Virginia adds data conferencing

Virginia has added visual and data capabilities to its statewide conferencing

offerings, changes that state information technology executives expect will

boost an already strong demand for conferencing services.

More than 21 million traffic minutes were booked via the system in the

past fiscal year, compared to just fewer than 19 million minutes in the

previous year.

"We've seen a growth in demand for conferencing in just about every

one of the nearly 20 years we've had it available," said Anne Hardwick,

manager of telemedia operations at the Virginia Department of Information

Technology. "We are hoping the visual and data capabilities will provide

a more complete offering for those kinds of complex conferences where the

need to display information is a major requirement."

Voice is still the major driver of conferencing, she said, so such things

as an "always on" function where people can pick up a phone and be automatically

connected to a particular conference, and the availability of operator assistance,

will be perennial features of conferencing systems. But the evolving world

of data and Microsoft Corp. PowerPoint documents are forcing additional

needs.

"We're hoping that by adding data conferencing, we'll eventually see

things such as true data collaboration," Hardwick said.

Spectel was chosen as the single vendor for the conferencing upgrade.

The company's integrated system offers "native" solutions for voice, data

and Web conferencing all developed by Spectel, rather than a combination

of different vendor solutions. The company claims that structure provides

for a more cohesive package of interacting features than would be possible

otherwise.

The Web conferencing feature, which allows for call scheduling and the

managing of conferences online, should be an attractive feature, according

to Rebecca Tarantino, Spectel's director of global marketing. It provides

for better control and security, she said, as well as boosting the level

of interactivity possible during a conference session.

However, that Web capability has only been seen in demonstrations, Hardwick

said, and demand has still to be proven in actual use.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be

reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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