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Wide Area Conferencing

THE POPULAR colloquialism, ?They do things big in Texas,? certainly must have a lot to do with physical geography. The University of Texas' Health Science Center (HSC), based in San Antonio, illustrates that dynamic in the way it virtually links medical, dental, and nursing teaching facilities that are spread out all over the Panhandle, in places like Laredo and down into the Rio Grande Valley as far south as Edinburg. The HSC has built a vast Polycom-based videoconferencing network, connecting more than 60 disparate rooms ? AV-equipped classrooms, lecture halls, labs, and auditoriums, spread out all over South Texas. And it controls it all over a single wide-area network (WAN) from a head-end location on the main campus in San Antonio.

CHALLENGE: Link dozens of classrooms, auditoriums, labs, and lecture halls, spread out over more than 50,000 square miles, on a videoconferencing system, and make it all controllable over a single WAN from one head-end location.

SOLUTION: Rebuild the WAN to support H.323 videoconferencing protocol, provide teleconferencing capability to a large number of AV-enabled rooms, then control AV systems with a network-based system.

THE POPULAR colloquialism, “They do things big in Texas,” certainly must have a lot to do with physical geography.

The University of Texas' Health Science Center (HSC), based in San Antonio, illustrates that dynamic in the way it virtually links medical, dental, and nursing teaching facilities that are spread out all over the Panhandle, in places like Laredo and down into the Rio Grande Valley as far south as Edinburg.

The HSC has built a vast Polycom-based videoconferencing network, connecting more than 60 disparate rooms — AV-equipped classrooms, lecture halls, labs, and auditoriums, spread out all over South Texas. And it controls it all over a single wide-area network (WAN) from a head-end location on the main campus in San Antonio.

The videoconferencing system itself overcomes a key challenge for the HSC — that is, keeping its medical students connected as it dispatches them to satellite campuses serving the broader South Texas region, positioning them in rural areas in many cases.

University of Texas Health Science Center (HSC) administrators rely heavily on remote software tools like version 6 of Crestron's Roomview, which enables them to remotely manage AV resources, perform remote system diagnostics, track the usage of projector lamps, log network activity, and automate tasks through event scheduling.

University of Texas Health Science Center (HSC) administrators rely heavily on remote software tools like version 6 of Crestron's Roomview, which enables them to remotely manage AV resources, perform remote system diagnostics, track the usage of projector lamps, log network activity, and automate tasks through event scheduling.

“They use videoconferencing both to provide continuing education to doctors in rural clinics, but also as a means for helping them to stay a part of the (HSC) community. That was the vision that led to this technology,” notes Tom Baggs, who oversaw the development of the HSC's videoconferencing system. (He left the HSC last year and now works for Crestron as the company's Southeastern educational markets manager.)

Now, for example, an instructor in the HSC's newly built neuroscience center, located on the main medical campus in San Antonio, can use a ceiling-mounted Elmo HV-5000XG VGA document camera to digitally capture a series of X-rays. Using a Polycom VSX 8800 videoconferencing codec, students in an HSC classroom located hundreds of miles away in Harlingen can view this X-ray in VGA-native resolution via a 3,500-lumen Sanyo PLC-XP45 LCD projector and a Draper screen. His or her image is captured by a ParkerVision CC-2112-A1N presenter's tracking camera back at the neuroscience center, and the instructor can be seen simultaneously in composite video on a 32-inch Sony KV32S42 monitor in Harlingen.

HSC classes like this one can be controlled onsite with a Crestron 12-inch color TPS 4500 LB touch-panel. However, for the seven-person staff charged with running this sprawling videoconferencing system, logistics are also a challenge. Tools such as Crestron's e-Control and RoomView provide remote access to Crestron Pro 2 integrated control processors in the classrooms from the head end.

The HSC has long leveraged the IP-based e-Control, which allows operators to manage all individually addressable AV components connected to the WAN via a web-based interface in the head end. More recently, HSC administrators adopted version 6 of RoomView, which enables them to remotely manage AV resources, perform remote system diagnostics, track the usage of projector lamps, log network activity, and automate tasks through event scheduling.

Currently, the HSC videoconferencing technicians can control 61 rooms with these technologies. “It's a very large campus,” notes HSC network specialist John Garcia. “It's not always easy to send a person from one place to another. We rely heavily on these tools to get through our day-to-day operations.”



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