The NeGeV consortium has the ‘capabilities to produce generic technologies that will enable a new personal TV reality to be adopted worldwide.’If you think viewing fuzzy, slow-downloading news clips on your cellphone, or watching over-pixillated YouTube Internet posts are the last word in high tech streaming video, don’t touch that dial: a consortium of seven of Israel’s best and brightest companies involved in developing video infrastructure and applications delivery is on the case.
“We are working to create a new paradigm for viewing video content,” says Benny Einhorn, chairman of the NeGeV (Next Generation Video) consortium.
“Using a home TV, mobile phone, PC or portable video player, individuals will be able to view video content of their preference, any time, anywhere, on their device of choice,” adds Einhorn, chief marketing officer of Comverse, one of the partners in the project.
Established in May and funded for three years through the Israel Chief Scientist Office MAGNET program with estimated project costs of $20 million, the NegeV consortium consists of the cream of the Israel high tech scene – in addition to Comverse, Scopus Video Networks, Optibase, SintecMedia, Orca Interactive, Mobixell Networks and BitBand have all signed on.
MAGNET manager Ilan Peled said that the program is committed to “supporting Israeli companies at the leading edge of research and development”. He told ISRAEL21c that the NeGeV consortium has the “capabilities to produce generic technologies that will enable a new personal TV reality to be adopted worldwide.”
NeGeV’s goals will make today’s plethora of broadband cable TV options seem positively quaint:
** Sports fans will be able to view their favorite sports channels on any device, and will be able to watch their preferred sporting events online or at anytime after the event; they will receive alerts to their mobile phone, view promos and short summary clips that have been formatted to their portable device; they will also be able to search and view earlier sports events not currently broadcasted. When switching from a mobile device to a large TV screen, these fans will be able to view the entire game and also to browse through selected segments.
** Fans of TV cliffhanger TV series’ like 24, Desperate Housewives, or even cheesy telenovellas will be able to select past episodes, along with promos for future episodes, as well as accessing background information about their favorite actors and plots.
** Business people will be able to download up-to-the-second alerts for financial news according to their selected preferences. They will also be able to watch short news clips while on the road and view full financial reports, live or on demand, transferring the stream on the fly to large-screen televisions or PC’s in the office or at home.
“We envision a world with multiple sources of video,” says the consortium’s general manager, Ziv Ringer. But with such a welter of hundreds – if not thousands – of feeds running concurrently 24/7, Ringer cautions that people will find it really hard to navigate and make use of such variety.
“NeGeV has the challenge of solving the personalization issues and providing everyone with a ‘personal environment’ in which they can navigate, and find the content that they like; one person would prefer video clips of sport, somebody else would like fashion TV, or, say, volleyball in Australia,” he told ISRAEL21c.
“This way, we would allow each person to make the best use of so much of the video content that is and will be available.”
Nowadays, the technical and advertising details of just posting and tracking banner ads on Internet blogs are confusing enough; how does he see the new paradigm of video anytime, anywhere, on any device, for millions of viewers making a profit?
“One of the major challenges that we are targeting is to pinpoint, select and associate advertisements that fit the user,” Ringer says. “If I am a sports fan, it makes a lot of sense to direct related advertisements to me. And, at the same time TV becomes more and more personal, it’s a great challenge to technically inject those ads to the specific video screen that I am watching at this second.”
He envisions the ‘system’ operating in a manner akin to computer meta-data indexing search engines like Microsoft Windows Desktop Search or Apple’s Spotlight, or Amazon or Google’s targeted advertising, where certain combinations of efficient keywords hack through the morass of logged and tagged video data, enabling the user fast access to what they are specifically interested in viewing.
NeGeV’s goal, Ringer says, is to “sort out, index, and associate informative data through those huge volumes of video, so that when the system searches for an appropriate video for you, it would know what fits you; and it would be very easy to locate those pieces of content that fit what you asked for.”
And how long until there is a real working box with a screen and available content channels?
“We hope to show intermediate results in about 18 months from now and to show a demonstrations system – or proof-of-concept a year later, towards the end of those three years,” Ringer says.
Running under the overall auspices of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, and aided by well-known professors from Bar-Ilan University, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Haifa’s Technion and Tel Aviv University, NeGeV has high expectations for the technology.
“If we’re talking about short-range, simple challenges – there’s no real need for such a collaboration of companies,” says Ringer, but in this instance, “the only way to achieve major technology breakthroughs, and to tackle such challenges is by putting together the best companies you can find and letting them work together.
“This is actually what is happening now,” he adds, mentioning his prestigious partners. Each of the groups is focusing on different issues, starting from psychological and sociological challenges, to network aspects and architectural issues, all the way to the actual coding of the video stream.
What do psychology and sociology have to do with IP video streaming?
According to Ringer, they are relevant in answering the following puzzles that the group is attempting to solve: how do you build a personalized environment that would learn the user preferences, that would recommend to the user what’s best for him or her, that would associate one person’s preferences with other’s.
“For this we need to run focus various groups and see how people actually behave when they consume TV,” he said.
If a useful metaphor for what NeGeV is trying to achieve a few short years down the road is the exponential growth of the Internet, both access and abilities, maybe “consuming” video TV content is just the right word.