Iowa boasts 99 counties, and nearly 300 miles along Interstate 80 separate the cities of Council Bluffs and Davenport. Given the long distances Iowa Workforce Development employees need to travel, the agency jumped at the chance to deploy low-cost enterprise video conferencing.
Last spring, Iowa Workforce Development IT Infrastructure Manager Martin Moen deployed the Asus CN60 Chromebox for meetings. After the agency quickly saw the benefits of the Google Chrome–based appliance, it expanded its rollout to 20 units. Workers use the devices to conduct Google Hangout conferencing sessions, deliver technology training and bring together job seekers and employers.
“Everyone loves the HD video quality,” Moen says, adding that the Chromeboxes support document sharing.
Staffers can access the Google Hangout sessions remotely on their smartphones, tablets and notebooks, a major benefit to a largely mobile workforce.
“For as long as I’ve been in IT, everyone has had one kind of video conferencing solution, but nobody ever got it right,” Moen says. “We think Google got it right this time.”
The Asus system includes a Chromebox, remote control, combined microphone and speaker and a high-definition camera for about $1,000. Moen contends that the low price can’t be beat, noting that previous enterprise video conferencing units cost up to $30,000 each. A $250 annual management and support fee and the purchase of a display or projector are the only additional costs.
Rich Costello, senior analyst for unified communications at IDC, says Google has made inroads into the enterprise. “Traditional single-room conferencing systems can run from $5,000 up to $100,000 or more; this Google video conferencing solution is very compelling for governments.”
Costello adds that the ease of use and setup also appeal to agencies.
“The whole idea behind Chromebox for meetings was to remove the complexity of setting up and initiating video conferences with a few plug-in components and a setup wizard, as well as enhance the user experience.”
Wyoming CIO Flint Waters says Chromebox for meetings has made state workers more agile. In mid-2014, the state mandated that the IT department close a primary data center in six months.
Waters says setting up two Asus CN60 Chromebox for meetings devices in the hallways helped Wyoming meet that aggressive deadline by the end of 2014. The IT staff held brainstorming sessions to flesh out ideas, and techies could attend either in person or remotely from elsewhere in the building, home or on the road.
“In the past, people would say that they didn’t know about the meeting or they weren’t included in the discussion, but now everyone gets the meeting message and can attend whether they are present at the meeting or working remotely,” Waters says. “We even had people who would walk by and share ideas.”
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead uses Google Hangouts frequently, Waters says, including for streaming his State of the State address and delivering a 2013 budget press conference while visiting troops in the Middle East. Recently Mead held a meeting with the state Department of Education while attending the swearing-in of a judge.
The IT staff also deployed 45 all-in-one LG 22CV241 Chromebase units in an executive branch training room to display material on three large-screen projectors. Everyone has access to a Chromebase device to run demos and experiment with the technology.
“This takes the technology out of the equation and makes it more about the work people are doing,” says Waters, who adds that his team has set up 40 Chromebox for meetings units at other state agencies and another 20 in local school districts.
Chromebox price points make it clear that government agencies may finally have the disruptive technology they’ve been searching for to cut costs and work more effectively.