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Always-on video portal lets people in New York and Dublin interact in real time

A new sculpture on display Wednesday in New York’s Flatiron South Public Plaza isn’t your typical work of art. It combines technology, sociology, anthropology and art to allow people to interact in two places in real time. In this case, it’s between New York City and Dublin.

The portal itself is an impressive piece of work, weighing 3.5 tons and covering an area of ​​approximately 11.5 x 11.5 feet. Portals.org, the organization behind the project, didn’t want to share hardware specs beyond the size of the video screen (roughly 8 x 8 feet), preferring to keep the idea of ​​it being a portal rather than a screen.

As the organization describes it, “The portals invite people to meet their fellow humans across borders and prejudices and experience our home – the planet – for what it really is: in solidarity.” They were originally conceived by Lithuanian entrepreneur Benediktas Gylys of.

While the concept is cool, the underlying software technology driving it comes from Video Window, a British company that originally developed software and hardware to provide always-on connectivity to employees in remote locations (at home or other offices). In this case, they took the same concept and applied it to the portal.

Daryl Hutchings, CEO of Video Window, said portals require many of the same features as enterprises, but with some caveats. “Any video conferencing software is basically designed for scheduled meetings, so you schedule a time, click the link, and then it lasts for X amount of time,” Hutchins told TechCrunch. “So that’s all well and good when it’s a scheduled call, but obviously when you do an always-on connection like Portal, there are inevitably going to be connectivity issues.”

Most software eventually gives up when these issues arise, but Video Window is designed to help resolve connectivity issues and keep running through its API, which is crucial for this use case.

Another major consideration for this always-on technology is ensuring its security. You don’t want people to be able to control the connection, and Video Windows software can help here as well.

Nicolas Klaus, head of partnerships at Portals.org, said security was a key consideration for the city before agreeing to install the system. “The cities we work with, including New York, are concerned about data security. Can we ensure the privacy of the data?” Hutchins said this is something that is built into the software, so it’s not possible like we saw early in the pandemic. “Zoom bomb” the portal that way.

Klaus said the fact they partnered with Video Window, which counts many well-known companies as clients, helps give them peace of mind when working with governments. “Video Window has been working with very mature customers including Netflix, Apple and SAP, as well as some of the largest companies who are also very concerned about data security, which also really helps,” he said.

Governments sometimes worry about maintaining an always-on connection to another country, but Portals.org has been building these facilities since 2021. It starts with a gateway connecting Vilnius, Lithuania, and Lubol, Poland, and so far they have been able to effectively resolve these issues with the participating countries.

“We have been able to maintain a 24/7 live broadcast in other cities almost uninterrupted for the past three years, which gives Dublin and New York City a lot of confidence to join the network,” Krause said.

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