April 19, 2010
The Eyjafjoell volcano eruption in Iceland has been and may continue to play havoc with air travel, and with it stranding untold numbers of travelers, many of whom are running out of money. They have been caught in the risks and vagaries of transportation
There is, however, a green side to the massive ash clouds resulting from the calamity: strong demand for rail, for inter-island- and island (UK, Ireland especially)-European continent trips, marine travel and videoconferencing that are far environmentally friendlier than flying, especially for short-haul trips.
Many journeys that are taken by air--which have benefitted by massive direct and indirect public subsidies-- can be more efficiently handled by these other methods. Rail in Europe and in China and Japan at least, but alas only between Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. and Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto has become air-competitive. International Railway Journal reports that many European rail operators have stepped in with additional services and in the case of Germany, offering vouchers for Lufthansa customers.
Videoconferencing is winning adherents globally-- from consumers using Skype to firms deploying telepresence--as the technology improves, become less expensive and as bandwidth widens including to individual homes. As with telework, many interactions traditionally done face-to-face can actually be carried out virtually over video and for that matter by audio and web.
Here's just one example of this switch to videoconferencing: a story in today's today's Daily Telegraph on an emergency meeting by the European Commission to deal with the air travel mess by restricting the flight ban to Iceland will be discussed "at an emergency videoconference of EU transport ministers this afternoon."
Will this shift to rail and especially to video stick after air travel returns to normal? That will depend on how long lasting the disruptions are, and the experience of users with these other means, especially videoconferencing.
The signs are there for video, and Cisco for one must be quietly pleased. The eruption is taking place just as it is closing its deal to acquire videoconferencing firm Tandberg. It received European Commission approval April 12: just as all 'Hades' broke loose on air travel.
"The only evidence is anecdotal, but you will not get a demo room in any of the Cisco facilities," said Fredrik Halvorsen, former Tandberg CEO and head of the Cisco Systems's TelePresence Technology Group told Reuters, in a story that appeared today. "We have seen a huge spike in usage."
, Iceland volcano
, video conferencing
: Related Tags: european commission
, telepresence technology