IBC and the TM Forum have brought technology and media companies together to develop innovative answers to some pressing problems, benefiting consumers as well as businesses.

IBC2018 show floor 3x2

IBC: show floor

Last year, when IBC announced its collaboration with the TM Forum, the aim was to drive innovation across the media, tech and telecoms industries. The result has been three Catalyst projects which will be showcased at this year’s IBC.

The Catalyst proof-of-concepts stem from a decade-long programme in which TM Forum – a non-profit association for service providers and their suppliers in the telecommunications industry – has brought together technology companies and comms providers to tackle industry challenges.

As IBC chief executive Michael Crimp explained when the collaboration was first announced: “With the media and telecoms sectors more closely intertwined than ever before, it makes perfect sense for IBC and the TM Forum to collaborate and in doing so, we will ensure that both of our communities continue to advance together.

“As the world’s most influential media, entertainment and technology show, IBC has always been a showcase for the latest innovation and this collaboration will help us remain at the cutting edge.”

The Catalysts are split across three main projects, looking at different aspects of the production and delivery chain, and they all featured among the 32 projects demonstrated at Digital Transformation World in Nice in May.

The Catalysts incorporate some of today’s most complex business and technology challenges, including 5G, data management, virtual and augmented reality, edge computing, artificial intelligence and the automation of business processes for regulatory compliance.

TM Forum executive vice president Andy Tiller says: “The convergence between telecom and media and entertainment has opened up exciting opportunities for our members to work alongside some of the world’s leading media companies to solve pressing business challenges.

“These three projects truly showcase how the power of collaboration helped find unique real-world solutions to problems faced by both industries – not only transforming businesses but consumer experience as well.”

So, what exactly is a Catalyst? The aim of the media telco catalysts is to act as rapid-fire fast-track projects aimed at tackling a problem faced by a member of the broadcast and media industry. This could be broadcaster, an OTT or a telco, who will set out a challenge which will be addressed by technology solutions providers.

The solutions providers will define a project’s scope and objectives and then address those challenges over a short period – three to four months in most cases – working closely with the end user to make sure the solution fits.

One of the key advantages of the Catalyst projects is that it’s a quicker way of working. Due to the collaboration involved, it cuts out long procurement processes that can take several years in some instances. It also opens dialogue between broadcasters, offering a potential learning curve for the teams involved.

Al Jazeera is involved in two of the projects: Mobile News Gathering Using AI-Powered Compression and AI Indexing for Regulatory Practice.

Grant Totten, Al Jazeera’s head of media and emerging platforms, has taken a leading role in the Catalyst projects. He explains that the partners involved had taken a “start-up mindset” in order to tackle the common issues they’d identified.

“The Catalyst projects are organisations working together to discover a common issue and fast track a solution across several months,” he adds. “We’re moving much quicker than we normally would.”

media telco catalyst

Media/Telco catalyst: In partnership with TM Forum

Those issues were identified during a forum in Lisbon and vendor partners were offered the chance to develop solutions. All three projects were then demoed at this year’s TM Forum event, with each at various stages of development.

Al Jazeera, for example, has journalists out in the field in some areas with spotty connectivity at best. That’s why the news service wanted to get involved in the Mobile News Gathering Catalyst, explains Totten.

“We’re covering 63 countries and we have journalists out in the field, dealing with bandwidth constraints,” he explains. “So, we have to use satellite connectivity or bonding together SIM cards, which both can be very expensive.”

The approach that was agreed upon sees the development of better compression techniques across the industry with the aim of ensuring live broadcasts with spotty coverage or challenges with restricted capacity don’t suffer from failures or obvious latency.

BT is the latest champion to sign up for the project, joining Al Jazeera, AP and RTÉ, with a solution from V-Nova. At IBC2019, this will be demonstrated as live coverage showing off the mobile solution to demonstrate the impact of bandwidth spikes and how the software can cope with these.

As Totten explains: “At IBC2019 this technology will be on show – it serves as a good and challenging environment to practice what we’re preaching. It is also the first chance to show the IBC audience what we can achieve through collaboration. And then we can look to see if there is another stage going forward.”

Fake News
In another of the Catalyst projects, fact-checking new and archived content for both regulatory compliance and editorial value is the key focus. What does this mean?

As Totten explains, in an era where accuracy is becoming increasingly important and demonstrating bias or posting inaccurate information can cause both reputational and financial damage, broadcasters are looking at ways of speedily indexing on-air content.

“We’d been working with our quality assurance team, who are looking at 126 visual and editorial challenges on-screen,” he adds. “This ranges from bias to truthfulness and fact-checking. There are a lot of potential regulatory penalties for leaning too far.”

Take something as seemingly simple as a map, for example. Al Jazeera uses a lot of maps to help visualise its content, yet showing a map with the wrong border can be politically sensitive and cause unnecessary controversy.

To avoid this, the Catalyst project uses video analytics techniques to pull content off the video, analyse it and pass it back, flagging any potential problems. This works across both archived and live content. “We’ve started tackling these by looking at what both hurt our brand and can see us caught up in regulatory issues,” says Totten.

This could be expanded to include content moderation in other forms for both archived and new content, such as material that is not suitable for children. The AI and analytics tools could also be used as a way of archiving old content based on facial recognition or speech-to-text.

The detection ability will be on show at IBC2019, following which those involved will look at ways of commercialising the solution.

5G experiences
5G is a hot topic in telecoms at the moment, and one of the other Catalysts is looking at how 5G can help to deliver rich and engaging virtual reality and augmented reality experiences for tourism. In practice, this means using media tools to help users explore an ancient Roman site, for example, to add to the user’s experience.

Ben Thomas from Bristol University explained that 5G is doing a lot for tourism when he spoke at the TM Forum event in Nice. “Take for example museums, the enhanced experience they offer can be a little dated. But 5G allows museums to develop applications that lean on the network a little bit to give users a more engaging and immersive experience.”

Justin Paul from Zeeta Networks added that there are some applications that you can only do with 5G, rather than say WiFi or 4G. “Augmented and virtual reality needs a low latency, or you get a disorientating effect. To do that you need mobile edge computing to process data close to the source

The Media-Telecoms Catalyst will be demonstrated in Hall 9

5G-Enabled Tourism Experience
This Catalyst explores ways of creating a pop-up network for delivery of high throughput broadcasting to distant points of fibre presence via mmWave connection. The project investigates how to deliver rich and engaging video-based VR and AR experiences to visitors exploring an area of the Roman Baths in the UK and allows a mobile device to view a place as it would have been in the past.

Champions: Aardman Entertainment, BBC R&D

Participants: Bristol University, Cambridge Communications Systems Ltd, Zeetta Networks Ltd

AI Indexing for Regulatory Practice
AI remains a buzzword, but this Catalyst explores ways to intelligently automate the identification of on-air content using AI visual analysis in order to measure and report against compliance metrics set by external regulatory bodies. Furthermore, it can be used for internal editorial, creative and technical standards.

Champions: Associated Press, Al Jazeera, RTÉ

Participants: Metaliquid, QCRI, Tech Mahindra, V-Nova

Mobile News Gathering Using AI-Powered Compression
This Catalyst uses AI with better intelligence for journalists on location and improved time-to-air for both live and pre-recorded content. This is achieved through advanced compression techniques leveraging AI and the new MPEG-5 Part 2 LCEVC compression standard to maximise use of available bandwidth.

Champions: Associated Press, Al Jazeera, BT, RTÉ and the BBC

Participants: V-Nova, Aviwest