Your browser is not supported. Please update it.

29 August 2019

Haivision hopes NASA endorsement will open enterprise doors

Video streaming technology supplier Haivision is hoping its recent selection by NASA to deploy video streaming across multiple bases for mission critical applications will help win other contracts where security, resiliency and low latency are requirements. While enterprises are unlikely to be swayed by the mere fact of NASA’s endorsement it will draw their attention to any relevant technical specifications and compliances relevant for their requirements.

In fact, Haivision has been working towards this contract for several years, with a key move coming in January 2018 when the company announced that several core products had been accredited by the US Defense Information Assurance Risk Management Framework (DIARMF). This accreditation authorized the use of Haivision’s IPTV, enterprise and digital signage products on the Department of Defense (DOD) Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router NETwork (NIPRNET). This in turn built on Haivision gaining Department of Defense Information Network Approved Products List (DODIN APL) certification in 2017, under which the company committed to provide all branches of government with products that incorporate AES 256 encryption as well as enabling low latency video streaming over potentially unstable networks.

Following these developments, NASA had already commissioned Haivision to deploy video streaming at some of its facilities, including its Mission control Center. Now this role has been expanded with Haivision being awarded an Authority to Operate (ATO) at NASA as part of a five-year IDIQ contract. The IDIQ acronym derives from the nebulous phrase “indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity” relating to US Federal contracts, usually referring to fixed term agreements within which the vendor concerned is commissioned to supply an uncertain number of products or services which have already been approved and need no further clearance.

Then the ATO means in this case that Haivision products will be deployed for live and on-demand video streaming and IPTV workflows across virtually all NASA bases. This followed a number of Haivision products being added to the ATO list, including the latest version of its Media Platform, Media Gateway, video encoders, transcoders and set tops. This was the first video streaming platform to be certified for the US Department of Defense Information Network Approved Products List.

It is worth drilling down into a couple of the several certifications and compliances Haivision gained to assess their value or relevance for applications beyond space or defense. Its H.264 encoders gained compliance with MISP and STANAG 4609 KLV, both important for NASA.

MISP was originally an acronym for Malware Information Sharing Platform, developed around 2011 as free software by a group of developers from Computer Incident Response Center Luxembourg (CIRCL), an initiative from that country on sharing details of attacks on IT systems, the Belgian Defense and also NATO’s NCIRC (Computer Incident Response Capability). MISP has evolved into a standard platform for sharing details of known targeted attacks as well as threat intelligence in general and so could be of interest to security conscious enterprises.

It is largely about interoperability both at the data level and incident reporting, so that security analysts can update the system as incidents occur. It includes an indicators database for storing information about malware samples, incidents, attackers and intelligence. It also has a correlation engine designed to provide early warning both of known attacks and also ones not seen before as far as can be achieved with fuzzy matching techniques. As that implies, it will only detect unknown attacks that bear some resemblance to ones that have occurred before. More intriguing perhaps – and more specific for video – is NATO’s STANAG 4609 KLV, which is a standard for metadata.

STANAG is simply a NATO abbreviation for Standardization Agreement and the number 4609 refers to the NATO Digital Motion Imagery Standard, while KLV means Key Length Value, a data encoding standard used to embed metadata or textual information in video feeds. This is critical for defense agencies in an era of growing remote combat because it enables insights to be derived from video footage taken from the field beyond the immediate content. This could be just geographical coordinates of the scene, direction the camera is travelling, or contextual information about the surroundings.

Such information can be encoded as metadata to standards such as STANAG 4609 KLV, originally derived from multiple sources which could include the video stream itself, sensors, tracking devices, or systems located elsewhere on the defense agency’s network. In particular, the proliferating use both of unmanned air and ground vehicles is making rapid analysis of metadata just as important as the real time streaming video itself, because it can greatly reduce the risk of catastrophic battlefield error.

It can make the difference between hitting the intended target and causing disastrous “collateral damage”. Needless to say, video service providers are unlikely to face such mission critical issues but the rise in remote broadcasting and even use of unattended cameras does indicate that metadata has scope to add valuable information and insights there too.

But the NASA/Haivision story also highlights another point, which is failure of the industry to coalesce around a common metadata standard.

This is not for want of trying, since there have been various efforts to unify the field without success so far. In fact, too many, for we have counted 14, including the NASA one, better known examples including the European Broadcasting Union’s EBUCore, the MPEG-7 Framework, the SMPTE RP-210 (Metadata Element Dictionary) and the Public Broadcasting Metadata Dictionary Project.

Some are more concerned with the dictionary or data representation and exchange while others are higher level dealing with abstraction or representation, but there is considerable overlap. EBUCore for example is described as a “minimum and flexible list of attributes to describe audio and video resources for a wide range of broadcasting applications including archives, exchange and production in the context of a Service Oriented Architecture.”

The appeal of STANAG 4609 KLV lies in the fact that it is proven in the field for critical applications, but with such fragmentation there will be concerns over interoperability which can equate to cost and lower functionality in complex environments. Implementations based on just one standard with specific formats and dedicated hardware will deliver higher performance in the short term, but over time this may decline when such systems have to interoperate with others adhering to different standards. The point is that the logic required to capture metadata of any type or field length is more complex than that designed just for fixed formats.

Enterprises then attracted by Haivision’s NASA endorsement should look closely at their own environments and also query what the strategy is for embracing other metadata standards.