Big Data

A Revolution in Streaming Video

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When colleagues and I started Clearleap in 2008, most people were getting their TV shows and movies the old-fashioned way, and cloud computing wasn’t much more than a blip on mainstream businesses’ radar.

At the time, YouTube had taken off, but the major media companies had not yet awoken to the reality of streaming their content over the Internet to individuals wherever they wanted it—on TVs, PCs, tablets and smartphones. With Clearleap’s streaming video services, we helped them jump the chasm.

Those companies used to have digital businesses on the side; now, digital IS their business.

Today, the world is at yet another turning point. The pressure is on traditional media and entertainment companies to produce experiences for customers that are every bit as rich and convenient as those offered by born-on-the-Web media pioneers. At the same time, enterprises of all types and sizes have the opportunity to use video streaming to improve marketing, communications, education, and collaboration. So the shift is on to cloud computing, superior user experiences and industrial-strength streaming.

What we’re seeing now is nothing less than another media revolution—and IBM is in the thick of it.

Today, to address what we believe will be a $105 billion market and exceed 80% of all Internet traffic by 2019, we’re announcing a new business unit–IBM Cloud Video Services, which is part of our cloud business. We’re combining Clearleap, where I was CEO and which IBM bought last month, with Ustream, a new acquisition made public today, and other IBM technologies.

Clearleap offers cloud streaming services for companies such as HBO, NFL, Sony Movie Channel, Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications. Ustream streams video to about 80 million viewers per month for customers including CBS News, PBS NewsHour, NASA and Samsung.

The two companies complement each other. Clearleap focuses on the entertainment industry and stored content while Ustream focuses on live video. In addition to media, it has also developed markets within enterprises and government.

Our video services will be offered through IBM cloud data centers around the world—a key requirement for media and entertainment companies and enterprises.

IBM’s research has long been at the forefront of advances in digital video. IBM deployed one of the first interactive TV trials in 1996 and since then has been awarded more than 1,000 US patents in video and digital media. The IBM multimedia retrieval system enables digital images and videos to be automatically indexed, classified and searched.

We’re also tapping into technology IBM brought into the company through previous acquisitions. In 2014, IBM acquired Aspera, getting hold of technology that speeds large data transfers over broadband networks. Last November, IBM completed the Acquisition of Cleversafe, a developer of software and appliances that enable organizations to quickly store, manage and retrieve unstructured data.

Wrap all of these capabilities together and you’ve got a complete end-to-end cloud video streaming solution that includes an open platform for third-party developers, digital and visual analytics, and truly global delivery.

The goal now is to power the next wave of improvements for both consumers and enterprises. On the consumer side, content and distribution companies must proactively engage individual consumers—learning from them what programming to produce and how best to present it to them. On the enterprise side, video is rapidly becoming the most important way to capture, store and share information with their customers, business partners and employees. All those constituents have come to expect polished consumer-like video experiences when they’re at work.

Analytics—and, specifically, cognitive computing—will play a major role in helping our customers make these transitions. Take recommendation engines. Today’s basically look at what you choose to watch and what others who watch similar stuff are watching, then make recommendations to you. Okay, but they could be better. With IBM Watson technology, an entertainment provider can throw a much wider net–capturing information from reviews, news feeds, and social networking commentary. In that way, the system can offer a consumer compelling new viewing experiences even before they express interest in the genres.

I believe the world is still in the early days of the video streaming revolution. I can envision a time in the not-too-distant future when high-resolution, easy-to-use, cloud-based video services will deliver not only an incredible variety of entertainment but also personalized government services, remote learning, business collaboration, and telemedicine. Because of the cloud, people in developing nations will get the same robust array of services with that same fidelity and dependability.

People in the tech industry are driven by the desire to change the world for the better. This is how it’s done.

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