This bandwidth-enhancement technology could make high-quality 4K/UHD streaming and downloading a reality for many more consumers.
The specs for Ultra HD Blu-ray were announced at CES 2015, but discs and players won't be available until the end of this year at the earliest. Meanwhile, 4K/UHD content is currently available via online streaming and downloading. Unfortunately, many consumers have insufficient bandwidth to their homes to stream 4K/UHD without reduced resolution and/or frequent pauses for buffering, and downloading a 4K/UHD file can take what seems like forever. And even if you have lots of bandwidth, other factors—such as other traffic within the home, in the neighborhood, within the content and service providers' systems, and across the entire Internet—can lead to the same problems.
Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, a company called Giraffic has developed a technology that purports to significantly improve online streaming and downloading in a very clever way. Dubbed Adaptive Video Acceleration (AVA), this software-based technology is applied at the "client" end of the pipeline; it does not involve the content or Internet service providers in any way. Instead, it is implemented entirely in receiving devices, such as TVs, set-top boxes, smartphones, and tablets.
AVA starts with real-time analytics that continually monitor and analyze the bandwidth available to the receiving device, intelligently utilize and route TCP connections, and optimize home-router operation. Then, HTTP acceleration optimizes large-content delivery by dynamically sizing fragments and controlling congestion as well as implementing multi-source, multi-connection HTTP streaming. Finally, playback shaping dynamically manages the device's buffer and implements adaptive streaming ingestion.
By using multiple HTTP "substreams" in an additive manner, AVA can boost the effective reception bandwidth by a factor of 3 on average. (Courtesy Giraffic)
Playback shaping improves reception bandwidth significantly on both wired and WiFi networks. These results were obtained using Amazon Instant Video on a smart TV with Microsoft Smooth Streaming. (Courtesy Giraffic)
These results were obtained by third-party testing using 30 Mbps ADSL. (Courtesy Giraffic)
Bottom line: By improving the structure and efficiency of HTTP requests made by the receiving device, AVA can increase the throughput available to it by a factor of 3 on average. As a result, streaming 4K/UHD is much more reliable with 10 times fewer interruptions and high quality of service (QoS), and downloads can take much less time to complete. Even better, no end-user action is required—AVA is implemented by manufacturers in their TVs and other client devices and runs entirely in the background.
In fact, AVA is already installed in some Samsung TVs and the iOS video-conferencing app called appear.in. According to Giraffic, AVA is currently being used with 2 million streams per day worldwide, and there have been no support calls at all—none.
I saw a demonstration of AVA with two side-by-side UHDTVs receiving the same 4K/UHD video stream (see photo at the top of this post). One was equipped with AVA while the other was not, and both had an onscreen buffer-activity indicator. The stream had started out synchronized between the two displays, but it quickly fell out of sync as the conventional TV often paused and filled its buffer, while the AVA-equipped TV was smooth as silk with very little of its buffer even used.
I realize that many AVS members have little regard for streaming HD, much less UHD, but it is a fact of digital life that cannot be ignored. And if AVA can improve the experience—and quicken downloads of higher-quality content—I'm all for it. This technology could make streaming and downloading a viable means of viewing 4K/UHD content for many more consumers, so I intend to follow its progress with great interest.
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