural and compelling travel-reducing (and very real cost savings) benefits of our services. Videoconferencing -- so long as it is high quality, easy to use, and available to everyone either free or low cost -- is a real solution to pain at the pump. Videoconferencing is a way for workers to collaborate effectively, even when they are not in the physical central office. In other words, videoconferencing opens the possibilities of telecommuting as a real option for virtually everyone and virtually every business -- if not all the time, at least some of the time.
Videoconferencing reduces the need to commute into the office everyday -- this means real significant savings to workers. Videoconferencing reduces the need to travel by air as frequently as before because effective meetings can be held this way -- this means real savings to companies, big and small. And, of course, by doing these things, videoconferencing reduces the stress associated with both commuting and air travel (long security lines, delayed flights, packed airplanes) -- and, videoconferencing, accordingly, also frees up time (time to spend with your families, friends, at the gym, reading a good book, or just plain sleeping longer!) These are not speculative benefits -- these are real. I myself work primarily remotely -- running my Berkeley-based company from San Diego --via SightSpeed videoconferencing, and have been doing this going on three years. Look ma -- no commutes! (I go upstairs to my home office); less air travel (I can effectively collaborate using videoconferencing).
And, of course, there are the very real eco-friendly aspects of what we do -- think of SightSpeed and videoconferencing as a clean-tech company and solution. Videoconferencing -- by doing the things noted above -- gives each of us (repeat EACH OF US!) an opportunity to do something very tangible to reduce our carbon footprint and our overall dependence on oil and fossil fuels.
The key, as noted above, is for the videoconferencing solution to be drop dead easy to use, high quality, and available and affordable for all.
"SightSpeed Business" is just that -- less than $20 per month (much cheaper than that for several seats and annual subscriptions; and we even have a free version that can be used effectively by many workers). And, all you need is a webcam (virtually all notebooks now ship with built-in webcams) and a broadband connection. That's it -- no separate hardware needed, no separate infrastructure. And, SightSpeed is fully portable -- you can use it anywhere you take your laptop (Starbucks is a great place).
Traditional videoconferencing, of course, fails this critical test and is not an option. High priced hardware-based systems offered by the "big guys" (Cisco, Tandberg, Polycom) cost tens of thousands of dollars or much more; they require separate expensive infrastructure; they require a separate IT support team for use; they collect dust in large conference rooms from non-use; and they are available to only a few -- not for the many.
With all going on, high quality and cost effective videoconferencing is here and now for every business and every worker. You only need to know where to look.
I urge you to try it at -- and transform your life and your business in ways that you must see to believe.

This is not fiction ... this is here and now.