Picking a winner for the "Most Innovative Video/Multimedia Product or Service" from a broad spectrum of new video products and technologies was always going to be a challenge, but the entries for this year's Leading Lights awards have made it particularly tough for the judges. We have a number of strong candidates addressing a number of different aspects of the video value chain.
The seven finalists addressed important challenges faced by the video industry, particularly in the areas of high-quality content delivery over increasingly bandwidth-constrained networks and in the introduction of new 360-degree services -- both key areas for the future of the television/video industry.
The judges are working on parsing these seven finalists down to one lucky winner, who will be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner on Monday, May 15, at Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas. On the following day, the Big Communications Event opens its doors for two days of learning, networking and fun.
To find out which companies were shortlisted across all of this year's Leading Lights categories, please check out this story. (See Leading Lights 2017: The Finalists.)
Meanwhile, in alphabetical order, here are the seven finalists for Most Innovative Video/Multimedia Product or Service:
Akamai Technologies' Predictive Content Delivery (PCD)
This entry from Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM) is a software development kit (SDK) that can be integrated into mobile and in-home media applications. The goal is to provide an instant start to mobile videos, with no buffering or stalling. The PCD does this by using "mobile device storage, predictive algorithms, and smart battery management," delivering video content to the mobile device during off-peak hours or when a WiFi connection is available.
The PCD also personalizes content based on user preferences, usage data and social activity, and it can scale up to millions of secure downloads. It is aimed at on-the-go media applications, offline viewing, ad caching, in-flight entertainment/travel apps and education and gaming apps.
We know from several studies that consumption of video via mobile devices is growing rapidly, and that delivering high-quality video experiences to viewers will be a critical requirement for content owners and video distributors alike. As such, this solution addresses an important need for the industry.
- How to Deliver Higher Mobile Video QoE
- Mobile Operators & Video
- Airtel India: Success in Mobile Video
Cisco Systems' Infinite Video Platform
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s Infinite Video Platform (IVP) is a cloud-based video services platform for both pay-TV providers and broadcasters to process, secure, distribute and monetize video on any consumer device. As such, IVP is really the grown-up version of Videoscape, the first iteration of the company's cloud-based video efforts, which Cisco launched back in 2011. IVP represents the merger of multiple cloud-based Infinite Video products that have now been bound together in a single, unified video delivery platform.
Cisco says its flagship video platform offers next-level encoding, network reliability and client capabilities that help control the viewing experience from end to end. The IVP options for managing video delivery include individual service modules for: Linear, On Demand, Analytics, Administration, Packages, Subscribers, cDVR and Policies, Service Provisioning, Devices, Security Services, Advertising and IVP Labs. For any video provider that doesn't want to take on the role of platform creator (Read: Comcast) or ongoing systems integrator, Cisco offers a solution for scalable growth in the IP video business.
So far, Cisco claims to have signed up more than 60 IVP customers around the globe. At CES 2017, the company took the concept another step further, introducing its IVP Labs to test new features, speed up their development and foster greater service velocity within the platform.
- Cisco's Infinite Video Platform
- Cisco's Cloud Video Platform Grows Up
- Cisco Launches Infinite Video Platform Labs
Harmonic's EyeQ Real-Time Video Compression Optimization Solution
This product from Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) is designed to help video distributors deliver high-quality video on HTTP-connected devices while reducing bandwidth consumption by up to 50%. Yet, it does not require any changes to the underlying existing delivery infrastructure or video players.
Video is expected to account for 80% of network traffic over the coming years as OTT, live streaming and other video services grow exponentially. Emerging "fat video" applications such as VR/360-degree video and UHD will tax the network even more. In this situation, the ability to reduce bandwidth without compromising quality or having to develop or deploy new technology is of significant benefit to network operators and streaming service providers alike. And lower storage and streaming costs help with the business case for new streaming services.
EyeQ constantly assesses and adjusts encoding parameters based on the mechanics of the human eye, without adding latency to the encoding process. It measures video quality by taking into account the properties that are critical to the human visual system’s (HVS) perception of video quality. Using embedded artificial intelligence, the solution continuously evaluates video quality in real time, measuring and adjusting to deliver a more consistent QoE for the viewer.
- Harmonic, NASA: Watch Astronauts Train in VR
- AWS Joins With NGCodec for New VR Video Codec
- Harmonic Expands VOS Media Suite
Net Insight's Sye True Live OTT Streaming Solution
Sye is a virtualized software solution, back-end and streaming platform crafted for massively scalable live streaming. In fact, Net Insight AB (Stockholm: NETI-B) bills Sye as the world’s first true live OTT solution that can stream synchronized video and audio to any consumer device, enabling viewers to share their live experiences in real time. Combined with ultra-low latency, this ability also allows harmonization of the live OTT feed with the linear TV broadcast, making it possible to offer second-screen companion content as a complement to the first-screen experience.
Net Insight launched Sye at the NAB Show in April 2016. At NAB 2017 last month, the company showcased the potential to display driver cams with 360-degree camera views. This capability enables viewers of live OTT content to enjoy an immersive TV experience. Viewers can switch between different camera positions without missing a beat of the action unfolding on the first screen. As a result, Net Insight says Sye will enable high-quality, 360-degree live streaming despite today’s bandwidth limitations in the home network.
Prior to its release, Sye was successfully road-tested by Tata Communications Ltd. This proof-of-concept test involved a transcontinental OTT feed from a motor racing event in Singapore, which was delivered to the UK with no delay of the live broadcast and then streamed through an app in perfect synchronization.
- Net Insight Unveils Live OTT Solution
- Net Insight Lands Tata as First Live OTT Customer
- Net Insight Selected for Live Sports Contribution Network
Nokia's Velocix Media Delivery Platform Elastic CDN
Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s candidate for the award is a virtualized content delivery network designed specially to expand to meet both expected and unexpected peaks in demand. Given the unpredictable spikes in network traffic -- sometimes due to highly anticipated sporting or other events, and at other times, completely unpredictable occurrences such as viral videos -- network operators must be prepared to increase their content delivery capabilities at short notice.
Nokia's Velocix CDN spins up virtual caches whenever a spike in traffic is detected (or anticipated, in the case of more predictable events) to provide additional edge caching and delivery capacity for the operator. Once traffic levels subside to normal, the machines are released and re-provisioned for other compute tasks -- until the next viral event causes another traffic spike. Capacity can be added in a matter of minutes, as needed.
Nokia says this product offers operators a more capital-efficient approach for delivering video with high customer QoE, instead of trying to configure their networks for additional capacity to address occasional traffic spikes caused by one-off events.
- Sky Deploys Nokia's Velocix
- IP Video Services Explode at IBC
- Alcatel-Lucent Unveils Velocix Virtual CDN
SK Telecom's Oksusu
Oksusu is a mobile video platform jointly developed by SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) and SK Broadband . Today, it offers 111 live TV steaming channels, including news, entertainment, sports/leisure, home-shopping, kids/education and audio channels. It also delivers more than 9,000 movies, including several concurrently with the theatrical release window as well as a range of original content (with plans to produce 20 different shows in 2017). In addition, the service includes a personalization engine to recommend content, based on analysis of a customer's viewing history, gender, age and other variables.
Further, last year Oksusu began offering original 360-degree VR content, a live chat room on sports channels for viewers to connect with each other and a comment/ratings plugin.
But the most innovative feature of the service is its usage of "T Live Streaming", a customized version of the MPEG Media Transport (MMT) for the mobile environment, which cuts live broadcast latency for 360-degree VR video from 20 seconds to less than five seconds. It also boasts other advantages, such as fast channel-change [less than 0.6 seconds], better bandwidth efficiency [generating up to 10% less traffic than HLS] and easy ad-insertion into the video and traffic analytics.
SK Telecom has been serving as the chair of the "MMT Sub Working Group" within MPEG, working on the standardization of the T Live Streaming technology. With this standard expected to be completed by the end of the year, the company claims it will serve as the next-generation mobile protocol, replacing MPEG-2 and HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocols that are widely used today.
SoftAtHome's Video 360 Solution
SoftAtHome says its next-generation SOP8 software solution enables Video 360 to run smoothly on TV for a complete, intuitive and optimized experience in Ultra HD and HDR. The product enables providers to leverage new services and content, such as live sports events and entertainment, by tailoring such disruptive technologies as Virtual Reality for the TV screen. Viewers can simply use their remote controls to make 360-degree moves within the video, switch camera angles, watch what is happening behind the scenes, or zoom in for closer looks, without needing to wear clunky VR goggles.
Besides being used for VoD, linear content and live sports events and shows, SoftAtHome says Video 360 can also be mixed with IoT, as video surveillance features can be added. In addition, Video 360 boasts an impressive lighting experience controlled by the set-top box. Moreover, the audio shifts at the same time as the video, so the sound accompanies any change in camera angle or image.
Video 360 has been on trial with several tier-one operators in Europe and elsewhere since September 2016. SoftAtHome says operators testing the solution have been enthusiastic about its mass-market potential so far. They also see promise in using Video 360 to drive advertising on second screens in the home.
- Intracom Teams With SoftAtHome
- AirTies, SoftAtHome Team Up
- Broadcom, SoftAtHome Connect on Hybrid Boxes
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading