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Sheffield City Council and Techex introduce Virtual Classroom Network

First-of-a-Kind Project Creates Engaging Learning Environment for Secondary Students Across Five Sheffield Sites

LONDON — September 9, 2009 - Techex today announced that it has used Haivision Network Video’s hai1000 series network video systems as a key part of an integrated telepresense system recently introduced by Sheffield City Council, Red Tape Central, Music and Information Technology Training Centre in South Yorkshire. The sophisticated system, integrated and supplied by Techex Ltd, forms a virtual classroom network connecting a central site with four remote city learning centers (CLCs). A first for secondary education in England, the project supports live two-way video, enabling students at the primary hub and at remote sites to engage with high-value speakers from across different industries.

“The goal of our CLCs is to provide Sheffield-area students with state-of-the art, technology-based learning opportunities, and this system, based on HaiVision technology, supports this objective by delivering live two-way video that brings immediacy to remote learning and reflects the enthusiasm of participating speakers and students,” said Andy Wynne, e-Learning Development Adviser, Children and Young People’s Directorate, Sheffield City Council. “The simplicity of the solution has proved to be a key benefit, as well. Our technology partner, Techex, installed the HaiVision systems so that our staff can simply walk into the room, hit a wall switch, and get started.”

The hub of the council’s virtual classroom network is located at Red Tape Central. The studio features a stage for the guest presenter, seating for students, a screen displaying the live broadcast, and four additional screens providing live feeds from each CLC. The project gives students across Sheffield the opportunity to interact with teachers and mentors in a less formal learning environment.

HaiVision’s hai1000 series network video system ensure a high level of performance for interactive media communication, incorporating the latest H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC compression technology to deliver true-to-life video communication experience at remarkably low bandwidth. The company’s hai1060 encoder is installed at Red Tape Central, and its hai1020 encoder is installed at each remote site. The hai1060 achieves end-to-end latencies below 120 milliseconds, supporting smooth bidirectional communications during guest presentations and Q&A sessions held over Sheffield’s virtual classroom network. Wall-mounted control panels akin to light switches provide easy system management, with just four buttons controlling streaming/reception, on/off functions for the projector, and mute functions for the speakers and microphones. Interactive voting handsets allow students at the hub and remote sites to vote collaboratively.

The Techex installation in Sheffield is supported by 14-19 Diploma Capital funding from the Department for Children, Families and Schools. The 14-19 Diploma initiative represents the Government’s intention to offer a strong vocational dimension to the qualifications reform process at age 16+. Sheffield City Council purchased the system with the support of Techex Limited (www.techex.co.uk), Europe’s largest distributor of video transmission technology.

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About Techex
Techex designs, builds and supports video over IP solutions for the broadcast and enterprise markets. Since its founding in 1972 Techex has built a global manufacturer and integrator partner network. Techex is an industry-leading supplier of IP video solutions with operations in the U.K., Spain, USA, Hong Kong, and South America.