Datacasters Look To Homeland Security

Datacasting solution vendors are no longer focusing on the technology alone. Instead, most of the sector's energy is centered on identifying a combination of sustainable business models and appropriate public sector services including a list of homeland security options.
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MT. DESERT ISLAND, MAINE

Datacasting solution vendors are no longer focusing on the technology alone. Instead, most of the sector's energy is centered on identifying a combination of sustainable business models and appropriate public sector services including a list of homeland security options.

"DTV stations only have slightly over 19 Mbps to provide HDTV and datacasting services," says William E. Steele, president of KenCast Inc, one of several datacasting companies that is active with a large cluster of PBS stations.

KenCast Fazzt 6.4 is the latest version of a high-speed digital file content delivery system. KenCast emphasizes reliability and achieves it via advanced error-correction, compression and validation software. Clients include TVN Entertainment Corp. and OnCommand Corp., which use the software for satellite distribution networks.

The list of PBS stations using the KenCast Fazzt content delivery solution includes KERA-DT in Dallas, KPBS-DT in San Diego and Twin Cities Public TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul. With KERA-DT, for example, an educational VOD application has emerged built on Fazzt, and as part of a separate public safety evaluation, a successful trial of a mobile application was performed in Dallas involving a data broadcast to a laptop in a moving vehicle.

"As they attempt to broadcast large video files one-way via DTV to many locations, KenCast Fazzt FEC functionality provides the reliability features they need to overcome such things as hilly terrain, center cities with tall buildings, and noisy spectral environments," Steele says. "They can also use our opportunistic bandwidth management functions of Fazzt to automate the datacasting service, and grab as much bandwidth as possible without interfering with the video."

EMERGENCIES AND MORE

At NAB2003, NDS Americas teamed up with KVWB-DT in Las Vegas to demonstrate how its AlertStorm datacast transmission system could play through a DTV station. KET in Kentucky is now conducting trials of the same system, along with WETA in Washington, D.C., and KPBS-DT in San Diego.

"Our focus is on homeland security, and public broadcasters are showing strong interest and support. The key for all datacasting service providers and vendors will be to focus on something that can succeed, and we view homeland security as the right application for us," says Tom Rucktenwald, manager of datacasting at NDS Americas.

Triveni Digital, in conjunction with its clients, is focusing on homeland security-involving the transmission of emergency information to first responders-and education applications, which entail the reception of rich media datacasts by schools from kindergarten to Grade 12.

"There is no single working model for the datacasting of emergency information. Working with NJN in New Jersey, for example, our solution links the New Jersey State Police to regional emergency management offices statewide," says Jonathan Schembor, spokesman for Triveni Digital.

Thales Broadcast and Multimedia also offers an end-to-end datacasting solution comprised of three main elements: OpenStream multicast software, the Opal IP Encapsulator and the Open Stream Receiver.

OpenStream provides QoS management for IP traffic regulation and complete control of bandwidth allocation, while the receiver serves as an all-in-one demodulator, storage device and multicast client. More than 1,000 Opal IP Encapsulators are in use worldwide, primarily for corporate and broadcast digital file delivery, according to Howard Barouxis, director of sales at Thales.

The Walt Disney Co. plans to launch a VOD datacasting service called MovieBeam, via Buena Vista Datacasting LLC, starting in three cities later this year. MovieBeam is apparently embracing Dotcast and PBS National Datacast. Disney would not comment, but a company release says Buena Vista Datacasting is working with other content, technology and manufacturing partners.

"We are ready to go with a receiver ASIC [chip from NEC] and data modulator. We are supplying the data receiver and active antenna [for MovieBeam]," says Leo Hoarty, CTO at Dotcast. "We have very strong patents issued and pending for high-speed data sent via RF subcarrier."

Dotcast trials spanned several years on KOMO-DT in Seattle as well as with experimental transmitters in Phoenix and Seattle and the company received its FCC authorization in December.

"Disney may be interested in adding our digital platform to their analog service," says Grayson Hoberg, COO of iBlast, which has achieved 93 percent U.S. coverage by enlisting 260 DTV stations nationwide. Beta testing of a VOD service this fall is planned (with a partner not yet named) leading to a commercial rollout next year. Technical VOD trials have already been conducted on the iBlast Network using the NDS MediaStorm solution re-engineered by iBlast for DTV datacasting.

"We were a year or two ahead of our time when we launched. There were no devices or digital tuners to send content to via datacasting. Now, there are set-top boxes, PCs and other devices shipping with DTV tuners," says Hoberg. "Datacasting is ideal for reaching a mass receivership. That is what it is built for."

STANDARDS FIRMING UP

The industry effort to establish the ATSC A/90 datacasting standard is complete, and it represents an important first step.

"A good number of parts from the A/90 standard are now being exercised. However, the full potential of the standard has not been realized." says Richard Chernock, senior member of the technical staff at Triveni Digital. "I think everyone is pleased with the way that things stabilized, and with the fact that A/90 came out as well as it did. If we all follow it, we will end up with an interoperable set of solutions."

Work is also progressing on the A/92 IP over MPEG multicast standard, which is particularly well suited for enterprise applications too. This standard was ratified by the ATSC and issued as a formal standard last year.

"We are not familiar with any commercial deployments using A/92 yet," says Pete Ludé, CTO and executive VP at iBlast. "A datacast multicast session could be set up to broadcast business data to multiple field offices. In this case, the ability to use an IETF IP multicast session end-to-end is an important advantage. Some IT network component manufacturers are considering adding datacast receivers to their routers for just this sort of application."

"At iBlast, the majority of our services will be content delivery to end-users. So we don't have the headache of integrating to a large IT infrastructure," says Ludé. "For this reason, we have not needed to implement A/92 in our network."