Colossal sums of cash have been invested in improving networks to solve buffering issues and improve the end user OTT experience, but there are also ways of achieving this with software in the devices themselves, an option that has been somewhat neglected. An 8 year-old Israeli outfit called Giraffic Technologies is targeting this market, supplying its AVA (adaptive video acceleration) technology for deployment inside various streaming devices – claiming to reduce buffering by as much as 80% with adaptive bit rate (ABR) playback savings of up to 200%.
Giraffic recently rolled out an SDK (software development kit) of its AVA technology, which is being licensed by operators and OTT content providers for their streaming apps on mobile devices and smart TVs. Cellular operators in particular, are hungry for any method that can free up precious bandwidth on their networks; bandwidth increasingly stifled by OTT video.
During a meeting at CES, Giraffic’s VP of products Ravid Hadar told Faultline Online Reporter that inside the app, the content request goes directly to Giraffic, not via the server, from where it can analyze network packet loss, assess the video content, and provide a prediction for a strategy to reduce buffering. The company began to cater for live content last year after starting out in VoD, and says it can provide 20 seconds of future diagnostic data for live content.
Most recently, Giraffic expanded into virtual reality with the launch of its VR AVA software at the end of December. The delivery of VR content magnifies bandwidth challenges, so to combat this, VR AVA uses client-side HTTP acceleration and ABR playback shaping to patch up holes in the user experience in the nascent VR market.
Faultline Online Reporter was given a demo of this in Las Vegas, running separate 15 Mbps VR streams on two Google Nexus smartphones, the device without AVA was visibly jumpy and frustrating to watch, while the device running Giraffic’s AVA was noticeably smoother – averaging double bit rate savings.
Interestingly during the briefing, we were constantly being hushed by Hadar’s boss, as he was demoing the technology to an interested party, and as we tiptoed our way off the booth, we spied the word Comcast on the other visitor’s badge, so we were not the only ones to think this was at least interesting.
Hadar explained that operators have been obsessed with resolving CDN congestion on the server side, paying little attention to the last mile or last yard or last few inches in many cases, which is where Giraffic’s software comes in. No operator customers could be divulged, but HBO and Hulu are currently running trials of the software. For VR, an unnamed UK-based content company is reportedly in advanced stages of integrating Giraffic’s VR AVA tech.
Hadar said Giraffic’s grand plans for 2017 is getting its technology licensed across the board by US operators, but it has also proved a popular solution for smart TV manufacturers too – claiming to be present on one third of the world’s smart TVs through deals with Samsung and LG.
It plans to slide into set tops sometime this year, and on the mobile side, Giraffic said we can expect the announcement of a major handset deal from China in the third quarter of this year. Huawei or Xiaomi, perhaps? Additional goals for 2017 include targeting game console manufacturers and dongles such as Roku, as well as pitching directly to content providers.
Hadar explained that Giraffic’s technology doesn’t compete with compression software from companies such as Beamr, and has to battle more so with the operator R&D teams themselves. He added that Qualcomm has an MPEG-DASH system that contains a similar video acceleration product. It was pointed out that Netflix is unlikely to be a potential customer as the US firm has already built its own system, and Akamai is apparently developing similar AVA software.
Revenues for VR are projected to climb at a CAGR of 73% up to 2021, according to data from StrategyAnalytics.
“In addition to smartphone-powered VR, we’re starting to see the industry shift towards wireless standalone headsets on the high-end devices. To view VR the way it’s intended, the experience must be uninterrupted, untethered and incredibly high resolution like UHD 4K content offers. With the VR extension of our AVA solution, we bridge this gap between the immersive app providers and the consumer’s devices worldwide,” said Giraffic CEO Yoel Zanger.