Video Gets Streamed via Cell Networks and a Dose of Metadata Curation

Every day, video seems to become more mobile and malleable.

Dropping by this week’s Streaming Media East conference in New York gave glimpses of new ways video can be handled and used. The two-day event featured plenty of expert panels, but I spent a few minutes Tuesday chatting up the folks from LiveU and Ramp. These two companies operate in very different parts of the video world, but they both show how this digital content is becoming even more robust.

LiveU makes software and portable equipment for broadcasting and managing live video. At the conference, engineering head Daniel Pisarski showed off the recently released, backpack-carried LU500 unit. The device is used with video cameras to broadcast live HD footage over bonded cellular, which combines multiple cellular signals to widen the flow for uploading footage. The LU500, which weighs a bit more than one kilogram, saw action in February at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia where news broadcasters used the devices to transmit footage of the competition.

Video crews can use the LU500, Pisarski said, as a lower-cost, more portable alternative to satellite-connected gear. A companion external antenna called the Xtender boosts transmissions in crowded cellular traffic areas such as press conference or sports events. “You can have a [LU500] unit in the stadium and this out in the parking lot, further away towards towers that aren’t as congested,” Pisarski said.

The LU500 can fit inside a backpack.

The LU500 can fit inside a backpack.

In addition to operating over cellular networks, the LU500 can also link with satellite equipment and other data connections, he said. LiveU’s software can be used in studios to process the video for broadcast on television or the content can be sent to the cloud for streaming on the Web.

Founded in 2006, LiveU is based near Tel Aviv, Israel with its U.S. headquarters in Hackensack, NJ. The company’s backers include Canaan Partners, Carmel Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital, and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

News broadcast outlets such as Fox News, NBC, and CNN comprise LiveU’s biggest market, Pisarki said, though the company is gaining traction in professional sports. Sports teams use LiveU’s gear, he said, for locker-room interviews, sideline interviews, and tailgate parties for uploading to their websites. Game footage is usually out of bounds because the leagues, such as the National Football League or Major League Baseball, make big money by selling exclusive broadcast rights to TV networks.

LiveU’s technology includes other antenna devices and an app for transmitting video from smartphones and tablets. Pisarksi said the company’s gear also makes its way into the hands of citizen journalists and alternative news outlets that stream videos online. “We have a growing interest from freelancers,” he said. “They know the local stations already have the receiving software, they can take this [equipment] out in the field.”

Getting video in hand is only part of the equation as the media world finds new ways to use it. Boston-based Ramp has developed a software-as-service platform for processing digital content. RJ Grandpre, the company’s director of business development, said the software provides metadata curation for videos, which media companies can leverage a variety of ways.

For example, media company Meredith, which owns magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens, EatingWell, and Family Circle, uses Ramp for its online videos about cooking. As the cooking videos play, related keywords such as recipe ingredients or cooking utensils may appear at the bottom of the window.

The videos are tagged so when keywords get mentioned during the playback, contextual ads appear on the side. That can make the marketing and other content that appears with the video more relevant to the viewer. Furthermore, viewers can click on keywords and jump to parts of the videos related to those terms.

Ramp was founded in 2006 as PodZinger when it was born out of BBN Technologies. Grandpre said BBN had been developing a speech-to-text natural language processing engine and that intellectual property was spun out into its own company. (BBN Technologies was acquired by Raytheon.) PodZinger later changed names to EveryZing, and then Ramp.

In addition to Meredith, other media companies using Ramp for metadata curation of content include Fox News, NASCAR, and the Golf Channel. “We’re driving higher discoverability on the Web,” Grandpre said. “Metadata is being pumped into search engines.”

He sees enterprises outside of the media industry also taking an interest in using metadata to get a handle on tagging their videos. “Metadata curation allows you to give structure to the content,” Grandpre said.

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