Satellite Video: Training So Many, With So Little

Safeway turns to a satellite video system to train 7,000 employees scattered across 50 states in just two weeks.

With new federal health-care information rules going into effect this year, Safeway Corp. was recently tasked with bringing up to date nearly 7,000 pharmacy employees scattered across the 50 states. Travel for so many employees at once was out of the question, so the company turned to an upgraded satellite video system and completed the training in two weeks.

"We literally had to train close to 7,000 people on the new [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] regulations," said Dan Pryor, vice president of media production for Safeway, in Pleasanton, Calif.

The high-speed HIPAA instruction, while impressive, is not a training record for Safeway. In a single month, the company has trained more than 100,000 employees in check-out procedures, Pryor said, adding that video training programs are not always extensive or complicated.

"The training may be a 20-minute session," Pryor said. "The amount of time it used to take to roll something like that out to 2,000 locations was enormous."

Rapid, ubiquitous corporate training programs are possible via satellite video service supported by network infrastructure from SkyStream Network Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif. For enterprises with hundreds or thousands of far-flung sites, terrestrial broadband capable of high-quality video can be cost-prohibitive, but with SkyStream, Safeway transmits video messages at speeds up to 8M bps, the equivalent of five T-1 lines, Pryor said.

Safeway operates its own digital uplink facility and has been using satellite broadcast services for 25 years, originally to beam music and advertising over the stores public address systems, Pryor said.

This year, the supermarket conglomerate, whose chains include Vons, Randalls, Tom Thumb and Genuardis stores, deployed SkyStreams Edge Video Routers in all but 12 of its 1,785 stores to take advantage of more sophisticated satellite services. It deployed the same routers at division offices, manufacturing plants and distribution centers.

Because the sites are scattered across six time zones, there is no single point in the day when it is convenient to reach all employees, which is why Safeway sought a video system that could be accessed on demand, Pryor said.

This week, SkyStream announced that it secured $25 million in private funding. Some of the new funds will be directed toward expanding the enterprise product line, Jim Olson, CEO and president of SkyStream, told eWEEK.

Approximately 75 percent of SkyStreams customers are enterprises, most of whom, unlike Safeway, contract for satellite uplink services from providers. The main competition for SkyStream is VSAT service, which Olson sees as increasingly unappealing as enterprises demand higher bandwidth for one-way communications. "Certainly you dont need 10M bps of video going back from a store to the headquarters," Olson said.

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