NASA is one of the federal pioneers of video teleconferencing
systems (remember the first broadcasts from space?)…so it's no surprise
that this agency's program managers continue to rely on video conference
technology to meet its daily demands for high-quality audio and visual
communication among diverse public and private sector communities.
"At NASA, teams at varied locations need a way to engage in timely,
technical conversations and collaborate remotely to meet
mission-critical goals," said NASA's Deputy Chief Information Officer
NASA -- both Headquarters and its major centers around the country --
uses video teleconferencing for everything from meetings, seminars,
major international conferences and face-to-face meetings to quick
conversations on pressing issues.
The payoff is obvious: more
cost-efficient and -effective operations, with savings on facilities as
well as meeting planning and logistics.
At an Open Government Summit hosted by NASA in the fall of 2010, nearly
60 percent of the participants used electronic tools to "virtually
attend" the summit. Organizers faced twin challenges of being efficient
but also inclusive, while juggling video streaming, cooperative
note-taking, online teleconferencing and adapting conversational
practices in the room, to bridge the gap between physical and virtual
What are they using? NASA Headquarters maintains video teleconferencing
systems (ViTS) in multiple configurations, with equipment from vendors
including Tandberg, Polycom and LifeSize.
The typical ViTS stack
includes the ViTS components themselves, additional recording units, PCs
and in some cases SmartBoard capability. NASA is in the process of
migrating all of its ViTS to have High Definition, digital sign control,
and MP3 audio recording capabilities
Latest capability improvements include Flash and Windows Media Video
streaming via the Web. Users who have a small portable streaming system
can view transmissions via computer from anywhere in the world. Some
configurations offer MP3 recording capability that lets NASA burn CDs to
distribute audio recordings; in others, NASA can use full audiovisual
recording capability to capture entire events on Digital Video Disc
(DVD) or Blu-Ray.
NASA has begun implementing a Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) phone system, too.
That will speed the delivery of IP-based desktop video conferencing as
the agency phases out ISDN-based systems and will increase ViTS
availability to NASA employees while reducing overall costs associated
with equipment maintenance, operations, and logistics typical of larger
"Technology enables and supports one to thousands of conversations,"
said NASA's Chief Technology Officer for IT, Chris Kemp. "We're finding
that if we don't stand in the way of that conversation, incredible
things can happen."