Video Transforms Workplace by Allowing You to Be in Two Places At Once: Polycom

How much impact can video collaboration tools make; from employee happiness, saving lives, providing better education, and pollution standpoint? Chris Thorson, Senior Director, Polycom, tells us more in conversation with Sarabjeet Kaur. Excerpts:

Chris Thorson, Senior Director, Polycom

BW CIO: How are collaboration tools changing the dynamics of the traditional workplace?

Chris Thorson: Collaboration tools have changed the workplace in a number of ways. It has changed where we work, how we work and even when we work; it has offered us flexibility. During my stay here in India, I have noticed that traveling from place to place in a car or public transport can take quite a while to get to the destination. The technology that we deliver in allows you to get to the place you need to be instantly even when you cannot reach there physically. It can save so much time throughout the day. That is one of the reasons why people are deploying collaboration technologies and video in particular.

Travel savings is one of the important things but the most important things where the collaboration technology impacts is efficiency and productivity of employees, and better decision making. This directly impacts the businesses. Businesses in India are using this and it is not a corner case technology; it is becoming a mainstream technology.

This technology is changing the workplace itself. Historically, video was reserved for the board rooms and the executives or was exclusive to small set of users. They deployed only one or two rooms for it. This suggests that the employees do not get all the benefits which later on result into improved productivity, better creativity and collaboration.

At present, enterprises are moving towards small conference rooms called huddle rooms where people can deploy the technology instead of simply putting a single conference phone at their ends. Most conference rooms already have conference devices we have video enabled them at very cost effective prices. Now they can deploy a video system at very economical cost which is changing the physical layout. Instead for giving people offices, there are these shared communal huddle rooms. Even builders are building office spaces differently knowing that businesses are going to have big teams yet packed in very tightly.

BW CIO: Can video collaboration technology really prove to be effective in improving teamwork while employees are based at different locations?

Chris Thorson: So many mundane tasks today are getting automated through technology and video really impacts the way people function. Polycom as a company is all about human to human connections so we want to replicate having face-to-face conversations as much as we can through our video solutions. We have products like Polycom Acoustic Fence which does not reduce all the background sounds but it simply filters out and completely removes any unwanted ambient sound on audio calls.  There is also noise block technology where our systems recognize any non-human speech and automatically mute that particular sound.

For video, we have other innovations to improve the user experience like facial recognition, tracking and framing. We have devised Polycom Eagle Eye Director which tracks the user’s movement and moves according by performing a facial recognition. This provides a natural control and human experience. One of our mantras of development is that the best User Experience is no UI. Because we want to do all of these things in the background without you having to do the work.

BW CIO: Is the Indian government's Digital India program contributing to the growth of the collaboration technology in the country? How is Polycom assisting the Digital India initiative?

Chris Thorson: It is great that infrastructure is being put in place. As it is not just about connecting businesses anymore but it is also about saving lives, providing better education, giving them the same access no matter where they are located. It does not even matter if you do not have special equipment or technology at your end as long as the government is able to look at deploying Polycom infrastructure with them. Then you can extend it very easily with a web browser or a desktop application to those people who do not have the same access.

In court system where you have got prisoners and they are required to be present for a hearing in front of the judge, they do not have to actually travel from city to city because there is security concern. Bringing them in a bus costs money and time; it also requires to coordinate with everybody. But now, they can be incarcerated, be in a prison and have an appointment to sit in front of the camera. They can be in front of the judge just as they would have sat right in front to them at the courtroom. It saves a lot of time and money. These types of solutions suggest that video can benefit the Digital India initiative and hopefully make things more efficient and productive.

We also work very closely with NIC (National Informatics Centre) and have huge deployment for them. They use video solutions for multiple functions for the government. 

BW CIO: How can Polycom's solution prove to be viable for healthcare in rural areas?

Chris Thorson: The healthcare organizations in India deploy equipment at all the central locations. They also have satellite offices or clinics for healthcare that are located in regions so that patients can go in their regional clinic and get connected to the doctors. Now with video technology and enough people having tablets, laptops and enough broadband access at home, a doctor can schedule an appointment with the patient and perform a quick 10 minutes check-up and understand what concerns the patient might have. This expedites the process not only for diagnosis and treatment at the front end but at the backend for follow-ups as well.

Also, in healthcare space, Polycom is deploying solutions for Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGI). SGPGI has now become able to connect doctors, patients and clinics where a local doctor does not come handy and one needs to talk to a specialist. Sometimes it is not possible for patients to travel because it is so difficult to travel for them across country.

BW CIO: What solutions does Polycom provide for virtual interactive learning?

Chris Thorson: We support many different verticals like healthcare, manufacturing, government, and also education. In education, XLRI - Xavier School of Management is using our video solutions for training for distance learning where professors are at one location and students are at other. This enables to reach more students with experts who reside only in a particular location. These experts can be taken across the country online. It is in support of the Digital India initiative as it connects the rural communities and provides them the same access as the folks in the city.

Tags assigned to this article:
video conferencing digital india virtual education


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