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The countdown to Microsoft World Partner Conference 2015 has started. If you happen to be in Orlando on 12-16 July and want a piece of the Smart City buzz, the two exhibition areas you should not miss are Microsoft CityNext and Polycom (booth #1501). Here is why… 

 

Cities face new challenges ahead. 

 

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities*, representing an additional 2.7 billion people in the world’s urban areas. How can city leaders prepare for this influx of migrants in light of today’s challenges: aging infrastructure, tighter budgets, cyber-security threats, urbanization and the pervasive use of mobile and social technologies by citizens?

 

Government leaders have the power to shape the city of the future. Information and communication technology enables cities to innovate, collaborate and prosper by connecting constituents with the next-generation of public services, with the goal of improving satisfaction, increasing efficiencies and reducing costs. 

 

Failing to properly deploy innovative solutions to mitigate the population density of cities would result in additional labour, traffic, environmental and security challenges. In this blog, I am sharing how Microsoft unified communications and Polycom collaboration solutions empower citizens, businesses and governments to transform the way people live, learn and work. You can also watch the video interview available further below to know more.

 

The Smart City race is on and the opportunity is big.

 

According to Forbes, urbanization has become so important that it has elevated some cities to be even more important than the countries themselves contributing substantially to the country’s GDP. Top of the Forbes list was New York City, which has initiated smart and sustainable initiatives such as City 24/7, an interactive platform that integrates information from government programmes, local businesses, and the city’s citizens to provide knowledge to anyone, anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Barcelona and Santander in Spain and Amsterdam have been cited as some examples of smart cities which have already begun wiring up and connecting themselves to drive better efficiency and benefits for citizens.

 

The Government of India has announced an ambitious 100 Smart Cities programme where State capitals as well as many tourist and heritage cities are expected to witness a rapid upgrade of urban infrastructure and online services to citizens, enabled by Information Technology. Singapore remains committed to becoming the world’s first Smart Nation that taps on ICT to better serve citizens, which will set it apart from the many Smart Cities that are already developing globally. The global race to become the Smartest City is definitely on and the business opportunity for technology vendors and integrators is tremendous.

 

According to Frost & Sullivan search, the Smart City market represents a USD 1.5 Trillion business opportunity globally in segments of energy, transportation, healthcare, building, infrastructure, and governance. Polycom and Microsoft are two Smart City market participants that partner with cities to address various challenges through the use of unified communication and collaboration technology.

 

Polycom Solutions for Microsoft CityNext: Better together!

 

Microsoft CityNext empowers governments, businesses, and citizens to create more sustainable, prosperous, and economically competitive cities. Broadening the city innovation conversation beyond infrastructure alone, Microsoft CityNext helps city leaders unlock the most important resource of any city—the potential of its people—by delivering citizen-centric services to help them lead safer and healthier lives and have access to quality education.

 

Polycom provides the most comprehensive and complete solutions for Microsoft unified communications, including voice, conferencing, and video collaboration solutions. Polycom collaboration solutions integrate seamlessly to enhance productivity along with Microsoft applications. Thus, together, we are enabling cities to provide services that put people first by designing around their needs to serve them better. 

 

 

• Modern Cities – Microsoft & Polycom enable real-time, equitable and sustainable access to government information, services and city resources. Allowing city employees do their jobs better, citizens to leverage services more effectively and businesses to succeed more quickly.

 

• Safer Cities – Microsoft & Polycom empower justice, enforcement and defense agencies to be better prepared and respond faster to threat, disaster or emergency in their communities. Protecting the way-of-life that citizens and leaders have worked hard to establish

 

• Healthier Cities – Microsoft & Polycom help cities to transform healthcare models and provide collaborative care from anywhere to anyone affordably. Offering patients, providers and payers a sustainable model and better outcomes for all.

 

• Educated Cities – Microsoft & Polycom provide rich, interactive learning experiences that improve knowledge retention and increase productivity of every learner, teacher and instructor.

 

By adopting a modernization approach that works today and is sustainable into the future, government leaders can transform their cities into vibrant hubs that attract a skilled population and inbound investment to drive the city’s economy— thereby, becoming more competitive in the global economy.

 

Partnering to build The City of the Future

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The Mega Trend of Smart Cities is set to drive urban development for the next decade and will drive demand for response, storage, multi-energy networks, smart devices, and new business models (Telehealth, Distance Learning, Next-gen Citizen and Emergency Services…) leveraging unified communication and collaboration solutions. As a Microsoft and/or Polycom Partner, you should be at the forefront of this change helping to build the City of the Future, which is more modern yet sustainable, educated, safer and healthier for all.

 

Visit us at WPC 2015

 

If you happen to be at WPC, please visit the Polycom Booth #1501. Ask for my colleagues, Andrew Graley or Robert Birch who will share with you how we can work together to address this market opportunity. You can also contact us to know more about Polycom Solutions for Microsoft CityNext: industry.solutions@polycom.com

 

* The World Health Organization, in their World Urbanization Prospects report for 2014.

Polycom Employee

Education Fast Forward (EFF) is a charity based in the United Kingdom, aiming to accelerate educational change by means of debate.  In its fifth year now, EFF debates brings together teachers, students, leaders and policy makers and help them talk about the educational challenges they face in whatever country they may be from.  Sometimes talking about problems, sharing experiences between like-minded people, can help spur action and create the will to improve.

 

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The result of these debates is a better understanding of what is happening in the classroom, in the education system, in the country, and then how it can be fixed.

 

Polycom are proud to enable the debates during 2015, starting with EFF 12 - Turning school performance to economic success.  We will be providing access to the network of Polycom Executive Experience Centres, Solution Centres and offices across the globe, as well as a virtual meeting environment.  This means EFF participants that might not be able to travel to an office will be able to take part live from their location, in whatever country they might be and on whatever device they choose to use.

 

EFF 12 will be hosted from London in Central Hall Westminster, almost opposite to the Houses of Parliament, where an audience of about fifty educational leaders will be chaired by Jim Wynn and Gavin Dykes.  The debate will see a host of participants joining from locations in South Korea, Lebanon, Brazil, the USA, Norway, France and many more.  With our partner YorkTel, EFF 12 will also be live streamed so people can watch from the comfort of their web browsers.

 

These debates are not only for those who can make it to a videoconference site; observers of the stream can tweet their questions and comments directly to the chair to make the session truly interactive.

 

To get involved, please visit http://www.effdebate.org/eff12/ and tweet to #EFF12.

 

It begins at 9:15am UK time and in the words of Tim Unwin, EEF Fellow “Education Fast Forward brings together some of the foremost thinkers about education in the 21st century to debate key issues of relevance to learners of all ages. There is never a dull moment when these people come together!”

In my article, I advocate for a combination of the online learning model, along with collaborative learning environments incorporating video to help aspiring students and career-changers alike. I believe that such blended learning is a response to what the future of work will require and an option for students who desire a more hands-on, interactive learning approach.

 

I would love to have your feedback and open this up for discussion.

 

Read the article in Information Week.

I just returned home from three days at the International Forum for Women in E-learning (IFWE). This year’s theme was IFWE Walk in Her Shoes, and it took us a little deeper into what it means to work as a team in a diverse world. We were encouraged to look for innovative ways to tackle problems or hindrances from learning and make a difference. Here is what we learned:

 

Reason 1:

IFWE provided an opportunity to learn about innovative programs for education.

 

As with most conferences or forums I attend, I do more than casually join, I usually deliver a keynote or present in a breakout session. At IFWE, however, I decided to team up with Elaine Shuck, our Director for Education, U.S. Public Sector and co-host a guest speaker. Through CloudAXIS, Polycom’s browser-based video conferencing solution, we brought in Lisa Hopper, CEO of World Care to share her life experiences of running one of the world’s largest social entrepreneurship non-profit organizations.

 

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From a traumatic brain aneurysm to her position as CEO, Lisa allowed us to take a walk in her shoes. She shared her experiences in disaster relief where her organization has provided over 65 million pounds (29,483,504.05kg) of supplies to approximately120 countries which have suffered from disasters. World Care is now launching a new division focused on providing support for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning worldwide. (see how at www.stemlearning.us/ to learn more –I will be elaborating in a blog soon with more details). What World Care is doing for STEM is a very exciting venture and incredibly important as educators continue to encourage students to seek an education focused in STEM programs.

 

Lisa did a terrific job relating to - and encouraging – attendees. However, this discussion wouldn’t happen without CloudAXIS which enabled her to come in virtually. As many of you know, hotels are notorious for having horrible bandwidth and with firewalls that sometimes make videoconferencing impossible. Because it is browser-based, CloudAXIS had the ability to forgo bandwidth and firewall limitations. Most importantly, it allowed the group to focus solely on the learning and that’s how any solution should be.

 

Reason 2:

IFWE brought keynote speakers that were highly successful women in the field who have worked to balance life, family and career- each was inspiring.

 

Even as thought leaders in our respective fields, we often need someone or something to jump start our energy and reignite our passion for educating. Women like Veronica “Ronnye” Vargas Stidvent, Chancellor of Western Governors University (WGU) Texas, who also served in the Whitehouse, reminded us of how to drive our vision while maintaining a healthy life-balance. Ana Maria Lopez, Medical Director for Arizona Telemedicine Program provided stellar insight into leading the way by following our hearts, empathy and compassion for the learner.

 

Reason 3:

IFWE provided the opportunity to share best practices, establish valuable relationships, and explore ways to be more effective leaders.

 

Some of the breakout sessions included topics such as: eMentoring, competency-based learning, connecting the dots between knowledge acquisition and knowledge application, tracking mobile professional development using multimedia modules/badges, and developing real world experiences through E-learning.

 

While I love all of these topics, my passion for video quickly made me realize the power CloudAXIS is providing to take eMentoring and eTutoring to a whole new level. Teachers, professors, and students alike are connecting from wherever they are just-in-time. AND… future employers are giving back more often because they can easily connect from wherever they might be at the time the student or employee needs them. Expect a future blog to come on this subject.

 

The forum concluded with an invitation to join the U.S. Distance Learning Association (USDLA) next April 26-29, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri for the national conference. The title will be DISTANCE LEARNING: IGNITE, INNOVATE AND INSPIRE! The call for proposals is now open at www.usdla.org. Will you join me there?

 

 

 

 

 In my previous post [PT 1], I discussed how as part of Obama’s “ConnectEDucators” program, schools must do more to engage, prepare, and inspire college- and career-ready students, and our CTE programs must be better aligned to employer and postsecondary needs. 

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With increasingly tight education budgets in almost all states, cuts can cause students to miss out on the real-world exposure and access to skills training that things like field trips, internship programs and mentor relationships can provide. While partnerships with organizations and corporations do fill some of these gaps, investment in a videoconferencing infrastructure can enable schools to bring career exposure and relevancy to their students, equipping them with the skills they need to succeed. For example, through video, more than 1,700 students in Manitoba, Canada watched surgeons complete a reconstructive surgery on a torn ACL. That kind of experience can extend to any career field: students can watch professionals at work, engage with them and ask questions about what they do and how they do it, and gain virtual in-person exposure to any number of possible careers.

 

Beyond this broad view into the job world, an integrated video collaboration network can also give students the narrow skills training they desire. For example, if a student would like to go into automotive engineering, but the school does not have or cannot afford to offer the auto shop class, they aren’t out of luck. With a video link and a relationship with an auto repair school, that student has the opportunity to spend a class period each day connecting with a remote instructor to develop firsthand the skills of the trade. The same goes for any hands-on field. Why not give students this level of exposure and connect them to resources that will help them get a head start on their professional training?

 

Lastly, video conferencing plays a crucial role making it feasible for more students to attend college, resulting in improved higher education success rates. Central Arizona College (CAC), for instance, serves a county as big as the state of Connecticut that includes many isolated rural populations, many of whom are Latino and Native American and the first in their families to attend college. For 10 years, CAC has built upon a video distance-learning network to connect its main campus with three remote campuses, several learning centers throughout the county, and high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools. With video, CAC has expanded its course offerings dramatically and has reached more people than it ever would have been able to before.

 

Beyond bringing university education to more people, video exponentially enhances learning experiences. Through video conferencing, students who may never gather in the same physical room can meet from any number of disparate locations on a regular basis to have the conversations critical to real learning. Without this discussion and exchange of ideas, learning can become solitary and stale. Video fills that void in online education, keeping the human element of learning alive. Within the education spectrum, video links culture, career, and higher level learning resulting in a “connectivity culture” of the modern workplace into the classroom. This critical culture prepares students to be productive contributors. Video technology beholds the power to help turn our country’s education policy to personalize learning and improve the classroom.

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