US ATTACK: PictureTel lends a helping hand

In the wake of the tragedies in New York and Washington, Andover, Mass.-based PictureTel Corp. is making as much of its bandwidth and distribution channel as possible available to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross, and New York hospitals.

By the evening of the tragedy, PictureTel had a link on its Web site called "VideoRelief" where its customers and clients could offer their equipment, locations, and services, and where relief workers, organizations, and people involved in the tragedy could make requests to use the equipment.

In addition, the company is making as many as 100 wireless videoconferencing carts available to hospitals in the New York area for use in telemedicine as needed. These carts are mobile versions of its iPower group videoconferencing systems, and they include facilities for viewing live video feeds as well as capturing live video and sound for remote participants in a videoconference. They have equipment on board for wireless access and are intended for use where a user is unable to travel to a fixed videoconferencing location. These facilities also have capabilities for data sharing and collaborative working on computer applications. At either end of a conference, video cameras, including those on the mobile carts offered for use, can be controlled by remote users, allowing doctors to remotely examine details directly.

The company is asking all of its employees and customers to do their utmost to make conferencing facilities available for use in disaster relief by FEMA and the Red Cross. PictureTel is also asking employees to donate food and blood.

"Right now our active contacts are with the Red Cross, New York-based hospitals that we work with, and FEMA, which is a customer of ours," said Lew Jaffe, president and COO of PictureTel.

"We are trying to be a good corporate citizen," he added. "There will be lots of demand in hospitals in New York for expertise that isn't normally there. There will be lots of people wanting to see that their family is OK." Jaffe said the company plans to have a list of sites on its Web site,, from noon Wednesday that will be available for use by people affected by the tragedy.

At a press conference the day after the attacks, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said that law enforcement and government agencies, including FEMA, have been using secure videoconferencing facilities throughout the crisis to make sure of safe, quick, and effective communications.

Looking to the future, Jaffe said, "One of the outcomes of this is that there will probably be a wider base of deployment of video because people will think long and hard about getting on an airplane for some time to come."