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Streambox Live, Sprint 3G Deliver Snowplow-cams

Streambox Live IP-based video contribution service and the Sprint 3G Mobile Broadband network provided a newsgathering solution when recent heavy snowstorms affected citizens in WDIV-TV’s metropolitan Detroit: snowplow-cams.

The NBC affiliate supplemented its live news and weather coverage with video of road conditions streamed from smartphones mounted on the dashboards of county snowplow trucks. The video was rebroadcast by major news organizations including CNN Headline News, MSNBC, and The Weather Channel.

“The streaming system worked well for us to bring in many live videos from all over metropolitan Detroit for WDIV-TV, and the snowplow operation is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” said Jeff Liebman, news operations manager at WDIV-TV. “When paired with the reliability, robust 3G network speeds, and signal clarity afforded by the mobile broadband network, this application afforded us an extremely cost-effective and scalable method for giving viewers a firsthand look at road conditions as they happened.”

Armed with only a camera, mobile phone or laptop and a low-bandwidth IP connection, field reporters can upload compressed video streams to the studio, where they can be decoded and broadcast live or archived via the Streambox Live data center.

For the Detroit snowstorm, WDIV-TV worked with the government of Oakland County to install mobile phones in 25 snowplow vehicles. Each phone had been pre-configured with the Streambox Live cell phone software encoder featuring Streambox’s ACT-L3 video compression technology. Throughout the day, the phones captured and encoded views of streets and roads that were being cleared by the snowplows and transmitted the compressed video via Sprint 3G Mobile Broadband to the Streambox Live data center, and then on to the WDIV studios. There, the video was decoded by Streambox SBT3-5200 decoders and media players for use on air.

In addition to using Streambox technology in live broadcasts, WDIV was able to leverage the Streambox Live data center to manage, track, and access archived video uploads for later broadcast. Following the initial project, WDIV is now working with Oakland County to deploy the system to its entire fleet of snowplows, with plans to extend the application to snowplows operating in Wayne and McComb counties.

“The system offers first-rate compression and a tremendous amount of forward error correction to deliver extremely high video quality—much higher than you would expect from a low-bandwidth connection,” Liebman said.

Streambox Live also can be powered by Sprint 4G.