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Nuggets recovers TV pot of gold


New software to speed up image processing could save the broadcasting industry millions of euros and could even be used to enable remote surgery, where a surgeon in one country performs on a patient in another country.

The Nuggets project successfully created a software layer that will allow real-time networks to be used in broadcasting. "Broadcasting demands a very high Quality of Service (QoS), but up to now transfer speeds across networks were too slow for broadcasting applications," says Jean-Pierre Lacotte, of Thompson Broadcast, coordinator of this IST-funded project.

"The optical cable is fast enough, but there are bottlenecks that cause a delay. That means the speed cannot be guaranteed," he says.

As a result, broadcasters must send large production teams to cover live events, whether it’s parliamentary proceedings, football matches or Formula One events. Essentially, broadcasters must send a studio-worth of staff and equipment to these locations, turning them into mini-TV stations for the duration of the coverage at enormous cost. Meanwhile, studios at the home station remain unused.

If networks were fast and reliable enough to allow remote control, TV stations could simply send some technicians to set up the cameras and networks, and keep the producer, the ancillary staff and equipment at home, saving millions each year.

The Nuggets project means that in the near future broadcasters could keep that pot of gold. Nuggets pops open bottlenecks in networks by using compression technologies to get the data through faster. There are still problems.

"It’s no more a technical problem, but there are engineering issues. Decoding we have solved, but encoding is much more complex and we’d either need to use a bunch of PCs processing in parallel, or even better, a special chip to handle encoding. There is some progress on getting a chip designed but I’m not allowed to talk about it," says Lacotte. There are also security and interface issues, though these too, can be addressed.

Once those problems are solved, and partners in the Nuggets project are actively pursuing solutions, broadcasting will finally have bombproof reliability as well as blistering speed.

With a service like that, running remote surgery centres will become far easier. Last year a surgeon in the US successfully operated on a patient in France, but this service requires very high standards of transmission. Nuggets is the solution.

Says Lacotte: "When we first started thinking about this remote surgery was one we wanted to see happen. And now it can."

Tara Morris | alfa
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