Time and money are valuable resources that are limited at most universities today. That's why researchers at Freie Universität Berlin have cut back on business travel and now rely on videoconferences to keep costs low.
Modern IT shortens distances: Researchers at Freie Universität Berlin share information with their colleagues around the globe via videoconferencing.
The distance separating Berlin from New Delhi is about 5,779 kilometers. In other words, it represents ten hours in flight, some serious jet lag and enormous costs. Thus, even short meetings held to discuss key project findings involve a high degree of organization and expense. "Being a leading university at international level means that networking and maintaining contacts with other organizations and education institutions – both in Germany and in foreign countries – are vital to our overall research," says Torsten Prill, Head of the Data Center at Freie Universität Berlin. What's more, researchers at the university are faced with enormous time pressure and budgetary restraints. Now videoconferencing allows them to stay in touch with their colleagues in New York, Cairo, São Paulo and Peking – and they can cope with limited financial resources at the same time.
Videoconferencing per mouse click
Just a few mouse clicks will set up a videoconference with colleagues located around the world. "Today it's so easy to start a videoconference – it's almost like picking up the telephone receiver," says Prill, who also manages the financial affairs of ZKI (Centre for communication and information (or data) processing for education and research or Communication and data processing centre for education and research), a professional association of university data centers in Germany. "In just a few seconds you can reach your colleagues – just about any time and any place." This technology makes an enormous contribution to promoting international partnerships.
Better than a telephone call
Videoconferences provide a much better user experience than a traditional telephone call. First of all, it is quite natural for individuals to want to see the people involved in their discussions and conversations. Prill: "It's much more pleasant to have eye contact with your conversation partner, and that's just not possible with a telephone." In a study published in 2013, the Fraunhofer IAO (Institute for industrial engineering and organization), which focuses on businesses and organizations, revealed that videoconferences improve the atmosphere of the workplace and boost the creativity of teams.
Easy collaboration with Unified Communications
The participants in a videoconference are free to choose the terminal device they prefer to use. The Cisco-based application is run in the university data center in Berlin-Dahlem, and it is available through the university IP network. Some workplaces are equipped with an IP telephone that resembles a tablet PC and also serves as a display. The device combines videotelephony, voice-over-IP telephony, chat and other applications. This Unified Communications solution helps the university reduce the complexity of global collaboration while speeding up project schedules at the same time.
The participants in a videoconference are free to choose the terminal device they prefer to use. The Cisco-based application is available through the university IP network.
Colleagues sitting at "one" conference table
The central conference room at Freie Universität Berlin is equipped with a high-performance MX 700 videoconference system from Cisco. Huge displays create the impression that participants are actually sitting at the same table with colleagues from Moscow and Sydney. The cameras identify the person speaking at a particular moment and automatically focus on that person. Of course, researchers can also launch videoconferences from their mobile devices when they are on the go. And that is not all: The flexible solution is compatible with other video systems as well.
Future-proof IP network
This vast global reach is achieved through the modern IP-based network at the university. T-Systems installed more than 1,800 hotspots on the Berlin campus to enable wireless access to the high-speed Internet. Now 7,000 employees and nearly 36,000 students are able to surf at up to 877 megabits per second. In the future, additional applications can be realized with the IP network – virtual reality solutions are among them.
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