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Patriots Use Videoconferencing to Talk to Troops in Kuwait

Patriots celebrate contributions of soldiers around the world with NFL’s Salute to Service program.

The New England Patriots lost to the Seattle Seahawks in a controversial Sunday Night Football matchup that gave the visitors some level of revenge for Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl XLIX-winning interception about two years earlier.

But that won’t be what the troops from Camp Arifjan in Kuwait will remember from that night.

Thanks to the power of technology, and behind-the-scenes efforts by HB Communications, the soldiers—many of whom are from New Hampshire—got to talk to Patriots owner Bob Kraft and Boston-born actor Mark Wahlberg during halftime from Kraft’s Gillette Stadium suite.

HB director of UC solutions Tom Wing and director of UC sales engineering Alex Bisset, along with CTO Ted Thompson, have a long-standing relationship with the USO, dating back to their time as military veterans.

When Wing joined HB about four years ago, he was able to bring his work and his loyalty to the military together through the Salute to Service, an annual effort by the National Football League.

HB staffers spent a day or so earlier in the week setting up a videoconferencing system in Kraft’s suite and tied it into the video board, where the soldiers were shown to the crowd larger than life.

HB also used a cloud-based service to connect the sides and preserve both sides of the call for future viewing.

HB sets up connections at field level and link that to Kraft’s suite, then convert digital video and send it to the Gillette Stadium video board. They use a distribution amplifier and convert the HDMI video so it looks right on the giant screen.

“It creates a very exciting show to psych up the crowd,” says Bisset.

Leading up to the call, the Patriots send banners, flags and other gear to the soldiers for them to wear, either on the call or whenever they’d like.

For its Salute to Service efforts, HB donates a pan-tilt-zoom camera and microphone then gives them instructions on how to connect when it’s time to talk.

The soldiers never know who they’ll be talking to on the other end, with former Patriots players generally joining Kraft in his box for the five-minute call. The soldiers were definitely surprised to see Wahlberg this time around, says Wing.

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“It’s a way for [Patriots staffers and their guests] to express thanks for their service,” he says.

HB has done similar programs with the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden, with the focus on connecting families with servicemen and women representing their countries in far-away locales. The company does not get paid to secure these connections.

“There’s a real human element here,” says Bisset. “It kind of says something to someone like me, who works in technology for a living.”

In a way, HB’s involvement is a continuation of the legacy of founder Mackey Barron, a World War II veteran.

“It’s a way of carrying on some good HB history,” says Bisset.

Here’s a video of the call Kraft and Wahlberg did with the troops Sunday night:

 

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