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Hot, Steamy and Online

Boardroom meetings could heat up if a Finnish company’s idea of outfitting a sauna with a web camera for video conferencing catches on.

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A new internet sauna could change the meaning of "hot under the collar"

The Finns love their saunas. And they love the internet. Now there’s a way for the two to be combined.

Thanks to a development by the company Media Tampere, Finland’s sauna going public can surf the internet, engage in online chats and participate in company video conferences all while sweating it out.

A specially equipped internet sauna at the Media Tampere headquarters makes it all possible. From the outside the sauna looks like any other. But from the inside looking out, it’s a whole different world – a virtual world.

Media Tampere installed web cameras and microphones in a small custom-built glass window in the sauna along with speakers and video monitors.

The real trick was developing heat and humidity resistant technology. Temperatures in a Finnish sauna can reach 80-100° centigrade (180-212° F).

Better business

The sauna has played a key role in Finnish business and politics over the decades, with much wheeling and dealing conducted in the heat of the steamy room. Nearly all major Finnish companies have their own house sauna, but until now time spent in the sauna was time away from business.

When Media Tampere began the project late last year, the initial goal was to enable company employees to conduct video conferences while sitting in the sauna. Since then, the feedback has been so positive that company officials have said customers can get the technology tailored to their specific sauna needs. Area companies can also rent Media Tampere’s sauna for their own conferences.

According to Jarkko Lumio, head of the Media Tampere’s digital development group, the internet sauna is so successful because it unites two Finnish passions. Nearly 100 percent of Finns go to the sauna on a daily basis, and 70 percent of them surf the internet.

The internet sauna, therefore, is a logical development, a "social innovation" which helps bring people closer together, especially across cultural boundaries, Lumio said.

"All important decisions in Finland are made in saunas," Lumio told reporters recently. "A firm like ours should be able to get in touch with the outside world when there is something important to discuss."

"Another important issue is the time difference. Typically when the Americans begin their business day, the Finns are having a sauna, which makes it ideal to have a conferencing link between the two continents," Lunio said.

The only problem remaining is the issue of dress. Whereas Americans prefer the traditional coat and tie for a conference, the Finns enjoy sitting in the sauna in their birthday suits.

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