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City shows off new teleconferencing ability

Date: 10/19/2010

Oct. 20, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- City officials and members of the Cisco Smart + Connected Communities North America initiative revealed the initial plan for the city that will use state-of-the-art computer programs and teleconferencing to improve communications in the city.

A press event conducted on Oct. 14 at the Holyoke Transportation Center linked Holyoke with Amsterdam and cities around the United States to present the first phase, and while some of what was discussed is still in the planning stages, Kathleen Anderson, the director of the city's Office of Planning and Development, explained to Reminder Publications, some of what was discussed is already in place and has been used.

A group of local officials, business and education rep-resentatives, as well as residents, have worked since February to identify specific issues that could be addressed with the technology developed by Cisco. The company has started various initiatives around the world, but Holyoke is the first American city working with the company.

Cisco is one of the companies involved in the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center.

The first phase will include:

• a new communication system that would link the city's fire and police departments that later could be expanded to share information on emergencies and public safety with the mayor and city departments, including the School Department, Gas and Electric Department and Department of Public Works, as well as the Holyoke Medical Center;

• a teleconferencing system that links classrooms at Holyoke Community College (HCC) with those at the Picknelly Adult and Family Education Center;

• a communication system that would allow various aspects of municipal government to have teleconferences and more easily share documents;

• the establishment of a Smart Work Center at which individuals can connect to companies for tele-commuting;

• and the use of the technology to allow Holyoke Medical Center and Holyoke Health Center to share patient's health records with other medical establishments and to allow physicians to examine patients from a distance.

The backbone of the new communication system is the city's fiber optic network, which would be expanded, according to James Lavelle, manager of the Holyoke Gas & Electric Department.

Anderson said the teleconferencing capabilities for HCC are already in place and have been used by Careerpoint. David Gadaire, the executive director of Careerpoint, explained the organization made its first use of teleconferencing by presenting an orientation program to a group of pregnant teens who could not go to its offices.

"Whoever gets to us gets services," Gadaire said. "We can now get to people who can not get to us."

Anderson said the goal at the announcement was to have some of these innovations in place and working.

Police Chief Anthony Scott said that, right now, he could not communicate with Provisional Fire Chief William Moran because the two departments use different kinds of radios. Anderson explained the two departments would now coordinate technologies as part of the first phase.

Funding for the new technology will come from several sources, Anderson said. The new public safety radio system will be paid for, at least in part, through the regular budgets of those departments. Grant funding will be sought to implement some of the plans, she added.

The proposed Smart Work Center would be a private development at Open Square, she explained, with the intent that it will be close to either of the locations under consideration for a new train station, Anderson said.

Anderson said the plan and the technology will be evolving.

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