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Colorado Piloting Health, Education Telepresence

The state is working with Cisco to implement remote health and distance learning, as well as make Colorado's buildings more energy efficient.

The state of Colorado has launched a series of pilot programs to create smart buildings and to implement distance learning and remote healthcare with the aid of telepresence, announced the state and Cisco Systems last week.

One pilot focuses on energy efficiency in towns and cities on the west slope of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, such as Grand Junction, where Cisco will work with Colorado to integrate power, lighting, HVAC, and computer networks across multiple buildings.

In another effort, Cisco and Colorado will implement telehealth in a number of rural locations, including pilots of technologies like telepresence that will allow doctors to consult with and diagnose patients remotely.

"Many citizens drive great distances for consultative input from physicians," Mike Locatis, Colorado's chief information officer, said in a video Cisco posted on YouTube. "These pilots will extend robust healthcare typically offered in urban areas to the rural parts of Colorado."

The third pilot project will focus on education. Students in remote areas will be able to take classes where they live via telepresence and Cisco WebEx. By participating in the pilot, the students may be guaranteed jobs nearby after finishing their education. This pilot is aimed specifically at nursing students and at stemming the tide of nurses who leave their communities to go to nursing school and never come back.

Thought the projects may sound disparate, according to Locatis, they supplement Colorado's multi-year IT consolidation effort and another collaboration initiative underway in the state's IT department.

The pilot grew out of Cisco's Smart+Connected Communities initiative, a Cisco program aimed at building innovative, connected government network infrastructures.

For example, the company is also working with rural communities in California to test the use of telepresence to facilitate remote healthcare service. In Holyoke, Mass., Cisco is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, and local healthcare centers to build a high-performance data center that will be the core of a much broader connected communities effort.

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