AARNet video exchange kick starts academic research projects

Astrophysics research and remote learning underway via TelePresence

Swinburne, Monash and Victoria Universities are amongst the first academic centres in Australia making use of a new video exchange service provided by Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) and Cisco which promises speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. The video exchange has been in trial by the three universities since October ahead of its official launch this Monday.

Victoria University in Melbourne plans to use the exchange to deliver remote courses, academic skills training, career advice and tutorials. Twelve TelePresence systems are in the process of being deployed across the campus as part of a university initiative to encourage collaborative learning.

Using the service Swinburne University researchers and students have been able to work on astrophysics research with colleagues at the CSIRO Parkes Observatory using the exchange. In addition, staff at the five Swinburne campuses have regular meetings via video to discuss policy and collaborate in preparing scientific submissions to Federal government.

AARNet director applications and services, James Sankar, told Techworld Australia that the exchange was implemented as a great deal of bandwidth is needed to run a TelePresence system.

“A typical exchange runs at 73 megabits per second so there is more than enough bandwidth to support meetings between customers,” he said. “Victoria University is an example of how they are going to use the technology to work together without driving back and forth to different campus sites.”

In addition, university staff can make point-to-point calls to each other across the exchange but also multi-conference with up to 96 people taking part at once.

The Australian universities taking part in the project will also be able to collaborate with universities based in the US as AARnet has teamed up with National Lambda Rail, a network provider which connects over 220 Telepresence rooms in US universities.

As a result of AARNet joining the Open Visual Communication Consortium in January 2012, an organisation that encourages open standards for video conferencing, the network won’t be limited to Cisco’s video conferencing hardware, Sankar said.

“Initially the exchange is Cisco based but the vendor released its interoperability protocol which has made its way into other vendor’s equipment such as Polycom,” he said.

This means a university should be able to connect to AARNet’s exchange regardless of the video network equipment it uses.

Sankar added that exchanges are also been developed for use by universities in the UK, Europe and Asia with plans to roll these out later in 2012.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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