The smartest things governments could do with a smart board

They haven’t traditionally been thought of as part of a unified communications strategy, but an analyst suggests it’s time to think again

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When interactive whiteboards first came on the scene back in the ’90s, they were touted as the next big thing, particularly in the education market. But they just sort of faded away. Smart boards, however, are back — and they’re smarter.

And they could become an important component of collaboration, according to a recent blog post by Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst of ZK Research.

The way we work has significantly changed, even from just a few years ago. “The smart board was one of those technologies that debuted well ahead of the need for it, and was definitely a solution in search of a problem,” said Kerravala.

Well, it looks like the smart board has found its “problem.” There’s a much greater need for real-time collaboration these days, particularly by people in different departments, cities or even countries.

The technology, too, has changed. No longer are these the traditional whiteboards of yesteryear, but rather touch-enabled, flat-screen displays, hooked up to the cloud.

But do you really need yet another technology to add to the mix?

After all, web conferencing already allows us to share documents and presentations, while audio and video conferencing allow us to hear and see each other during meetings.

But smart boards do fill in a gap: for brainstorming. People can share documents and presentations, but they can also interact by scribbling notes, making annotations and drawing directly on top of those documents.

Kerravala makes the point that no other technologies — including telepresence — allow us to “roll up the sleeves and brainstorm with each other, like we would if we were all in the same room with a whiteboard in front of us.”

The applications for this in education are obvious, but there are other areas where smart boards make sense in the public sector.

Police forces and fire services (even the FBI) are already using smart boards for real-time interaction with incident images. And the technology provides personnel in the field with the most accurate, up-to-date data.

It’s a perfect fit for emergency management, when several departments in multiple locations need to work together. Interactive mapping software on smart boards could be used to quickly assess a situation and strategize a coordinated approach. Medical workers, for example, could coordinate resources during a flu epidemic.

And, when not being used in an emergency, smart boards could be used for simulations or interactive training sessions.

These days, government officials need to trim their budgets, and travel is one of the first things to go (think of the “scandal” over former Alberta premier Alison Redford’s travel expenses). Smart boards allow bureaucrats to hold interactive meetings and brainstorming sessions, while cutting down on travel funded by taxpayers.

With so many siloed operations and levels of bureaucracy in government, smart boards could, potentially, help to troubleshoot problems and enable faster decision-making, particularly when all the parties aren’t on site.

Smart boards aren’t new, but they’re a whole lot smarter than they used to be, and could make sense as part of your overall UC strategy.

Download the Unified Communications & Collaboration Checklist: A Four Stage Process For Evolving Your Network, from Allstream


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