Tag Archives: Collaborative

Common Technologies Complicate The Telecommuting Debate

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Photo by Victor1558

Twitter and the blogosphere have been completely immersed in a fierce debate over the merits of telecommuting vs. coming into the office to work thanks to actions taken by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer a couple of weeks ago. With the adoption of new technologies, including widespread use of smartphones, video conference software, and VoIP PBX phone systems, how important is it to come into the office every day? The answer is: we’re not really sure. There are too many entries in the debate to read through, but here are a couple of the main arguments from each side:

I can be just as productive at home

The core of this argument lies in the technology that most professionals have at their disposal these days out of necessity. Most people have access to a broadband internet connection at any given moment, whether it’s in their home or the café down the street.  If a business invests in the proper IT, they can offer their employees a myriad of ways to connect to workers who are based at the office and fellow telecommuters. Thanks to unified communications tools in addition to even more advanced conferencing applications, employees can be “at the office” while in the comfort of their own home. This saves workers from being distracted by the day to day social goings on at the office, as well as the time suck that is the morning and evening commutes. With the addition of VoIP PBX phone systems that allow for “virtual” offices in any location, proponents of telecommuting see no real need to spend every day at the office.

Only an office can provide the collaborative atmosphere a business needs

Those on Mayer’s side think that even though there are these technologies available, nothing can replace the benefits of face-to-face interaction and socializing. Water cooler talk isn’t just about talking about last night’s football game. It’s also about brainstorming and hashing out strategies pertaining to the day’s projects. Working in the office is also about being able to have proper oversight when it comes to worker productivity. Bosses like Mayer want to foster a sense of community at the workplace so employees will feel like they’re a part of a team working towards a goal that everyone will benefit from.

Who’s right? 

It’s impossible to say who’s right. It comes down to management style and people’s individual personalities. Some people do their best work at home while others get hopelessly distracted. But with unified communications technology available, there’s no reason why people can’t alternate between the two. Working from home half the week and the office the other half might provide employees with the best of both worlds.

Unwanted Guests: How Easy Is It To Hack Into Corporate Video Conferences?

Is your video conference solution safe? It’s up to you, to set it up safe.

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Image by codepinkhq

History

For as long as recording technology has existed it has been used for espionage. From the ever-so-stealthy tape recorders (often hidden in books in James Bond films) all the way top the wires used by police agencies to catch a criminal in the act, there is no better way of foiling your enemy than listening to him when he doesn’t think he is being heard.

Nowadays

These days however it is not just living people you need to worry about. It is often said that your computers webcam can be accessed even when you’re not using it; a terrifying prospect for many and considering how long people have been able to listen in on phone calls, are video conferences really that safe? Video conferences are now an important and effective way for modern businesses to communicate. Instantaneous communication with anywhere else on Earth is amazing, but being able to visually gauge the reaction of the person you are talking to make it one of the most powerful tool in any company’s arsenal.

But..

But what if you are being looked in on? If someone watches in on a business deal than they can make money at your expense, work to crush your plans or even make your move before you do. So how safe are they? Hackers like HD Moore say not very! Moore, the creator of Metasploit, has managed to hack his way into the offices of law firms, courtrooms and even the boardroom of Goldman Sachs with ease, suggesting that peeping toms might have more power than previously thought. While this may seem fairly reminiscent of Back to the Future II there isn’t really too much to worry about at home. Moore says that the reasons these companies fail so spectacularly at securing their cameras is because they set them up outside of their company’s network firewalls, meaning easy access to those with prying eyes and hacking know-how. At home in fact, it is not the outside hackers you should worry about but the companies themselves.

And beyond the board room?

Skype has previously stated that it is able to gain access to cameras even when not in video call and a simple Google search can turn up thousands of programs designed purely to hack into webcams without people knowing. It’s not just the anonymous hackers you have to consider. In the early 2000s there was controversy over the US government’s plans to allow phone hacking to counter terrorism. Last year the US government set up an agency called the DCAC (Domestic Communications Assistant Centre), collaboration between the FBI, the DEA and the US Marshall’s Service which is specifically designed to enable wire-tapping on wireless and internet conversations. A court order is required to allow the agency to listen in on their targets (the same as with phones) but this time there was very little controversy at all.

Conclusion

So what conclusion can we come too? Is video conferencing safe for corporations or people at home? While there is plenty of evidence to the contrary I would say yes. If you have the right firewalls, security and managed video conferencing infrastructure then it is incredibly difficult for any peeping toms to get it and if anybody is really that determined to listen in to your conversations then video conferencing is just another tool in their box. If you learn HD Moore’s lessons and don’t underestimate the importance of online security, your company’s secrets should be safe. Are you guys convinced by Moore’s Argument?

Telepresence in the Media – A Collaborative List

Movies? TV? Books? Video Games? Telepresence is everywhere!

Have you ever been wondering if and where Telepresence technology is used in media? I have been paying close attention and noting down appearances of Telepresence technology in movies, TV, books or video games and researching on the internet for a while and wanted to share the list with all of you.

Naturally many movies were books in the beginning but surely not all of them. That is why I still include a category about Telepresence in books, in case there was no movie made or in case I just have not seen the movie to validate the appearance of Telepresence in it.

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The Future is Now: Michael J. Fox and Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary using Telepresence in “Back to the Future”

Also this list includes only Telepresence technologies that provide the ability to have visual communication (or video conference) with a person in a remote location and does not include Telepresence as in “being” somewhere apart from your physical body (e.g. The Matrix, Surrogates, Avatar, etc.).

Lastly before we start let me invite you for Telepresence spotting in the media. If you find something, that is not yet listed, please go ahead and drop it in the comments below and it will be added. That way we can all help to grow this list further.

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Secret Mission: Start the Cisco TelePresence Call

Movies:

 TV:

  • 24 (product placement by Cisco)
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Bubblegum Crisis
  • CSI: NY
  • Fringe
  • How I met your mother
  • Melissa & Joey
  • NCIS: Los Angeles (product placement by Cisco)
  • Rules of Engagement
  • Scrubs
  • Sleeper Cell
  • South Park
  • Star Trek
  • That ’70s Show
  • The Jetsons
  • The Simpsons
  • Two and a Half Men

Video Games:

  • Borderlands series
  • Command & Conquer series
  • Halo series
  • Half-Life 2: Episode 2
  • Resident Evil series
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction (product placement by Cisco)
  • The Witcher 2

Books:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Haunted from within

I hope you enjoyed our list of Telepresence in the media. If I spot something new, I will update the article as well and please feel encouraged to add comments below if you know other appearances that should be added to this list.

Updated: 06.05.2013


Cisco TelePresence in Michael Bay’s Transformers 3

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmwkdKd1hU0]