Webcams a cheaper videoconferencing option

Don't fancy forking out thousands for the latest videoconferencing devices? WEL Technology has found a cheaper alternative.

Don’t fancy forking out thousands for the latest videoconferencing devices? WEL Technology has found a cheaper alternative.

The Auckland-based software house last month began using web cameras for meetings between staff in Australia, the US and New Zealand.

The sound quality may not be flash and the pictures may be jittery but major retailers sell the webcams for under $100. The Microsoft NetMeeting software is also free.

WEL Tech boss Gavin Mitchell says the cameras are “very good, they still give the personal effect, and bring big savings in communications.”

“It brings remote operations into our office. It’s very straight forward,” he says.

WEL Tech uses Telecom Jetstream for broadband access, while his Australian colleague has a 56Kbit/s modem. But Mitchell says the system works at standard dial-up speeds.

Microsoft spokesman Jay Templeton says NetMeeting was launched in 1996 as a free download. Tens of millions must use it in the US but he has heard of few firms in New Zealand doing so, bar a few Christchurch-based educational institutions.

Templeton says he uses NetMeeting and webcams to talk to his father in Russia, who has a laptop, to save on toll calls and as a remote helpdesk.

“I made sure that I configured NetMeeting so that we see each other on Instant Messenger when we start a NetMeeting session. I can also take over Dad’s machine/application remotely to assist in support issues. It’s way better than trying to get him to tell me what he is looking at. I can see the screen and use his mouse and keyboard,” he says.

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