Through history, the military relied on letters, telegrams, morse code and runners to communicate with colleagues at other base points, and their loved ones they left at home. They used simple ‘signals’, often encoded, to pass crucial information. As the years rolled by, the technology got more advanced, faster and richer, for example through radio and satellite phones. Over recent years the military has seen a communication revolution, and network-centric warfare has evolved, where forces are linked up through advanced communication technology, and increasingly video based comms. Video conferencing has become a central part of communication strategy in advanced armed forces.
There are three key areas in which video conferencing has played a role.
- Video conferencing has reduced the impact of separation from family whilst on tour. Military personnel no longer have to wait for weeks or months to receive letters and photograph packages from their loved ones, or have to cope with the limited medium of the phone. They can now see their families more regularly in high definition video and talk with crisp quality sound.
- Meetings between military groups at different vantage points have become easier. This has brought about a reduction in travel costs, and reduced travel time. High level meetings can be convened in minutes, with faster decisions based on the collaborative efforts of protagonists’ round the world.
- Video conferencing solutions have also facilitated more comprehensive, engaging and timely military training. Experts around the country, and around the world, are now only a few feet away.
Below are some examples of how video conferencing has been deployed in military set-ups.
The Naval Warfare Development Command (NWDC)
The NWDC recently moved into their new 85,000-square-foot headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia US. To augment the latest technology in the new location, the body needed communication technology that would seamlessly and effectively support its mission of developing intelligence via training and analysis.
To achieve this, they used advance display and control technology from Crestron and Sharp. They developed a solution that offers and supports manned and unmanned displays, as well as one-to-one and one-to-many sharing. To achieve a comprehensive, robust, high quality video conferencing and audio solution they installed 52-inch LCD panels around the location, and connected them to 1080 high definition video distribution systems and wall mounted touch panels.
With this set-up in place, personnel can engage with anyone from any part of the world on the navy network, and transfer the conversation to any display screen within headquarters.
The Oklahoma Army National Guard (OANG)
At the turn of the millennium, the OANG began implementing video conferencing solutions for training of guardsmen, and for meetings. By 2007, they had 137 systems in place. However, this number quickly proved inadequate as there were still hundreds of soldiers driving huge distances 5 times a year to attend meetings.
To tackle this problem the Oklahoma Army National Guard expanded their video conferencing solution even further by bringing in an additional 122 Polycom HD units to the National Guard Stations around the states. This signalled a completion of the video conferencing project.
The results were instant, as the Oklahoma Army National Guard now logs over 1200 hours of video conferencing each month on HD Polycom units. The increased number of units made it easy for guardsmen all through this US state to take part in training and meetings without leaving their locality.
Apart from the landmarks achieved in meetings and learning, the improvement in the video conferencing infrastructure has also made collaboration between ground and air officers easier. Officers in a helicopter can now transmit live video back to a base in their jurisdiction, showing them what is happening in real-time. This has led to better results, especially when it comes to dealing with drug related cases.
Military Courtrooms at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire
This courtroom is a state-of-the-art facility built to offer a courtroom which is lit naturally but still quiet. The facility serves army detachments around the Salisbury Plain area; as well as Royal Marines, Royal Navy and RAF units around the world.
Phil Mansfield, AAD Director and project consultant says “our approach to the scheme was to deliver the top drawer acoustic performance necessary, using pragmatic design details and construction solutions that are understandable and build-able and capable of outperforming their relatively modest expense. The design and construction teams worked very well together and we are pleased to hear the facility is delivering the goods.”
The facility features high level video conferencing technology, as it is important for foreign based court witnesses to be able to testify in court without travelling down to the UK. This is particularly important due to the fact that they are under no legal obligation to do so.
This solution also means that British military personnel in other parts of the world do not have to leave important operations to head back to contribute to proceedings in military court. Military court proceedings therefore cause less disruption, and pull together more eye witness and expert testimony then they ever could in the past.
These are just a few examples of how video conferencing solutions have improved the daily operation of the armed forces around the world. The technology of the future is here today, and the military are already seeing the benefits.