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14 January 2021

Start-up GlobalM swims upstream at CES to showcase SRT-based network

One of Faultline’s most frequent criticisms of 2020’s virtual event roster was the disservice done to start-up communities. Platforms like CES need to use their tremendous scale and influence – which has become even greater under all-digital roofs – to better the technology industry. Instead, CES 2021 pulled a veil over the real technological innovations and issues affecting the entertainment and communications ecosystems today, much like the pandemic has pulled a veil over political issues (see separate story in this issue).

Faultline takes pride in leaving the hustle and bustle of the usual hotspots of a show like CES to hunt down a handful of start-ups in a quiet corner, which has become a tricky endeavor in a Covid world. Thankfully, some start-ups took advantage of the CES press distribution list and among the air purifiers and cat-shaped smart speakers emerged a company called GlobalM – standing out from the crowd with its strong SRT protocol focus on remote streaming delivery.

Speaking with co-founders Lance Newhart and Paul Calleja this week, Faultline gained insights from one of the youngest start-ups on the block born on the back of SRT.

GlobalM’s mantra is to transform smartphones into broadcast-quality cameras by switching satellite distribution for cellular networks – enabled by open source SRT delivery. It does this by offering a high-availability and scalable network that automates and geolocates streaming resources to the closest points of presence on its network for each stream and origin. GlobalM describes the approach as “similar to a CDN” in that it distributes the SRT gateway so that edge servers dedicated to the SRT stream are placed in data centers closest to both source and destination.

Suited for point-to-multipoint IP distribution, the GlobalM mobile app is targeting a revolution among the mobile journalist community (once normal service for on-the-ground reporting resumes), while its greatest scalp to date came at the 2020 European Film Awards, where the GlobalM app delivered some 40 streams to two large wall-mounted LEDs simultaneously, allowing nominees to attend virtually in Berlin.

Production staff for the European Film Awards praised GlobalM’s SRT-based connection technology for performing just like satellite connections, with one delighted user even proclaiming satellite networks were dead in their eyes – blown away by the better quality and lower latency.

CES itself could have taken a leaf from this book to host a live streamed event featuring more than three or four attendees, as this is clearly the future, although CES preferred to play it safe with limited pre-recorded sessions.

With decades of experience working at the EBU, the co-founders put their heads together in 2016 to birth GlobalM, an idea which then blossomed into life at IBC 2018 – the show that went down in history as the making of SRT. “The SRT room was packed,” said CTO Calleja, which we remember well. The Haivision stand was also mobbed for the entire show. “We then wrote our own code to prove that SRT worked on mobiles,” he continued.

The GlobalM Live Video Network therefore works with Haivision Makito hardware encoders, but Calleja explained the technology works equally well with software-based encoders too. Being exclusively SRT-based, we had to ask why RIST wasn’t a consideration. Calleja described the low latency streaming protocol as more of a “guideline to interoperability for using software like Zixi” – so there is no love lost there.

GlobalM also explored the Wowza portfolio, as a fellow co-founder of SRT along with Haivision, but Calleja and CEO Newhart decided GlobalM would be better off building its own gateways, a move which has apparently helped the vendor scale out globally.

That said, Phase 1 of GlobalM’s launch came in May 2020, with Phase 2 arriving fast in February 2021, when GlobalM will increase its PoPs significantly – virtually doubling its footprint by the look of the map we were shown. This second phase is all about “changing the journalism value chain” starting with features such as viewing skillsets of journalists and reporters, kind of like an Uber-esque model for the media world. It also allows media and sports federations to post assignments and geolocate.

Calleja compared GlobalM to a broadcast CDN, although there are additional benefits as well as lower latency such as rights management, which is not limited like in satellite capacity, we are told. The technology also offers additional streams to better monetize streams for virtual summits and fan zones.

While GlobalM has yet to consummate the technology with a hard launch, the co-founders are aiming for the beginning of March this year. “A soft launch doesn’t mean it’s a buggy system, it just means we want to gradually launch this and do it properly,” Calleja confirmed.

Also in the pipeline is an announcement from a big US conglomerate with global reach, which GlobalM is currently in the final stages of discussions with and we are assured a press release is imminent.

As for competition, GlobalM sees certain SSIM bonding apps as fighting for the same eyeballs, yet these are not necessarily using SRT. Stringer is another rival app, but apparently doesn’t provide a whole platform like GlobalM, which sees itself as complementary to the likes of Reuters.