Latency: The Next Frontier
The upshot is that these newer codec implementations (most are H.264) and complementary encoding boards yield both HD and low-latency SD, with the latter being ideal for the applications mentioned above.
Take for instance, the HaiVision hai1000 MAKO-HD, which the Montreal-based company showcased at InfoComm. The MAKO-HD, according to the company, is an encoder/decoder board that uses a new H.264 codec implementation to achieve less than 120 milliseconds end-to-end latency. The end-to-end latency comment has the caveat of assuming a full quality-of-service delivery network (something those of us involved in videoconferencing are constantly aware of). Given the right network, though, the MAKO-HD has been demonstrated to support high definition resolutions up to 1080p; and, combined with HaiVision’s multi-blade chassis, users can achieve up to 5 bi-directional channels of HD within a single system.
"As H.264 establishes itself in the market, it is fulfilling its promise to serve a very broad range of applications," said Michelle Abrahams, principal analyst for multimedia & consumer markets at research firm In-Stat. "Low-latency H.264 video codecs contribute to the fulfillment of this promise by addressing applications in the video surveillance, video conferencing and wireless video networking space. The combination of [low] latency, multi-channel processing and high-definition opens up new and exiting opportunities in these markets."
Expect to see words like millisecond on a variety of marketing brochures in the near term, including the term "zero latency" which is marketing fluff for saying that a codec has very low latency. As a rule of thumb, as long as it’s below 150 milliseconds for end-to-end transmissions, the latency is low enough to allow bi-directional communication.
Another company approaching the low-latency HD and SD market is W&W Communications. Founded by James Liu as a codec-only company, W&W has branched out to include hardware/software solutions after it merged with DSP Research a few years ago. W&W has set its sites on very low latencies with claims—not yet substantiated—of latencies around 2 milliseconds end-to-end transmission, again assuming a QoS network delivery infrastructure.
While HaiVision’s H.264 HD architecture is available now, the new W&W architecture, dubbed Taos, should be available for sampling in late Q3 of this year with processing bandwidth to encode and decode 1080p60 video or any equivalent up to a 1080p60 stream (in other words, two 1080p30, four 720p30, eight D1 or 32 CIF streams at 30 frames per second).
It's one of the biggest challenges facing live video streaming today, and it's remained frustratingly stubborn. Explore the technical solutions that could finally bring latency down to the 1-second mark.
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