Halo Conference Room (image)
Multi-national companies (MNC) account for a large share of anthropogenic carbon emissions. One of the biggest costs associated with these companies both in terms of monetary and carbon costs is due to air travel. Many companies such as Hewlett Packard (HP) have begun “offsetting” their carbon emissions from air travel by donating money to offsetting companies which in turn plant trees and fund sustainability projects. This offsetting strategy is not a long-term solution. Whilst the number of flights is increasing exponentially and with it the carbon emissions, the amount of space available for forestry development and other offsetting measures is decreasing. There are also business related problems with this strategy. MNC’s are primarily interested in making money and any voluntary solution which costs companies money is not going to be widely adopted and successful.
It is out of this desire to save money and time that “telepresence” projects such as Halo which is developed by HP have arisen. Telepresence projects are business-speak for next generation video conferencing technology. The aim of this technology is to re-create a conference board room as accurately as possible. Business people have often claimed the delay and unrealistic nature of normal video conferencing requires that any meeting requiring more than one to one communication be conducted in person. This can mean lengthy flights. Thousands of people travel thousands of miles every day for business meetings be it from New York to Singapore or London to Tokyo. It is with this problem in mind that HP and Dreamwork’s have developed and started installing Halo rooms in their branches around the world including in their buildings in Leixlip here in Ireland. The benefits of the technology include an identical room in both locations to simulate both parties being in one larger room and more importantly a dedicated connection which ensures no time delay exists. Users of the facilities including heads of major companies have said they quickly forgot the people they were speaking with were on the other side of the world.
It is this new immersive experience which gives Halo and other telepresence projects the potential to make a large dent in the 30% of air travel which is accounted for by business trips. It will of course be impossible to remove all business related air travel but with aviation expected to account for between 5-15% of carbon emissions by 2050, new technologies and a different mentality towards air travel in general is desperately required.