Cisco, Verizon Business and Wal-Mart Team With SkyPort and the USO to Help Troops Speak to and See Loved Ones at Home
TEMECULA, Calif. and EVANS MILLS, N.Y. May 08, 2008 - With Mother's Day just around the corner, Cisco, Verizon Business and Wal-Mart, along with SkyPort Global Communications and the USO (United Service Organizations), are helping to provide virtual family reunions for U.S. troops serving in Iraq. A lifelike, immersive video communications technology - known as Cisco® TelePresence - allows the troops to bridge the distance and speak to and see loved ones at home.
"Cisco TelePresence demonstrates the power of communicating and collaborating real-time as though you were meeting face-to-face," said John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco. "Our companies are very proud to join together to honor and recognize our troops and their loved ones. We hope military families will take advantage of this technology and connect with our service men and women overseas during the upcoming holidays."
Rheanna Kitch, whose husband is serving in Iraq, commented: "I loved feeling like my husband was sitting right across the table from me. It makes this deployment a little bit easier being able to see my husband on a huge screen. Even though my sweetheart is half way around the world, when I am in that room he is right beside me."
The collaborative effort to support the troops includes the use of Cisco TelePresence to allow troops based in Iraq to connect with friends and family members back home. The free connections, using Verizon Business' Private IP network and a SkyPort satellite uplink, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and link two remote bases in Iraq to two Wal-Mart stores: one located near Camp Pendleton in Temecula, Calif., and one located hear Fort Drum in Evans Mills, N.Y. Two specially equipped family-gathering rooms were built in the Wal-Mart stores and opened April 2. They will be available through July 6, spanning the upcoming holidays of Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Father's Day and Independence Day.
"Verizon Business is proud of the technology we deploy to help members of the U.S. Armed Forces stay in touch with their families at home,'' said John Killian, president of Verizon Business. "The women and men serving overseas make sacrifices every day and we hope this effort will help them feel closer to their loved ones by being able to sit across from each other and talk - even though they are located at opposite ends of the world."
Cisco TelePresence replicates face-to-face interaction so realistically that it feels as though everyone is in the same room, even though they may be thousands of miles apart. While videoconferencing has been intermittently available to service men and women, the Cisco TelePresence deployment represents the first lifelike communications of its kind between these particular troops and their families back home. Families from Camp Pendleton and Fort Drum are using the technology to reconnect with loved ones, see children and even hold virtual birthday parties.
"Getting to see my husband in Iraq really helps me," said Mellissa Reynolds, who has used Cisco TelePresence in the Temecula, Calif. Wal-Mart to connect with her husband in Iraq. "It's so comforting to go to the Wal-Mart store and be that close to him, as if he is right next to me. TelePresence makes it so much easier to communicate with him because I can see his facial expressions when he talks. You can't see that in an email or phone call."
Rollin Ford, EVP and Wal-Mart's chief information officer, said: "Wal-Mart is committed to supporting not only our troops but the entire military family, and we are proud to join with Verizon and Cisco to help connect military families with their loved ones serving in Iraq. Through TelePresence, our customers have the unique opportunity to support and connect with our men and women in uniform through a virtual face-to-face interaction."
The Cisco TelePresence rooms are located at the Wal-Mart Store in Temecula, Calif. (32225 Highway 79 South, Temecula, Calif.) and at the Wal-Mart Store in Evans Mills, N.Y. (25737 US Route #11, LeRay, N.Y.).
Skyport has installed satellite ground links at two bases in Iraq where soldiers and marines can access a Cisco TelePresence system to have live conversations with family members and friends. This is the first example of Cisco TelePresence being deployed via satellite.
"We are honored to have been chosen by Cisco to participate in this effort to put our nation's soldiers and marines in closer touch with the families they have left behind," said Patrick Brant, president and CEO of Skyport.