NATO uses Cisco TelePresence to connect soldiers in Afghanistan with loved ones in Europe

25 Sep 2008

Troops get the closest thing in the world to a face-to-face meeting with their families thousands of kilometers away

MONS, Belgium "” NATO's service provider is today using one of the most advanced corporate collaboration tools developed by Cisco and constructed by BT and General Dynamics C4 Systems to bring together Afghanistan-based servicemen and women and their relatives in Europe in a series of virtual meetings. Cisco, BT and General Dynamics have provided a Cisco® TelePresence unit at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE HQ) in Belgium and another unit more than 5,400 kilometers away in Kabul, Afghanistan. Through this link, servicemen and women in Afghanistan are able to bridge the distance and meet virtually with loved ones as though they are in the same room.

The first session was held this week at the SHAPE HQ in Mons as part of Open Day, an event organised by NATO service provider NCSA (NATO Communications and Information Systems Services Agency) which also showcased innovations in cyber-security and military communications.

"Being able to give our front-line service people the impression of actually being in the same room as their loved ones many miles away is a powerful morale booster," said Director Lieutenant General Ulrich H. M. Wolf.

NATO will continue to assess the technology in other military applications such as facilitating remote briefings and supporting telemedicine in military hospitals.

This unique setup uses Cisco TelePresence System CTS-1000 models capable of seating two participants inside robust shelters built to withstand extreme weather conditions and transportation over rough terrain. The Cisco TelePresence systems connect via X-band satellite, an industry first in the use of telepresence technology.

"The Alliance's use of Cisco TelePresence to link up service personnel with their loved ones demonstrates the power of communicating and collaborating in real time through this unique, immersive technology," commented Brad Boston, senior vice president , Cisco Global Government Solutions Group. "Increasingly we are seeing demand from government and other organizations seeking to replace costly and time-consuming travel with a much simpler way of carrying out face-to-face meetings between cities, countries or even continents."

Francois Barrault, CEO, BT Global Services, said: "Having worked with NATO for a number of years, we have demonstrated that we offer secure network solutions that conform to the highest standards. Delivering the promise of real time face to face meetings between families thousands of kilometers apart, requires a world class global infrastructure. BT's network services provide the optimal communications experience required to support TelePresence and other collaborative applications, giving users the best 'in person' meeting experience achievable today."

General Dynamics C4 Systems President Chris Marzilli said, "This teaming effort between General Dynamics, Cisco and BT, represents a game-changing way to provide military users like NATO with info-centric, high-definition virtual meeting technologies. We are bringing a rugged, dependable, turnkey system enabling highly secure, end-to-end information collaboration and communication to the tactical edge, wherever forces deploy, from operations to exercises to military headquarters worldwide."

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