Driving towards a more innovative approach to its virtual collaboration efforts while boosting current business capabilities, NATO has historically turned to Polycom to deliver collaboration technology. Continuing to elevate NATO‘s “new ways of working” program with advanced communication technology, NATO has become the first organization to deploy a commercially available Polycom RealPresence Centro, the industry’s first solution purpose-built to put people at the center of collaboration.
“In the early stages when we had Centro just about complete, and not at general availability but nearing beta for the product itself… when [the government vertical market team at Polycom] heard that availability of just one unit may become available, we won in justifying that NATO be the first customer,” says Russ Colbert, Director of Government Solutions and Marketing at Polycom. “We sat down with Gus [Mommers] in person with a non-disclosure presentation on what the product was and how it might fit in his environment. He likes to be a part of the cutting edge and to take advantage of new things in the industry that he can use and realize a benefit from. We gained approval and started moving forward, and we did it really fast.”
Following the announcement of the RealPresence Centro solution in October, and recognizing NATO’s emphasis on establishing a greater, more cohesive virtual collaboration program, Polycom provided NATO an opportunity to be the first to deploy the solution prior to general availability. This center of the room solution serves as a collaboration focal point for command and control meetings, training and administrative sessions, international communication and operational mission collaboration.
The installation process was simple, as the Centro is an out-of-the-box solution, according to Gus Mommers, Branch head CMS, NCI Agency, NATO. “We had Russ over and one of the project leads for Centro, but to be quite honest – I don’t know if you’re familiar with IKEA in the U.S., I think you are, but we could have just installed it with one tool. It was very easy.” The entire installation process took about 35 minutes.
Mommers adds, “The Centro hasn’t replaced anything that we’re using from Polycom, it’s in addition to what we already have. What we’re using at the moment is anything from a soft line on a PC or an iOS device, to a small desktop device for one or two persons, to a bigger group series for team collaboration, to a massive telepresence room. The Centro fits nicely into that whole scheme of things where we can use this in a different set up.”
Now fully operational on NATO’s Restricted Network, a highly protected and secure network within NATO’s infrastructure, the RealPresence Centro system is at the center of NATO’s most important communications. In an increasingly insecure and threatening environment, NATO must be meticulous in evaluating communications solutions. With highly confidential information being shared across its Restricted Network, heavy emphasis is placed on solutions that hold up against attempts to intercept information. The security assurance and experience presented with the RealPresence Centro system has allowed the solution to be tested, certified and approved by NATO for use.
“They had done all of the required security procedures prior to installation,” says Colbert. “But for Centro all they had to do was an updated security scan of the main piece of electronics that drive Centro. There were some security scans that were done to determine network worthiness for the NATO Restricted Network, and those were accomplished without problems or incidents.”
The RealPresence Centro solution is designed to create a more comfortable, intimate and natural means to collaborate and ideate. Polycom’s 360-degree voice and video technology automatically tracks the speaker, while also showing the entire meeting space on the same screen. Four touch screens are strategically placed in the middle of the room to create a unique intimate experience that drives deeper collaboration and better outcomes.
NATOs executive management team in particular enjoys the Centro because they are able to sit around the device comfortably and carry out morning briefs with directors in other offices around the world and on the road. The Centro gives them a round-table type meeting space that allows them to collaborate without sitting in pre-designated, stagnant spots across from the screen. They can move around the room and Centro will automatically follow them, so that meetings can stay fluid and spontaneous. The design of the Centro allows them to converse with team members in the room and on screen in a more traditional way that mirrors in-person collaboration.
“Customers pick this up very quickly. I never saw any doubt as to whether or not they would like it,” says Mommers. “They were curious, but our agency is all tech-savvy people, so they like new technology. For my part, I see it every day, I helped installing it, and I think it’s a great addition to our video teleconferencing experience.”
At the moment, NATO has a single Centro unit in its headquarters in Belgium. The intent is to install one or multiple units in all three major NATO locations, and discussions are in place as to whether or not it makes sense to outfit any or all of 32 satellite locations in the future.