Patent and Trademark Office Rolls Out Nationwide Desktop VTC This March

Sunday - 1/9/2011, 11:26pm EST

2011 is a banner year for videoteleconferencing (VTC) at the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) -- and no wonder, as PTO is one of the federal government's telework stars. "We use videoteleconferencing three main ways," explained John Owens, CIO of PTO. Those are:
  • Traditional two-way conference-room-based VTC, to communicate with Embassies, patent offices and other federal agencies. That's deployed via about 6 large conference rooms that hold several dozen people.
  • Today, for peer to peer interaction within PTO; later this year, PTO expects to offer applicants for patents and trademarks the option to discuss their applications with examiners via videoteleconference, too.
  • Broadcast events, both within the agency for internal meetings and education as well as for consultations and working groups with PTO's customers and the public. An auditorium that seats over 300 people and offers PTO multiple camera angles and full video production capability.
CISCO's hardware and software dominate PTO's VTC technology. That includes Tandberg equipment in dedicated videoteleconference rooms, and the suite of CISCO desktop software, including WEBEX, all running on CISCO's networks and expanding bandwidth. Big changes are afoot. Starting in March, Owens and his team roll out a massive technology upgrade to 10,000 employees and about 5,000 contractors that includes desktop video teleconferencing capability no matter where they work, from headquarters to home offices. The contractor who'll support the implementation has been selected; watch for an announcement of the award soon.

What will they get? "Brand new secure metal-jacketed HP laptop with Voice-Over-IP, plus a handset and headset. The laptop, telephone, and WEBEX all launch together in March, running Windows 7...it's in Beta, and the people that have it in their hands now cannot believe the improvement in quality they experience in their daily work." VTC is a critical capability for communication among PTO's increasingly dispersed workforce. Owens says he's been told to expect the agency's 3,000-strong teleworkforce to grow by over 15% this year.

What three things would Owens like PTO employees to keep in mind about the new desktop VTC capability?

  • "Be patient and learn to use the technology for what it is.
  • "Provide constructive and timely feedback through the appropriate channels; and
  • "Remember that desktop VTC isn't broadcast television. We have plans to increase our capability and use better tools as they become available, but you're getting the cream of the crop of what's available today."