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Israeli video tech helps universities, firms keep ‘business as usual’ despite coronavirus

Most organizations are unable to transition to remote work arrangements overnight. Video tech helps people ease into the change.

Photo: Tuchong

As the number of coronavirus cases rise internationally, universities, businesses, and medical centers are in a tizzy on how to keep disruptions to a minimum. The spotlight has been thrown on video technologies and, with it, the ultimate test of their capabilities to keep business as usual.

Kaltura, a leading Israeli-founded video technology provider, is one company to have seen an uptick in requests on ways to share content and hold online conferences despite the coronavirus-induced restriction to keep employees from meeting or flying to conferences.

“We’re working to supplement or replace events with a virtual summit environment. It’s not only about protecting the content but also the network—network with sponsors, it’s a massive business,” says Dr. Michal Tsur, co-founder of Kaltura.

COVID-19 and the uncertainty surrounding the disease resulting from the novel coronavirus has led to some major disruption in the tech sector so far. Major tech conferences have been postponed or canceled, including Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, EmTech in Singapore, and CannaTech in Tel Aviv.

As such, with economic uncertainty looming around the world, video-conferencing companies like Kaltura are helping remote workers stay linked during the spread of the coronavirus.

“Obviously, there’s great value in face-to-face interaction, but this is as close as it can get,” Tsur tells NoCamels. Kaltura’s solutions enable would-be event invitees and hosts to “access content, network online, chat online, engage online with sponsors, have the content readily available. We can simulate the summit environment.”

Online technologies are not a response to the current coronavirus crisis, but they “broaden the horizon” for many businesses.

“This [outbreak] may broaden the horizon for many companies that you can replace a lot of face-to-face meetings with video. In many cases, it is also better for the environment [because of air travel] and right now no one wants to take responsibility for getting their employees sick, or invitees to their event sick, so I think it’s a good decision,” says Tsur about companies ramping up their remote work procedures.

“The world is advancing to online technologies that not only replace the need for physical meetings, but actually enable more effective work, allowing not only the ability to share information before and after the meeting, but also the ability to avoid losing organizational knowledge when working with different locations in different time zones,” Sigal Srur, head of human resources at Kaltura, said in a statement.

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The world of business is not the only arena looking to video and online tech for help during coronavirus uncertainty.

Universities around the world are curtailing conferences and exchange programs. Many also face canceling classes, as seen in Italy.

“There are a lot of organizations whose business is founded on people actually attending a physical place, and they need a solution for that,” says Tsur.

Kaltura’s tech is used by over 600 universities including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and the University of Queensland. The higher education facilities use Kaltura live-streaming service as well as the platform itself to access content.

While many universities are already hooked up to a digital platform, Tsur says that the coronavirus scare has still put them in a precarious position.

“Most organizations are not prepared for everything to go remote in an instant. The same goes for universities—what happens if we all go online at once?” she says, noting “it’s a massive opportunity” for video tech companies to prove their mettle.

Staying connected is also important for coronavirus patients and those in isolation.

Tel Aviv-based Uniper Care, which created a platform to help the elderly stay socially connected, has been keeping morale up for Israeli patients quarantined at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. The patients were evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and sent to isolation.

“Their life was taken away. They can’t go out. We add positivity to their day—relaxing yoga, mindfulness, and group therapy. Both live group chats and recruited content,” Rami Kirshblum, co-founder and CEO of Uniper Care, tells NoCamels. “This service is a game-changer for them. It helps make their treatment and patient journey a different kind of journey.”

The company was already in talks with Sheba to include the Uniper Care service, which transforms any television into an interactive station, as part of the telemedicine department. When the coronavirus patients landed at the hospital, staff asked the Israeli startup to help out.

The patients are able to talk with one another, their families, and medical staff via the video technology.

“Most of them are healthy but they’re isolated because they’re suspected of maybe having the virus, because they were in proximity,” says Kirshblum.

“They’re not just speaking remotely to medical staff, but we’re bringing a full wellness, social, and health service. They’re under stress, some are depressed. These sessions are a game-changer. They’re isolated but still connected,” he tells NoCamels.

This article first appeared in NoCamels, which covers innovations from Israel for a global audience.