Web Conferencing Tool Measures Carbon Savings

One Web conferencing vendor is out to show how avoiding air and car travel can help the environment and cut emissions.

iLinc Communications, based in Phoenix,Ariz., has added what the company calls the "Green Meter" to its Web conferencing software. The Green Meter measures the amount of carbon that would have been emitted had the user opted to travel to a meeting site as opposed to using conferencing technologies.

Essentially, the Green Meter calculates exactly how much CO2 emissions are saved for every individual that uses iLinc. The Green Meter detects the locations of the people who are attending a Web meeting using their IP address and measures the distance between meeting participants and the meeting leader. Doing so provides a measure of the exact amount of eliminated travel. Using an algorithm that recognizes what method of travel would have been used, including cars, small aircrafts and large aircrafts, the Green Meter generates a CO2 emissions savings amount for both the Web meeting leader and a composite number of the organization.

The iLinc Web conference interface displays the amount of CO2 saved in the bottom left corner. The software also offers a breakdown on individual carbon savings based on pounds.

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James Powers, iLinc CEO, said channel partners are just starting to promote the Green Meter to customers and he sees a big sales opportunity in offering customers tools designed for their green initiatives. He said resellers can package iLinc and Green Meter with other green offerings to clients.

"It's been new ground that we've been plowing," Powers said. "Resellers are catching on and their customers have been pushing for it too. It's growing from the top down and the bottom up."

Lane Shelton, executive vice president and general manager of Downingtown, Penn.-based solution provider Softmart, said more and more customers are in the early stages of green initiatives. Leading with Green Meter has helped Softmart with prospecting and getting into new customer accounts as companies are under pressure to become more environmentally conscious.

"We've incorporated it into our pitch," Shelton said, adding that just recently two of Softmart's largest customers contacted the reseller inquiring about tools to help them with their greening plans. "They called and said, 'Is there anything out there in the software our hardware worlds that could help us?'"

Softmart has a program called Greenfield where it offers clients new and emerging technologies, many of which are geared toward resource conservation.

"iLinc has this niche with going green and an ethos of environmental stewardship that our customers are starting to recognize. It's sort of in the right place at the right time."

And while Shelton said Green Meter is a first step for many of his customers to get their green ball rolling, it will take time before more initiatives truly start to take hold.

"There needs to be standardization," he said. "There will be a flood of [green products] at first and it will become a chaotic mess before it settles down."

Global Knowledge Training, a privately held provider of training and enterprise learning services for IT and management professionals, has used Green Meter to track the environmental impact of its distance learning programs. The company found that it prevents more than 4.4 million points of CO2 from entering the environment each month. Since 20 pounds of CO2 equals burning one gallon of gasoline, that means Global Knowledge saves more than 200,000 gallons of gas per month.

"I hadn't thought about our direct effect on global warming before switching to iLinc," Chris Gosk, vice president of distance learning at Cary, N.C.-based Global Knowledge, said. "Now, however, we know precisely how our online programs help the environment, both for our organization and for our customers."

Along with promoting going green, iLinc has also launched a program that donates $100 to renewable energy programs for every customer that reaches one million pounds or more in CO2 savings each quarter, a milestone Powers said many users will achieve. iLinc also recently announced that its customers have reduced CO2 emissions by one billion pounds since the vendor launched its iReduce emissions reduction program last year.

The initial imputes for Green Meter, Powers said, came from a discussion with Al Gore after which he was left wondering how to leverage iLinc's technologies and help push environmental friendliness. Green Meter 2.0 is currently in development, Powers said.

"Customers and partners want to eliminate or neutralize their carbon emissions," he said. "This gives them a measurement. It becomes quantitative instead of arbitrary. It's taking it out of the abstract and making it a quantifiable, real number."