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Vaddio's AV Bridge Makes Streaming City Council meetings Easy

Vaddio Helps Citizens in Faroe Islands Participate in Local Government

Minnetonka, MN(24 Sep 2013)

In the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, roughly halfway between Norway and Iceland, lies the Faroe Islands. Comprised of about 18 rugged, rocky islands the Faroes occupy only about 540 square miles of land mass, with a total population hovering around 50,000 people. But if idylls of a simple people removed from modern technology spring to mind, you can banish that thought. In fact, one small community in the Faroe Islands recently deployed a high-tech solution using Vaddio products to get its citizens more involved in local governance.

The municipality of Sunda (known locally as Sunda kommuna) stretches across two of the larger Faroe Islands and includes about a dozen small communities. When it came to municipal matters, the city council of Sunda faced a challenge: Getting citizens scattered across a wide area to attend the meetings. To solve this problem, the council decided to take their meetings to the public by live-streaming the events on the web.

“In the past, city council meeting minutes were published after-the-fact,” said integrator Alvin Ellebye Andersen of Raclip, who worked with Sunda to create its live-streaming system. “The new method allows residents to follow along with the meeting as it happens. Although they can’t interact, they have real-time access to decision-making and community business.”

Because Raclip is, itself, located in the Faroe Islands, Andersen had a keen understanding of the obstacles Sunda kommuna needed to overcome. The live-streaming system had to be easy to use and not require a dedicated operator. It also had to be cost-effective. After evaluating other systems, Andersen knew an all-Vaddio system would deliver a great solution.

“The Vaddio components we installed really are the best thing for this type of situation,” Andersen said. “You just turn it on, and it works. Simple.”

The Sunda kommuna system consists of a single Vaddio HD-19 camera, two microphones, a Vaddio AutoPresenter, and Vaddio AV bridge. As a city council meeting gets underway, the mayor simply turns on the equipment and the event is live-streamed instantly. It quite literally is that simple.

“Other systems we looked at required a person to sit at the controller and operate the equipment,” Andersen said. “That wouldn’t have worked for this application, not to mention some of those systems were much more expensive than the Vaddio set-up.”

Any type of live-streaming setup with a high-definition pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) camera isn’t going to be cheap. But Andersen was able to keep costs contained for Sunda by sourcing all the components from the same manufacturer. Plus, the seamless integration of the Vaddio products drives the system’s ease of use.

The Vaddio AutoPresenter interfaces with the HD-19 PTZ camera mounted in the city council’s meeting room. Originally designed for classroom use, the AutoPresenter is the perfect solution for live-streaming any type of similar meeting, as in Sunda kommuna’s case. While the Sunda city council currently uses only the camera for broadcasting their events, in the future they could easily incorporate the presentation of other materials, such as PowerPoint slideshow, which is what the Vaddio AutoPresenter was designed to do. By harnessing this capability, the Sunda council could, for example, display a proposed budget using a picture-in-picture format while the city treasurer explained to viewers what each line item meant.

Another key component in the Sunda kommuna live-streaming setup is the Vaddio AV Bridge. This little box offers supreme flexibility in the choice of streaming platform. The AV Bridge functions as a digital gateway that connects the audio and video sources to the streaming software, be it Skype, Cisco Jabber, Microsoft Lync -- or any application that supports USB 2.0 devices.

“We just input the camera and microphone sources to the AV Bridge, and the city council can live-stream on any platform they desire,” Andersen said. “Again, we wanted to make this as easy as possible for them.”

 Importantly, the AV Bridge also records the meeting for archival purposes. Instead of relying on a set of written minutes that could be incomplete or even contain innocently introduced errors, the Sunda kommuna city council can review the video archives of meetings to discern precisely what was said, done or decided. 

What do Sunda’s citizens think about their community going high-tech?

“So far, they’re pretty happy with it,” Andersen said of the system, which was installed in March 2013. “Other Faroe Islands cities are watching how things go in Sunda and are checking out how this could work for them.” 

Although the meeting archives currently aren’t publicly available, the ability of a citizen to “sit in” on a live event occurring on another island offers great convenience to those who want to stay current with what the city council is doing. Ultimately, the system should stimulate more public input and involvement with local government, and that’s a big win for Sunda.