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Intelligence community to start using virtual worlds

Intelligence community to start using virtual worlds

IBM announced Thursday that it would integrate a virtual worlds platform into Lotus Sametime, Big Blue's collaboration software, that will be used by the U.S. Intelligence agencies to communicate on key topics such as terrorism.

Analysts believe the move might lead to increased adoption of virtual worlds nationwide, as IBM could encourage other users of Sametime to integrate the platform as well.

IBM's partner in the project will be Forterra Systems, whose virtual worlds platform, On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment (OLIVE), has been used by organizations to train employees, hold meetings, and develop new products in virtual environments.

The project will be funded by In-Q-Tel, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm that works with the intelligence community to adopt new technologies.

"We believe secure virtual worlds, integrated with unified communications and collaboration, will enable users to engage the right subject matter experts within and between organizations to analyze complex situations," Steve Bowsher, I-Q-Tel's Executive Vice President of Investments, said in a statement.

According to Erica Driver, a Forrester Research analyst, Forterra was a prime candidate to partner with IBM because they have delivered enterprise-grade virtual worlds securely by implementing them behind the firewall. For Forterra, the announcement offers the opportunity to integrate with existing collaborative systems at companies that use Sametime.

"The implications for enterprise adoption of virtual worlds could be pretty big," she says.

Akiba Saeedi, director of unified communications with IBM, says the Olive Platform will integrate with key features in Sametime. For instance, a user could book a virtual meeting using the Sametime calendar or call into a virtual meeting if away from a computer.

"This allows them to plug into that collaborative environment that people have already been using," she says.

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