S'pore university aims to extend TV with cloud

[UPDATED] Nanyang Technological University prototyping tech to allow mutiple-device video streaming with social functionalities.

[UPDATED] SINGAPORE--Local tertiary institute Nanyang Technological University hopes to solve scalability issues in TV content distribution through a cloud-based technology, allowing users to share video on multiple devices simultaneously including social features.

Wen Yonggang, assistant professor at NTU's School of Computer Engineering, said smart TVs now face scalability issues as video streaming cannot support multiple devices. In fact, scalability and reliability of these services have hindered the uptake of social TV despite the idea being mooted as early as 2009.

Using cloud computing technology, Wen said the school's Social Cloud TV technology can cost effectively transcode videos at the backend and stream the video into devices in the most suitable format. For it to work, the software can be embedded in consumers' set top box, home router or televisions. He was speaking at the media briefing unveiling the prototype of the technology here on Monday.

Users can also connect socially through instant messaging or video chats with multiple users while the video is playing, he added. These social elements, together with the ability to share and watch videos on multiple screens, improve the current TV viewing experience by including a more user-friendly interface, he said.

The assistant professor explained during his demo that users can switch on an app and "pull" onscreen TV content on to the user's mobile device, which will switch off the streaming video simultaneously, and vice versa. The exact details of this process cannot be detailed due to pending patent applications for the technology, he said.

The app prototype is currently only available on Android, he said, adding there are plans to make it available on other mobile platforms although no further details were revealed.

Commercialization in progress
Wen said NTU is now in talks with a local telco and international vendors over the possibility of commercializing the Social Cloud TV technology. The unnamed local player will be the first customer and distributor of the innovation, he said.

The assistant professor and his research team took 18 months to develop the prototype and it will take another one to two years' time before the technology is ready to hit the market. The timeframe is not too long as after developing the product--which would take six to eight months--it would be conducting stringent tests to ensure no glitches remain, he added.

"[Manufacturers and service providers] would rather wait than rush out a product," he stated.

The research team is now in the process of applying patents with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) for four key technologies, including cloud-assist social TV framework, cloud-based media transcoding, content delivery-as-a-service and human-computer interface-powered session migration.

While there are other social TV technologies in the market, Wen said the NTU-developed software is attractive to the interested telco because its intellectual property (IP) is owned by a Singapore entity.