Contact North Hosts its 2003 Emerging
Technologies Conference at the Valhalla Inn, Thunder B ay February
There were probably 250 participant,
question is: What did we see? What should we have seen? and
Where do we go from here?
Video Conferencing Technology
Adcom, Duocom, and Wardrop display
some of the current toys out there for videoconferencing.
Adcom displayed a medical cart complete
with a high resolution monitor that is used for Telehealth consulting.
During a workshop they actually demonstrated a telehealth consultation
with their head office staff. This was good at showing the technology
in practice but I was expecting to see heavier use of diagnostic tools.
It would have been really nice to see a medical supplier with a wide
range of diagnostic tools at the conference.
Duocom displayed typical board room
videoconferencing systems and smart board technology. They had a Sony
plasma video screen that looked pretty sharp one comment though, these
are susceptible to burn-in so for static pictures you may wish to
pursue LCD technology.
Dr. Catherine Henderson, CIO of Community
Services I & IT Cluster spoke on eLearning but the focus was on
computers in the curriculum not video conferencing or streaming of
lectures. Bottom line computers in the curriculum make students more
employable, they are better stimulated learners, and they get better
grades. The big gap still seems to be in developing the curriculum
so that it embraces the technology. The conclusion from the session
was that the world drastically needs more integrators and analysts
(the application engineers of the computer trade).
There are currently quite a few Distance
Education systems that are now installed in learning centers. Reportedly
few are getting rave reviews. In a conversation with Bob Angel, head
of CTRC at Lakehead University the common issues seem to be that distance
education systems are too complicated. Too many key strokes too much
to remember! Lakehead is currently working in partnership with Sony
Corporation to resolve some of these areas of complication.
In terms of what we did or didn't see
at the conference, nobody really touched on this area. We should have
seen vendors talking about the advancements of AMX and Crestron central
control units in simplifying use of the technology.
Doctor Ed Brown, Director of the NORTH
Network project gave a good talk on the current use of videconferencing
for telehealth consulting. Use of this system is increasing rapidly
causing the team to work very hard at scheduling consultations. Interesting
to note that this is still a volunteer project and that OHIP is not
yet funding this type of medical consult.
The status of eHealth (Electronic Health
Records) was presented by Sam Marafioti. While there seemed to be
lots of stuff going on in this area the most memorable issue was that
Politics associated with Privacy and Security seem to be the major
stumbling block in terns of getting projects going. Also the sad attempt
that the government did at issuing new health cards is a big issue
as eHealth databases need to use the health number as a unique identifier
Networks & Bandwidth
Audio and video over IP are really
starting to take hold. Customers that use private networks to interoffice
communicate are finding videoconferencing and IP telephones are really
cost effective communication tools. It is also a really good tool
to justify more bandwidth than other business cases might allow.
Satellite Internet is coming along.
The problem with Satellite Internet continues to be the restrictions
on upload bandwidth. In terms of videoconferencing satellite is still
not an option although streaming of video to remote locations is.
The ORION people had a booth and talked
about the project. More importantly Lakehead's goal is to maximize
use of this big pipe. They are extending offers to local and regional
school boards to share the vision, the costs and the benefits. For
many there are issues of privacy as the pipe is open to the world
where current private networks are viewed secure. The major benefit,
something that has been a drawback to video or IP until now, is customers
can videoconference to anywhere the network reaches rather than being
restricted to the limits of their current private network.