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What will be the volcanic clouds silver lining?

Ross O. Storey | April 20, 2010
Necessity forces technology innovation as enterprises turn to video conferencing.

Every dark cloud of volcanic ash has a silver lining; but this is unlikely to boost the morale of the millions of travellers stranded across the globe because of the ash produced by volcanos erupting in Iceland.

When something amazing like this bizarre natural phenomenon happens, we are all reminded how inconsequential the plans of individual human beings really are in the grand scheme.

British comedic actor John Cleese summed it up quite nicely in a recent news report when he made this joke: How do you make God laugh? You tell him your plans.

My apologies to everyone who is suffering due to this latest global turmoil. Im sure they wont laugh much at this joke.

On the bright side for IT, the global financial crisis has already given a boost to the use of technology like Ciscos telepresence or video communications, which offers an alternative to having executives spend big to travel across the planet for meetings. There are already reports that the volcanic ash, which is lingering at just the altitudes used by commercial jetliners, has given telepresence technologies another leg up.

An unstable Earth?

Just how stable is our planet, when you consider the regularity of things like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions? Or floods, mudslides and famine.

No doubt video conferencing system vendors such as Cisco, Tandberg, HP, Polycom and EasyNet will be quietly smilingwhile Im sure they are just as concerned as the rest of us mere mortalsat the increased business opportunities being provided by the ash cloud crisis.

Gartner Fellow Steve Prentice was pretty much on the money when he said: "Telepresence is not the answer in every circumstance and there will always be strong cultural and other reasons for face-to-face encounters, particularly in Asia. But not every meeting needs to be face-to-face and there is no doubt that telepresence and other approaches to virtual collaboration such as Immersive Workspace, which is built on top of Second Life, or yet to be released solutions, will provide a real alternative for many businesses. Companies should put aside previous prejudices and bad memories of older video-conferencing services and seriously investigate these new technologies."

In February last year, industry analyst Gartner forecast that video telepresence will replace 2.1 million airline seats per year by 2012, costing the travel industry US$3.5 billion annually.

Commiserations to travel and tourism

Who would want to be the airline or tourism industry at the moment? Both are still reeling from the global financial crisis, high fuel costs, the impact of terrorism and they must be wondering what they did to deserve this latest setback, which is costing airlines alone millions of dollars daily.


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