Freie Universitaet Berlin collaborates with partners worldwide, and leverages convergent network infrastructures and innovative communications solutions from T-Systems.
As a greeting, Vasco Tonack smiles friendly into the camera, which captures the entire conference room. As Vasco Tonack begins to speak this morning, the camera moves directly towards him. "The cameras capture the speakers' audio streams and assign them to the people in the room using face recognition," says the project manager of Unified Communication at the University data center of Freie Universität Berlin (FU Berlin). The crossfading takes place completely automatically, without anyone having to press a button. And when people in the room talk in a confused manner, the camera switches to the long shot.
More than three years ago, the FU Berlin introduced the new video conferencing system. Since then, university researchers have been exchanging information with scientists from all over the world via web and video conferencing. Business trips would not only be much more expensive, they would also cost a lot of time and pollute the environment. The technology is reliable and, according to the FU Berlin, works in nine out of ten cases. Thanks to the highest audio and picture quality, a natural impression is created, says Vasco Tonack. The reason: Instead of being placed on the table, the microphone is placed on the ceiling and reproduces a clear speech image. This gives you the feeling that the person you are talking to is sitting at the table. "The better the quality is, and if, for example, you automatically zoom in on the speaker thanks to SpeakerTrack, eye contact is made, the ultra-high resolution camera lets the skin color of the person you are talking to appear natural, the more natural the audio sounds, the better the user feedback," says Torsten Prill, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Freie Universität Berlin.
Companies could save billions
According to a recent study (GER) by the Institute of the German Economy (IW), fax as a means of communication is even more widespread among German companies than Skype and the like, but the potential for video conferences and other digital communication channels is enormous:
More than eight billion euros a year could be saved for companies in this way – for example for travel expenses. In 2016, the economy spent almost 52 billion euros on national and international business trips. According to the IW, 16 percent of these trips can be replaced by electronic communication.
Study: Motivated and committed thanks to web conferencing
A further study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO) showed that video conferencing is also worthwhile for other reasons. According to the study, participants discuss in video conferences much longer and more extensively than in traditional telephone conferences. The reason: Team members feel much better involved in the decision, are significantly more satisfied and more committed to the result. 70 percent of the study participants stated that they were more motivated and committed if they could see their team members on the screen. Far more than half of the participants think it is important that documents can be edited together. According to the study, the working atmosphere is also improving: Three out of four participants said that communication became more direct and personal through conference technology.
Freie Universität Berlin, on the other hand, is already one step ahead in this respect: Not only do researchers use the video conferencing system to exchange information with colleagues from São Paulo in Brazil or Tel Aviv in Israel – students also benefit from the technology. "In the meantime, students and doctoral students are even defending master's or doctoral theses via video conferencing because the examiner cannot be on site or students return to their home country after their studies in Berlin," says Vasco Tonack.
"The need for video conferences is huge," says Vasco Tonack. "We had one video conference a month back then, today we have several a day.
The goal is clear: The number of rooms at the university with the corresponding technology will soon be tripled and increased from the current two to six.
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