Geocast unveils TV/Web technology

Start-up bypasses the Internet to deliver rich-media PC content through your telly.

US startup Geocast Network Systems has been secretly developing digital TV technology that can share content with home PCs since its inception last year. Now it is ready to unveil its work.

The revolutionary software and hardware will allow television and new media companies to push multimedia and video content to consumers, bypassing the Internet and going straight for the television set. From there content can then be transported to PC desktops, the company says. The company recently announced a deal securing US TV station group Hearst-Argyle as the first to use the technology.

Geocast argues that far from replacing the Internet, the new approach simply avoids Internet congestion and frees it up to do what it does best -- point-to-point communications.

Geocast CEO Joe Horowitz says: "The Internet is revolutionising our economy and our personal lives but its point-to-point architecture was never designed to deliver rich media content to a mass audience. The Internet industry is forced to spend endlessly on infrastructure in order to mimic what broadcasting does easily and efficiently."

TV station group Hearst-Argyle Television (HTV) will contribute bandwidth, content and promotional opportunities. The company said it would also invest in Geocast. "We're excited by the Geocast crossover architecture, because it opens up a whole new opportunity for our stations to serve their local communities," says HTV Chairman Bob Marbut. "Now we can develop specific programming for the PC user."

Geocast says that its architecture was built from the ground up as a one-to-many, or multicast technology. This differs from the Internet, which is a point-to-point, or unicast technology, and therefore inherently pretty poor at delivering rich media to mass audiences. This is why Internet video-streaming is so patchy and unreliable. Network congestion, buffering delays and low frame rates all make for a deeply unsatisfying viewing experience. Geocast's offering would provide each user with the same high-level production quality video feed. (It's telly, after all.)

The company said high levels of encryption and conditional access permits for specific content would allow specific users to specify levels of access.

Consumers will have to buy a new receiver for around £200 which connects directly to their PC, accepts live feeds, and will feature a hefty hard-drive for storing content for on-demand retrieval. Users can continue to use their existing ISP for email and Web access over Geocast's model.

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