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CES 2014: Q Factor Aims to Solve Video Buffering With an SDK

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The surprise company to emerge from last year’s International CES was adaptive streamer UpLynk, which was snapped up by Verizon Digital Media Services in record time. This year it’s Q Factor, which says it can stop video buffering and all types of network congestion in an usual way -- with an SDK.

Using its already announced Dynamic Packet Recovery technology, Q Factor this week released its first product, Packet Express. According to Subhash Roy, the company’s co-founder and CEO, Packet Express improves content delivery from the cloud to mobile devices. While the company is focusing on video use cases, it has applications in VOIP, gaming, conferencing, and more. Everyone experiences video buffering, he says, typically caused by packet loss and “buffer bloat.” These are last mile problems not solved by existing solutions.

When packets are lost over a TCP connection, they’re retransmitted. This slows delivery 50 percent to ensure that the replacement packets make it through. Roy sites a study by Vern Paxson, a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, that shows most homes have packet loss of 2 percent. Increased interference from mobile devices will compound the problem, Roy says.

Packet Express circumvents this slow down by replacing lost packets with an error correction technology, one that doesn’t force a retransmission. It transforms packets using high order linear algebra, Roy says, and delivers substitutes for any packets lost. It also determines when networks are congested and alters the pace of the TCP transmission for optimal delivery.

Rather than sitting on the network, Packet Express is integrated into an iOS or Android client application. App makers simply need to include the Q Factor library in their video players and recompile them. The code adds 500kb of data.

Competitor Conviva is a “beacon service,” Roy says, effective only at choosing one CDN over another. It enhances delivery, but doesn’t address packet loss. Packet Express has been in testing with CDNs and wireless operators in the U.S. and Asia, and the response has been positive, he says. Viewers don’t get buffer delays, so they view videos for longer.

Besides improving viewing, Packet Express returns data to operators, letting them know if they should change their CDN, for example, or offer additional adaptive video resolutions. While Q Factor doesn’t yet have customers to announce, Roy says that’s coming in February or March. The company is going after VOD and live linear broadcasters at the start. Monthly pricing is based on the number of users.

Now that the product is out, Roy predicts imitators will follow.

“We expect once we start disclosing customers and the product footprint there will be other people looking at our solution,” Roy said. “We have a better mousetrap, but there are a lot of smart people out there.”

Q Factor is based in Boston, Massachusetts, and was founded in 2012. It  announced in November, 2013, that it raised $6.5 million in Series A funding. 

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