An Israeli solution for Net video speed

By adapting DAP’s multi channel technology and sophisticated algorithms to the world of streaming video, Speedbit was able to come up with a product that makes it seem like you’re plugged into a network on steroids.The living room television set, …

By adapting DAP’s multi channel technology and sophisticated algorithms to the world of streaming video, Speedbit was able to come up with a product that makes it seem like you’re plugged into a network on steroids.The living room television set, a fixture of households the world over for decades, is getting a major facelift. Not just in the way it looks, as LCD flat panel televisions begin to outsell old-fashioned “box” (CRT) TV sets, but in the way shows are broadcast. Your TV is going to become more like a computer, with programs downloaded via your fast broadband Internet connection.

It’s just a matter of time, experts and polls of TV viewers say, because the viewing habits of the young – and young at heart – include significant blocs of time spent watching video clips and mini-programs at sites like YouTube. And while full-service television networks that broadcast content via the Internet for viewing on a Web connected TV are still a few years away, consumers are getting used to the idea (Apple TV already “broadcasts” full episodes of many TV series via iTunes) and according to one survey, about half of all television viewers – of all ages – make use of the Internet to either watch clips of their favorite shows, news features, or even commercials on-line.

That figure could be even higher, though, if one of the major challenges of watching video over the Internet – speed – could be somehow conquered. As many viewers of on-line video know, playing a video on your computer that is “broadcast” from a remote server – a process known as “streaming” – is in many cases somewhere to the right of annoying, and often just this shy of frustrating. It’s a shame, too, because “Internet TV” on Youtube and its sister sites is often more interesting and creative than the stuff you get on “regular” TV. And downloading a TV program that you enjoy to a device like an iPod, Apple TV, or a Tivo, allows viewers to watch their favorite shows on their own schedule, since the program, in the form of a digital file, gets saved on a drive, ready for viewing when the user is ready.

But a new revolution is in the offing, and it has a potential leader – Israeli startup Speedbit. If speed is indeed a key part of the Internet TV revolution, then call Speedbit founder and CTO Idan Feigenbaum the driver of the bus. Using technology developed in the company’s Haifa headquarters, Feigenbaum has developed an application (called Speedbit Video Accelerator) that noticeably cuts down those irritating picture freezes, hiccups and those annoying buffering effects that happen when the video streaming feed is too slow.

Although still a startup, Speedbit was established back in 1999. According to CEO Ariel Yarnitsky, it has close to 30 employees – and two hugely successful products; the Speedbit video accelerator, as well as an earlier product called DAP, Download Accelerator Plus.

The DAP is the world’s most popular download manager, with over 142 million registered users or installs worldwide. DAP enables users to download files as quickly as is computerly possible, by seeking the nearest servers to download files from and splitting them up into segments that get reassembled into a single file when all the parts of the download are finished.

About 18 months ago, sensing the growth of popularity of video sites, both video streaming sites like YouTube, Reuters etc., and also video download sites like iTunes, Speedbit decided that the time was right to enhance DAP’s capabilities, in an effort to adapt to offer a solution for the rather slow delivery of video on the Internet. Thus was born the Speedbit Video Accelerator.

Speedbit is even more ambitious than DAP from a technological viewpoint. Streaming a video, which takes up a great deal of bandwidth, is far more challenging than downloading a computer program. Data from the latter can be “mixed and matched,” with different segments of the file downloaded from different servers and assembled on the user’s PC. But video often resides on one server, and since it is dynamic – i.e., it needs to “flow” as a single presentation from beginning to end.

By utilizing and adapting DAP’s multi channel technology and sophisticated algorithms to the world of streaming video, the company was able to come up with a product that makes it seem like you’re plugged into a network on steroids.

Speedbit currently supports some 60 video sites among them Reuters video, CNN, ESPN, Youtube (partially), and iTunes as part of its premium package (ditto for the Netflix movie streaming service, which is to be added in the coming days). Eventually, though, Speedbit aims to cover all video sites, streaming and downloading, and even “regular” Web browsing using the same technologies.

In fact, Speedbit’s speed-up technology can – and will – be applied to a host of communication devices. Once you’ve figured out a way to optimize video streaming, cutting the time needed to download a stream from minutes to seconds, the rest is easy. Well, not easy, but moving that technology to other venues and devices – especially cell phones, set-top boxes (essentially mini-PC’s, like Tivo, connected to the TV set that download programs and movies), and game consoles, says Yarnitsky.

“We are looking at the day after tomorrow, adapting our technologies to deliver video more quickly to a host of devices, including cell phones,” he told ISRAEL21c.

And considering that analysts expect the video on cell phone device market to be worth billions, Speedbit’s technology could end up being extremely pivotal in the continued development of extreme-speed multi-gigabyte video delivery, as word about what Speedbit can do gets out to large media companies and cell phone service providers.

In fact, says Yarnitsky, Speedbit is working on deals with some of the world’s biggest cell phone and consumer electronics manufacturers, and Speedbit’s unique speed-up system should soon appear on a host of cell phones and set-top boxes, he says.

Right there – that’s where the TV revolution will officially begin. A set-top box connected to an LCD TV, combined with Netflix (for downloading movies) and iTunes (for downloading TV shows), providing all the services users get now while watching videos on their computers (commercial elimination, time-shifted recording/watching, etc.) is the future of television.

Poll after poll shows that users are demanding more freedom in watching what they want, when they want, and having more control over their content. Internet video sites, set-top boxes, and the ability to download or stream movie and TV programs to a PC or set-top box are all the building blocks of the coming changes to the television business. Consider Speedbit the glue that is holding them all together. Now, that’s revolutionary.

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