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Cobham—Stuart Brown, Broadcast Systems Dir.

Q. What broad technology trends do you think will be front-and-centre at IBC2012?

The use of IP platforms for contribution, particularly in newsgathering, continues to gather pace and we will see more systems being used to transmit “broadcast quality” HD content as well as red-button and website services. The availability of inexpensive hardware and data capacity, plus the bidirectional nature of IP make its use pretty compelling. I envisage that 95 percent of all newsgathering contribution will be via IP in five years’ time.

Q. Any thoughts on how the current economic climate will affect the show?

It obviously focuses minds and customers expect maximum return from the equipment they buy. However, people who have been holding off investing in new equipment since the crash in 2008 are starting to bite the bullet and buy—I think there is quite a bit of pent-up demand out there. On a more flippant note, I find the quality of visitors tends to increase in harder times as there are fewer “tire-kickers” walking the show!

Q. What’s new that you will show at IBC2012 and that broadcasters should look for there?

In addition to our range of ultra low-delay HD wireless camera products, we will be launching Media Mesh—a brand new concept enabling journalists to set up and operate comprehensive newsroom facilities on location. It uses groundbreaking wireless “mesh” technology to connect live cameras, Wi-Fi hotspots, office facilities, even a mini-cellphone network! It uses touch screen GUIs and set-up wizards to demystify the technology and the wireless system ensures that nothing is plugged incorrectly. The system can be controlled and monitored remotely, enabling technical staff at base to assist and configure the unit if required.

Q. How is your new product offering different from what’s available on the market?

There really isn’t anything else like it that I’m aware of. Cobham’s COFDM wireless mesh technology is pretty unique and we’ve been waiting to find an application for it in broadcasting. It allows up to 12 wireless “nodes” to connect using a single frequency, with each one able to act as a relay point to another if no direct path is available. Nodes can leave or join the mesh at any time and the transition is seamless. The most amazing part is that everything is fully automatic—you switch it on and off it goes.

Q. Last year I asked whether 3D was Hope, Hype or In Between. This year I want to know similar thoughts on “social media and broadcasters.”

There’s been a definite increase in its use to allow viewers to contribute to live programmes, although I’m not sure that they add anything extra—after all, people have been able to text in their opinions for years. There’s also a trend amongst the younger generation to turn away from traditional broadcasting and share content amongst themselves via the social media networks. I’m probably old-fashioned, but I think it tends to narrow one’s outlook on the world, as you are rarely challenged with new ideas or opinions—it’s usually “more of the same.” Flopping down in front of the TV and being drawn in to a documentary or story that wouldn’t normally grab your attention is a great experience.

Q. Where are you based, and how many employees do you have? Anything else we should know about your company?

Cobham is an enormous company with locations all over the world. I belong to the wireless video section, which is based in Southampton, England and has around 200 staff. Cobham is the market leader in wireless video products for the surveillance industry and has now formed a dedicated team to take this technology into the broadcast market.

Q. How many years have you been going to the IBC show and what’s your fondest memory? What’s your favourite restaurant or pub?

Not surprisingly, fondest memory/pub/restaurant are one and the same. I have a hazy memory of a party in an Irish pub near Dam Square. The Guinness was excellent (and free); there was a fantastic Irish band playing and to cap it all, at around 2 a.m., bacon sandwiches were produced. Absolute heaven.