Why the New York-Dublin Portal Marks a New Era in Communication

15 May 2024

Linking New York and Dublin via a livestream video portal is actually a stroke of genius. The two cities, separated by an ocean, share elements of history and culture, making them seemingly obvious bedfellows in this artistic endeavor.

Created by a Lithuanian artist, and backed by the local councils of both Dublin in Ireland and New York City, the project was designed to foster a unique digital connection and bridge the sea. And while it has done that admirably, the headlines have focused mainly on some of the NSFW behavior exhibited by some of the residents of each city.

But while the new livestream portal between the two cities presented a mixed bag of very human behavior, it has also shown another way that technology can be used to bridge gaps.

A spokesperson for the Dublin City Council said, “The overwhelming majority of interactions are positive. We have seen families and friends unite, dancing moves being shared as well as new friendships being made. There was even a successful marriage proposal.”

And despite the fact that the New York/Dublin link has seen some slightly scandalous headlines, this isn’t actually the first portal. The first cross-city portal link was between Lublin in Poland and Vilnius in Lithuania and has widely been seen as a success.

In fact, there are other portals planned soon, with another connection in Brazil, according to the Portals organization website.

So far, cool idea - barring some very human issues. But could this be the start of a new way of using digital tools for connecting and communicating?

Using Screens to Communicate

We’ve all grown used to jumping on a Zoom call, sharing Insta updates, dropping some WhatsApp messages, and even, shock horror, maybe actually calling someone. But the livestream portal suggests that we don’t even need to schedule a call anymore - we could create our own little windows into the world.

Mark McDermott, CEO of ScreenCloud, has long been espousing the benefits of connected screens.

“We’ve grown used to seeing screens everywhere, often just selling us stuff, reminding us not to leave our luggage lying around or sometimes just blank with an input error message. But portals can be a really good way to use these screens to communicate in a more fluid manner.”

As he says, there are a number of ways he sees the potential use cases for this type of technology.

“Obviously New York and Dublin are two big global cities. But a portal can be used to connect anything from different business locations, college campuses, events. They could even add a connection for twinned cities - a similar approach to the New York/Dublin Livestream portal, but perhaps with less potential for scandal.”

An example of this within a business setting could be using a live stream portal setup in the breakrooms of different branch offices. This then means that distant work colleagues could chat casually over the water cooler, even if they’re in different cities…

The same opportunities could be used for school or college campuses, research centers, multi-site events, or government offices. And the opportunity to have an ad-hoc chat over a livestream portal screen could mean less wasted time on meetings that could have been emails. Something that many of us are all too familiar with…

If this sounds like it could be tricky to build, create and manage, actually it’s more simple than you might think. Especially when you factor in low-cost hardware and affordable software solutions.

Use Cases for Two-Way Live Streaming

Live streams are obviously nothing new. Webcams have been around since the internet began, and we’ve seen various platforms adopt live streaming to Q&As and webinars, gaming, and sports events.

But two-way live streaming could change elements of the workplace, customer service, how we interact with local government, and even our friends and families!

While an open channel to discuss with work colleagues in different locations might seem obvious, another opportunity in customer service could be just as important. Especially in an era where AI is being used to replace human interaction.

A two-way livestream could connect shoppers to customer support via a location within a store. Or citizens could attend political rallies, government consultations, or parliamentary sessions from provincial offices, without needing to make a trip to parliament.

As Mark McDermott from ScreenCloud points out, “The use cases for creating two way live streaming portals are potentially endless. It could also be an incredible tool for cooperation across different departments or hubs. For example if you have your researchers in one location and product team in another, rather than scheduling daily or weekly meetings, a live portal could facilitate real time collaboration.”

What Do You Need to Create a Livestream Portal?

The technology linking a livestream portal is actually quite simple and readily available using consumer-grade tech. All you need is a screen on each side with a live streaming connection via a tool such as YouTube Live, Twitch, or Zoom.

Those looking for a more solid and permanent stream could also use a tool such as Open Broadcaster Software, which is an open-source live streaming solution.

It would then be a case of connecting these dual streams to your display, either via a local hard drive or using a cloud-based digital signage software to stream. Of course, the cloud-based option frees up space, as most modern TVs feature integrated casting.

As far as screens go, the choice is as broad as you want it to be. Whether it’s a standard smart TV or an interactive video kiosk.

If you’re creating a break room portal, for example, screens connecting two offices, an inexpensive LCD TV would be perfect. For a more public installation, for example in a campus foyer, or at a music festival, you’d need a more hardwearing piece of equipment such as an OLED video wall or freestanding digital signage screen.

But the portal has opened up a new way of thinking about how screens communicate. Where will they pop up next?