I’ll be the first to admit I was totally enthralled by the rescue of the miners in Chile. Watching the final moments unfold live on CNN’s online video stream made it all the more dramatic. At times the cultural differences between our two countries seemed profound—can you imagine U.S. residents spontaneously breaking into the National Anthem? For the miners, having the video contact throughout their underground ordeal must have been a life-saver, seeing as how it facilitated their contact with friends and family 2000 feet above ground. Did you hear the one rescue worker’s speech while waving around the small (and dated) hand-phone the miners first used to communicate? It was passionate and earnest. This simple thing did so much, he was saying, waving the old, battered phone in the air like it was a magic wand. Maybe to him, it was.

Ironically, the day after the rescue was completed, I was fortunate to participate in a press conference that looked at video communications technology at the futuristic end of the spectrum. Cisco Systems and the town of Holyoke, Massachusetts, announced the official launch of their “Smart + Connected Community” project. Holyoke wants to capitalize on Cisco’s advanced telecommunications platform, which integrates a number of once disparate data sources, including voice, video, and radio, onto a single platform. The press conference was conducted across Cisco’s “telepresence” network, a type of high-end video-conferencing set-up in which participants can see and hear each other with remarkable clarity (as long as they’re looking right into the camera that is).

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