All you need is A laptop

A TV journo can transmit broadcast-quality images with a notebook, Web cam and basic Net connection. Even doctors can prescribe medicines to interior areas wirelessly

Many Hollywood movies show a TV van racing to a breaking news scene. The TV reporter and cameraman jump out as someone inside makes arrangements for a live feed. Looks great but it’s very cumbersome. And it’s difficult to drag the van and heavy equipment to remote areas. Now, what if you could condense all that into a laptop? Well that has already happened. Now a TV reporter just needs a laptop, a mobile camera and an Internet connection (dial-up will do) to transmit broadcast-quality images to his studio.

Beehive System’s vid’link MOBILE is a laptop-based news gathering solution, which is used for video conferencing and newsgathering from remote locations over really low bandwidth mediums like Internet and satellite phones. The real time video transmission package is Live’burst, which is a two-way interaction video solution. Well heavy TV equipment may prove to be a burden in many a situation, but a laptop can find its way to the remotest of places. A TV reporter can transmit with just a satellite phone from anywhere in the world. Some of the TV stations using this technology are NDTV, Sahara and Sun TV. In fact, this technology was also used for reportage in the Tsunami tragedy that took place recently in Asia.

Long distance prescription

While the benefits of telemedicine have been talked about for ages, thanks to the laptop, it can go to places where there are no hospitals. Apollo Health Street is one such organization that is using it to connect its hospitals to the entire world. In fact, Apollo claims to be the single largest telemedicine solution provider in India. The hospital has established telemedicine link with many centers all across India and the world.

All the doctor needs is a laptop and he can visit the remotest locations and be in touch with specialists at various hospitals. The laptop will allow exchange of information and reports, easy access to the patient’s entire medical history online and videoconferencing between the field doctor and the relevant specialist.

If there’s an emergency, then a General Practitioner can perform surgery with a telemonitored specialist’s assistance. It can also be quite useful for medical training in remote areas and medical advice during natural calamities.

Even a phone can do it!

While you can do all that with a laptop, there are things you can do with a mobile too. Ajay Pal Singh of Beehive Systems says, “One of the largest Indian broadcasters, Zee News, used the vid’link MOBILE solution together with a 3G phone to cover the Olympics event in Athens. They saved more than $60,000 during the entire event!”

In Africa, LifeCell is a program by which you can use a simple mobile to connect to a server in a hospital. As the health worker makes his rounds of areas that don’t have access to doctors, he or she does a basic health check-up and feeds all the information into his mobile. The text messages then reach a central server which outputs it like a news ticker to the on-duty doctor’s computer. The doctor scans all the information and replies with his comments and prescriptions. That in turn reaches the health worker, who passes on all the information to the patient. That way everyone stays in touch with the doctor all the time and he can only visit the hospital in case of a real emergency.

While the concept of working at home has been around for ages, this is the age of carrying a mobile office in your pocket.

(This article appeared in Living Digital magazine in March 2005)

Let’s meet… in cyberspace

Are you lonely? Do you want to build a social network just sitting in front of your computer? Do you want to use the Net to build up a business network in a short time? Or do you just want to get together in the virtual world and have fun? Whatever it is, online groups are mushrooming and connecting people all across the world like never before.

Consider the figures. A Pew Internet Survey showed that 20 million people take part in an online group in America alone. An AC Nielsen survey found that nearly 40 per cent of Americans participate in online communities for hobbies, shared personal interests and health-related issues. Today there are hundreds of social networking sites with Friendster claiming that 13 million people have joined them alone.

Virtual camaraderie

But what exactly is a virtual community? One definition could be a social group connected in any way by the Net. The origin of such groups were the Bulletin Board System, where a software allowed users to download and upload data, read news and exchange messages with other users. This was followed by the popularity of the e-mail and as bandwidth increased, it became more and more easy to connect online. Today many sites serve as online meeting ground where millions can discuss matters of importance or even triviality.

So what do they want?

Take the case of Renith Valsaraj, who’s a software professional based in Bangalore. An amateur photographer looking to make it big, he sought out amateur photographers around the world to form an online group. “You don’t want to do things alone. You need company and this is the best way to do that. It’s a serious group and it’s more knowledge transfer than anything else,” he says. He formed the Bangalore Photographers Group and has notched up a membership of more than 300 photographers. Many of them meet regularly and hold exhibitions.

How Bangalore Quiz Group happened

For Prakash Subbarao, who’s taken online quizzing to new heights, it was loneliness that led him to form an online group. He’s formed the Bangalore Quiz Group, which crossed the 500-membership mark within four months of being formed. The group has daily online quizzes and even meets offline from time to time to conduct quizzes “just for fun”.

“I have made tremendous business contacts in a very short period of time. I probably would not have been able to achieve this in such a short time span offline”, admits Prakash.

In his own words: “It happened on one cold wintry night in Bangalore. It was fairly late and I was sitting in front of my PC wondering, “What next?” On an impulse, I decided to start an online quiz group. I went over to Yahoo! and created a group called “The Bangalore Quiz Group”. It took about five minutes to set up. What next? I needed members. So I went over to and posted messages to the two groups where I am a member-the Bangalore Balaga and the Bangalore Business Network. The results were gratifying. Within minutes members started straggling in and in another 48 hours, the membership crossed 100. It was the 1st of September, 2004. We crossed the 500-member mark in January 2005.”

So, what’s your online group?

(This article appeared in Living Digital magazine in March 2005)