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IBM’s Open Framework Announcement Highlights Streaming Media West 2004

Other announcements at SM West included Kontiki’s unveiling of its Delivery Management System (DMS) 4.0, the latest upgrade to its peer-to-peer solution for overcoming what it calls "server gridlock." By using the resources of workstations on the network, DMS is designed to minimize the demand placed on servers, says director of product management Eric Krock, who added that Kontiki recently deployed a DMS solution for a Fortune 50 telecom company in which 92% of the video delivered was from clients on the network rather than from the server. (Details of that project will be announced later this year, Krock says.)

The new version offers increased user interface customization and better reporting, Krock says, letting administrators better control who sees what and how they see it. "The only way to really measure the effectiveness of content is to see not only who’s watched it, but whether or not they watched all of it or signed off after 30 seconds."

While heavyweights like IBM, MPI, and Kontiki focus on the infrastructure, plenty of exhibitors at SM West were addressing the more tangible aspects of streaming. In particular, ESPRE Solutions showed off its PDA solution. The eViewLink System incorporates encoding hardware and software into a 400mHz Toshiba handheld; when attached to a Webcam, the handheld captures video and audio, encodes it with ESPRE’s proprietary codec, and delivers it live via Wi-Fi to a remote operator who can control video settings such as brightness and contrast as well as screen resolution. The handheld also archives up to six hours of content and can stream both live and recorded video at the same time, according to ESPRE cofounder Kyle Nelson. "It’s a great solution for the health care industry, letting physicians and paramedics relay video and audio in the field back to a central location for consultation," he says. It’s always wise to be skeptical of trade show demos, but the product—which hasn’t shipped yet—showed outstanding video and audio on the SM West floor.

Doing much the same thing on the desktop, Vectormax’s Meeting Anywhere solution uses packets to decrease latency for live conferencing on standard desktops. It’s modeled after a traditional telephone PBX and lets any workstation with a Webcam become a Web conferencing station. Using a proprietary codec, the Meeting Anywhere solution provides videoconferencing over standard Internet connections as low as 56k, though a Vectormax rep said that 250k is the "sweet spot" for virtually real-time interaction.

On the Webcasting front, Webcast in a Box has partnered with the Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego to create the Laptop LectureCast Platform. Using Webcast in a Box’s $6,000 streaming appliance, academic institutions pay $150 a month for live lecture streaming and up to 100 hours of stored content for on-demand viewing, according to CEO Erik Herz. "We focus on education because that’s a market where users can receive a tangible ROI, not in monetary terms but in terms of a better experience for students," Herz says.

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