Archive for March, 2017

Telemedicine, or How Video Conferencing is Transforming Health care

March 31st, 2017

The new generation of video conferencing servers like R-HUB`s suite TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) and Cisco WebEx assures doctors and patients those minimum standards of affordability, reliability and security that are necessary to implement telemedicine services on a wide scale. This could lead to a disruptive revolution in health care very soon.

Telemedicine is nothing new. It was originally ideated to help patients who were located in remote places (typically in the countryside) with shortage of medical professionals. However, its usage was to change fast. Since today’s patients are unwilling to waste their time in the waiting room of the doctor, telemedicine is increasingly being used as a tool for convenient medical care, although its original purpose has not lost.

This is not the only new use of this technology. The fast tech advances of these years have been continually creating new opportunities for telemedicine.  For example, video conferencing has made it possible to get medical or psychiatric help from the best doctors in the world with just a click. For medical teams, it means a possibility to replicate difficult operations or treatments under the remote supervision of the doctors that discovered or invented them. The combination of video conferencing with virtual reality and 3D printers could impact traditional medicine even more disruptively by adding the possibility to get and print the necessary tools for surgery from remote, and have local staff trained remotely by distant experts.

Another big change is connected with the transformation of some tasks that are less flamboyant and more down-to-heart than great surgery, as distant patient vital parameter monitoring. The combination of new tech devices and video conferencing could allow hospitals without beds. Patients would stay home, and they would be monitored and treated by a nurse under supervision of a remote staff that link up with them through phone, email, and video conferences.

A similar facility already exists. It is located near Saint Luis, and it provides remote support for 38 smaller hospitals scattered in an area from North Carolina to Oklahoma that do not have a physician on-site 24 hours. Results: 30% fewer deaths and 35% decrease in patients’ length of stay. In conclusion, telemedicine increases efficiency and efficacy.

Latest statistics confirm telemedicine growth. Virtual doctor visits climbed up from 1 million in 2015 to 1.2 million in 2016 and 75% of US hospitals offer their patients telemedicine programs. The number of Americans that received medical care remotely was over 15 million in 2016, a number that is supposed to grow of 30% this year.

What is it behind the growth of telemedicine?  The answer is the fast development of teleconferencing technology, which has become so inexpensive and easy-to-use that almost everybody can afford the price of it. For example, the smallest R-HUB`s video conferencing server costs 995$ only.  Being a plug and play device, it does not require any specific IT competence, and its technology conforms to the strictest legal standards about privacy and data security.

Naturally, telemedicine has also its dark side that is quality loss.  Distance visits do not work well for some diseases, for example skin problems, and a distant, superficial visit with a doctor never seen before has been regarded as a way of trading quality for convenience by most critics of this new technology.  In conclusion, while it is true that telemedicine allows facilities to decrease costs, it is also true that this could lead to a poorer quality of medical services and more fragmentation in health care. But in such case, both patients and doctors will lose out.

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Video Conferencing: Is Virtual Reality going to bring about a new Technological Revolution?

March 27th, 2017

For video conferencing, a start trek-like world with holograms, real-life type interaction and virtual environments where guests have the impression to physically touch objects is just around the corner, as most necessary technologies are available right by now.

I was very surprised to get a phone call through Facebook some days ago, as I expected that this service was not available in Italy. My friend said, in big surprise: “You didn’t use it? I have been placing calls through Facebook since one year at least, and it is free”. I am an old thing, I thought. But conferencing technology has been developing very fast in the last few years, and it is difficult to keep up with it.

In less than a decade, we have moved from the old Skype chats to R-HUB`s TurboMeeting servers (http://www.rhubcom.com) , some plug-and-play devices for virtual conferences that are so small and silent that can be placed on clients’ desks.  But upcoming tech innovations are going to create a scenario even more disruptive in the next few years.  Millennials, virtual reality and new social usages of web conferencing are the three forces that will triggera new technology revolution that will lead to a world very similar to Asimov’s romances.

There are already available some kinds of devices, like HoloLens, that combine virtual and augmented reality, in order to make clients experience the sensation of being in a real room while having a meeting. In this way, the issue of the feeling of separation of the traditional video conferencing is addressed. Plus, holograms allow users to virtually manipulate objects, at the point that the differences between real and virtual meetings become so thin that it will be difficult to tell them apart.

The fuel to commercially propel this new tech revolution is millennials. According to a survey on the preferences of young workers by Redshift Research, 87 per cent of interviewed individuals would prefer to work for organizations equipped with video conferencing, and 75% say they won’t settle for low quality.

What is there behind these data?  Simply, millennials consider video conferencing like a kind of default tool to use in everyday activities.  The evidence is given by another study by PGI, (https://www.pgi.com/blog/2014/07/7-statistics-video-conferencing/) according to which 66% of candidates prefer video interviews, no matter the distance; In the Redshift Research, 21% would like to have pop ups drilling information about the participants from LinkedIn during a conference, and 54% would welcome the possibility of customizing their experience with social media sharing tools. To tell it in other words, video conferencing is going to be used for more than the traditional virtual meetings.

In conclusion, video conferencing is going to change deeply in the next future both in terms of technologies and kinds of usages of the medium. This revolution will spread from workplaces to the whole society and have millennials as key players.

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Distance Learning: 3 Major Challenges that Web Conferencing vendors have to face immediately

March 26th, 2017

Privacy concerns, mobile compatibility and full integration with the existing  equipment are three major challenges that producers have to take to craft specialized solutions for  educational institutions and continue growing in this segment of the web conferencing market.

Education is still an under-represented segment of the market of web conferencing, according to 2016 Contact North’s report (https://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/exploring-future-education/web-conferencing), but its potentiality of growth is high. According to Frost & Sullivan’s 2016 report, it is just from education, health care, manufacturing and retail that the foreseen 8.4% web conferencing market expansion of 2020 should come from. Yet, distance learning shows some critical issues that producers must take into due consideration, as they heavily impact on the decisions of educational institutions on this matter.

Privacy has always been an important issue for universities and colleges.  It is not a matter of obscure quibbles imposed by a weird legislation; behind, there are real concerns of safeguarding the academic freedom, and the desire to provide students with a seamless learning environment. For this reason, the more secure a web conferencing product is, the better it is.

This explains the reasons why on-premise server based solutions are preferred by educational institutions. R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) and Cisco’s WebEx are two example of this kind of products. They both offer a high level of security, integration and compatibility with tablets and mobiles. The difference is price. R-HUB is able to sell  their TurboMeeting servers  at a lower price than Cisco.

Mobile compatibility is crucial, as millennials learn using tablets even earlier than walking.  So, it is not surprising to discover that many students have relegated the old pc case tower to the museum and do everything by typing on the small screen of an iPhone 6. So, that much is true, designers of web conferencing products for education must pay particularly attention to create flexible, adaptable UI that works well even on these small devices.

Last but not least, integration with existing learning technologies is important, as educational institutions have already massively invested on educational equipment in the last few years. So, they prefer agile solutions that can be easily combined with the equipment they have to unified (but not-flexible) communication suites (UC). On the other hand, there aren’t yet available UC on the market that specifically target the needs of educational institutions.

In conclusion, educational institutions pose some specific challenges to vendors that shall be addressed in the near future.  On-premise server based solutions are still the most suitable for the segment, as they are able to combine privacy safeguard with flexibility, integration and mobile compatibility.

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Web Conferencing services for law firms: Better Private Clouding or On-Premise Servers?

March 21st, 2017

For law firms, private clouding for web conferencing is a trendy and tempting solution, as it merges scalability and multi-tenancy with high levels of security and the possibility of keeping direct control over one’s own data. But is private clouding really cost-effective compared with on-premise server based solutions? The answer is: “It depends on the provider”.

After the affair of Panama papers, the need of transmitting and storing data in a way that assures law firms the highest level of security has become more urgent than ever.  This involves directly web conferencing, as the quantity of sensitive data that are transmitted through virtual conferences and calls is huge, and the trend is on the increase (Frost & Sullivan’s 2016 report on web conferencing market).

Presently, the two technical solutions that offer the best in terms of security are on-premise server based services, like R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) , and private cloud   conferencing services, like OmniJoin (http://brothercloud.com) . Some big IT industries like Cisco are able to offer both technologies (http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/conferencing/web-conferencing/index.html).

What makes the difference between these two technologies? The level of security is high in either case. What changes is their prices and, with specific reference with OmniJoin, their performances: this service is available in the US only and, therefore, it cannot support big law firms that work at a global scale.

Coming to outline the features of TurboMeeting servers, we must say that they are real plug-and-play machines that offer a highly integrated, all-in-one solution for web conferencing that embodies software, hardware, IT maintenance and upgrading. In other words, TurboMeeting replies the kind of service that it is possible to get from private clouding. It is highly scalable,thanks to its flat license policy; but the most cloud-like feature it has is that TurboMeeting has a fixed and predictable cost, a virtue that has been always much appreciated by managers.

There is need of neither devoted rooms and server cabinets, as R-HUB`s web conferencing servers are small and very silent devices that can be put on the shelf of a bookstore, nor  IT teams,  as upgrading is performed directly by R-HUB`s technicians  from remote. An interesting feature of TurboMeeting suite is the huge variety of services that its servers support. They go from HD audio and video conferencing to teleconference and remote pcs access and support. Prices start from $995.

The alternative to TurboMeeting is Cisco’s WebEx meetings servers, a private cloud based, cost-effective and behind-the-firewall solution that complies with the highest standards of security. Like TurboMeeting, it combines audio, video and web conferencing in a single solution and it is necessary to bring some hardware inside the firm (typically an edge server).  An important difference is that WebEx servers do not include remote pc support/access.

While the performances of Cisco’s WebEx meetings servers and R-HUB`s TurboMeeting servers are more or less similar, the difference lays in the price. Although Cisco does not publish the prices of its servers, it is not difficult to guess that they must be higher than TurboMeeting, as Cisco’s on-line conferencing services are sold at $69 per month now. However, Cisco’s advantage on R-HUB could be its longer experience and the global coverage that reaches even China.

In conclusion, private cloud based and on-premise server based web conferencing solutions offer, more or less, the same. Price is often the only distinguishing feature. So, it can be a good rationale to make a choice.

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Web Conferencing: Some few good reasons to keep away from Cloud-based Solutions

March 19th, 2017

Clouds – with their sequel of weird acronyms like SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, to finish with the DaaS –have become the new mantra of web conferencing industry. But are cloud-based solutions always helpful? Do not take the answer for granted. Let’s see some few issues connected with the cloud technology that could lead you to opt for an on-premise server based solution eventually.

Last year, I met a web designer in a co-working place that utilized some cloud-based web conferencing services to communicate with its customers.  I discovered that he often had to cope with server hangouts, overloaded bandwidth, poor quality of connections, and other technological hitches. It depended in part from the local infrastructure of the co-working place, in part from the remote networks from which the web conferencing services that he were using were distributed. I realized abruptly that even cutting-edge technologies have their flaws, and that it is important to be able to distinguish between illusions and delusions, when the time comes to make one’s own choice.

For example, cloud based services have some hidden costs that fatally come out when you least expect it. A big problem is connected with the power of your connection: especially HD video conferences stream a lot of data and consume big quantities of bandwidth. So, there is no point in getting connected to the most powerful cloud-based web conferencing service, when you live in a rural area or in a place where the pipe that connects your office to the cloud is narrow.  And if you need to equip a remoted ranch or farm with a fast internet connection in order to enjoy the advantage of cloud-based services, you could discover that a traditional on-premise server -based conference call service costs less and works as well.

One of the main problems of providers of cloud-based web conferencing services is the high cost of the outbound bandwidth from cloud servers. They often sneakily translate this cost upon their customers, by setting specific limitations to the use of their services in combination  with  the obligation to subscribe a business plan( that is far from being inexpensive)  on those who wish to enjoy the full  range of tools and features  of the product.

So, if you compare the offers of different providers of web conferencing services, you will find out that only basic plans are cheap, and that when the time comes to get something more powerful and reliable, it is necessary to pull out the money from the wallet and buy a business or premium plan. And if you compare the business plans that cloud-based web conferencing service providers offer with on-premise based web conferencing solutions , like R-HUB`s TurboMeeting (http://www.rhubcom.com) , you will immediately find out that the latter not only cost less, but it also offers much more in terms of security, reliability and easiness of implementation.

In conclusion, do not take for granted that a cloud-based web conferencing solution is automatically fit for your needs and makes you save money. Mantras work in Tibet, not on the global market, where it is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of every single decision.

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