Toward A Better Quality of Experience

  • By David Kirk

Toward A Better Quality of Experience

The quality of the content received is dependent on many more links in the chain, Contributing Editor, David Kirk examines how the QoE is monitored…

The telecommunications industry today resembles a city built on sand. Venice, as perhaps the best known example, was constructed on thousands of wooden pillars hammered into Adriatic mud. Which is why many of its surviving towers are visibly off vertical. The telco equivalent of mud is adaptive bitrate streaming, a commendable invention but one which adds to the uncertainties of digital signal networking. Quality of Experience monitoring is about checking the extent to which signals reaching television and radio audiences deviate from the content sent by the provider.

IP also adds to the challenge, allowing substantial savings in data delivery costs but requiring attention to such details as dropped packets, first-packet arrival time, first-packet time at margin, inter-packet arrival time, network burstiness, path delay and real-time transport protocol alignment. In short, delivery network monitoring is a vital area and one which will continue to develop as broadcasters strive to accommodate more channels, higher resolution and surround vision. The following overview looks at recent developments.

Agama Technologies’ has introduced a Cloud Analyzer. “Optimised for deployment in cloud and container environments, it provides the visualisation and metrics needed for understanding all the steps in modern cloud-based video workflows,” says Johan Görsjö, VP of Product Management.

“Features include the ability to visualize adaptive bitrate delivery performance, enhanced per-device analysis and new dashboarding capabilities. For analyzer probes in head-end and network applications, our new version 7.0 software includes a timeline correlator which can be used in comparing key performance indicators between channels and different locations in a delivery network. We have also introduced enhancements in alarming, metrics and analysis for OTT as well as IP linear services.” 

Bridge Technologies is supporting Densitron’s development of a new four-unit rack-mountable multiviewer based on Densitron’s IDS (Intelligent Display System). Multiviewer+ incorporates a Densitron UReady 4 RU touchscreen 19 inch monitor plus Bridge Technologies’ VB440 monitoring probes and Widglets API. “The way Densitron has integrated our Widglets API technology into its IDS solution and UReady touchscreen demonstrates a keen understanding of what kind of information production engineers need, how they need it presented and how they can work with it most efficiently,” says Bridge Technologies Chairman Simen Frostad.

Broadpeak has introduced a new software-based CDN benchmarking tool in collaboration with Intel. Using Intel Xeon Scalable Processors and DPDK (Data Plane Development Kit), as well as Intel Network Builders’ Secure DevCloud environment, the tool simulates video player behaviour and supports next-generation protocols. “Streaming standards and protocols are ever-evolving and we recognised that the industry requires powerful, agile, and realistic benchmarking tools,” says Broadcast CEO Jacques Le Mancq. “We developed this innovative solution in collaboration with Intel to help our customers increase their CDN performance, deliver exceptional QoE for video streaming delivery, and reduce their impact on the environment by using less resources.” The tool gives users information about the performance of their content delivery network, enabling them to make adjustments as needed to ensure the best performance. The tool is claimed to be one of the first to offer full support for low-latency video streaming protocols, including Low Latency HLS and Low Latency DASH.

Also new from Broadpeak is the latest version of its BkA100 video delivery analyser, with a redesigned interface, dashboard customisation tools and A/B testing capabilities. “Data and analytics are critical to video delivery today,” says the company’s marketing VP Nivedita Nouvel. “Our BkA100 collects a wide range of data at all levels, providing a precise representation of quality-of-service issues. With customised dashboards and A/B testing now available, operators can continuously assess new delivery techniques and immediately see the impact on their video service subscribers.” The BkA100 offers cumulative distribution function visualisations for A/B testing on the impact of a given parameter on QoE metrics such as startup time, bitrate, and freezes. From the player level, the BkA100 provides operators with data on the startup time, freeze duration and percentage, delivered layer, and network connectivity. On the network side, it gathers information from the CDN, ad inserter, adaptive bitrate converter (Broadpeak’s nanoCDN) and CDN selector (Broadpeak’s umbrellaCDN).

Digital Nirvana’s MediaServicesIQ is a suite of cloud-based micro-services designed to streamline content production, postproduction and distribution. Its facilities include speech-to-text, content classification, closed-caption generation and conformance, plus the ability to detect ads, logos, objects and faces. “The promise of automated intelligence and machine learning is being touted throughout the media industry,” comments Russell Wise, Senior Vice President. “These technologies offer powerful potential for new efficiencies, time savings and expanded potential for monetising valuable content. But AI and ML tools need to be accessible and easy to apply in order to support widespread adoption in the media industry. We have created a set of core AI capabilities and made them available in a layer that can be easily accessed by newsrooms, live sports and entertainment productions, post houses and other media operations.” MediaServicesIQ provides access to a collection of high-performance AI capabilities in the cloud that enable immediate logging and feedback of content quality and compliance, positioning broadcasters to meet regulatory, compliance, and licensing requirements for closed captioning, decency, and advertising monitoring. Features include the ability to record, store, and retrieve content for compliance, quality of service, and insights into broadcast content; automatic transcription of content from live broadcasts and commercials; automated detection of logos, objects, faces and shots; automatic extraction of on-screen text; detection of ad breaks in logged content; identification of restricted words or topics in recorded/logged content; classification of incoming ad material for restricted content; generation of automated reports.

Grass Valley’s EdgeVision offers QoE monitoring across an entire network for satellite/cable/IPTV operators and broadcasters, using video/audio streaming and signal probing. By remotely monitoring signals received at set-top boxes, it allows operators to see and hear the quality of signals received in viewers’ homes. Features include H.264 video streaming for remote viewing plus stereo or Dolby Digital audio streaming with monitoring and level metering. Streaming resolution, quality, frame rate and bit rate and be fully adjusted. Each EdgeVision input has both a high resolution and a low resolution streaming encoder.

Harmonic’s CableOS virtualized cable access software now includes a low-latency mode, faster throughput performance when running on 1 RU Intel servers, simultaneous support of centralized and distributed architectures on a single core server, plus interoperability with standard-compliant third-party Remote PHY devices. “Adding virtual segmentation technology and other advanced features to our CableOS offering, and riding the Intel curve to deliver more bandwidth performance with less power, Harmonic is again moving cable access technology a giant step forward,” says Harmonic’s Asaf Matatyaou.

Interra Systems provides end-to-end, software-based solutions for file-based and live content verification, monitoring of QoE & QoS, and analysis. What differentiates our OTT solutions from the rest is their flexibility, scalability, and comprehensive number of audio and video checks.

To ensure the quality of original content for VOD assets, Interra Systems’ BATON ABR identifies quality issues from ingest to editing, compression artifacts, as well as file assembly issues. Once the content is validated with BATON ABR, it is ready for OTT delivery. Real-time streaming validations, both for VOD assets and live streams, are done with Interra Systems’ ORION family of monitoring. ORION and ORION-OTT are content monitoring platforms for assurance of high-quality IP/linear and OTT streams for Live and VOD content. Both solutions look at all aspects of streams including MPEG TS, ABR manifests, Closed Captions, Ad Insertions, and are fully supported for cloud environments. The newly revamped ORION Central Manager (OCM) provides an aggregated view of linear and OTT services based on monitoring data collected by ORION and ORION-OTT for efficient troubleshooting. With this complete set of tools, operators can deliver flawless content to every screen with confidence.

Leader announces a new addition to its range of video and audio test equipment. The LVB440 IP Analyzer allows efficient analysis of SD, HD, HD HDR, 4K and 4K HDR data flow over media networks of any size. Designed to monitor and analyse high-bitrate media traffic in broadcast production studios, OB vehicles, master control facilities and transmission networks, the analyzer supports data rates of 10, 25, 40 and 50 gigabit/s, extending up to 100 gigabit/s via dual interfaces. The core processor is more than capable of handling the 48 gigabit/s data rate required for full bandwidth source 8K. Housed in a 1 RU chassis, the LVB440 is controlled via an HTML-5 web browser and provides full support for up to eight local or remote users. It gives production teams the resources needed to perform real-time checks on large numbers of streams and multiple resolutions in parallel at multiple locations. Operators gain the ability to survey every media transport layer of an IP network simultaneously, allowing issues to be rectified before they impact the quality of service experienced by program viewers. When connected to primary and secondary networks, the LVB440 can monitor and analyse redundancy within the SMTPE ST 2022-7 standard which is used to ensure seamless protection switching. Tools are also provided for Precision Time Protocol clock analysis, including clock source detection, timing accuracy and individual flow path-latency.

Rohde & Schwarz defines its Smart platform as a fully integrated solution platform covering all use cases and test situations during the life of a mobile network. It is a modular system comprising data collection hardware and analytic software. SmartOne mobile network testing software is designed to run on a laptop PC. It provides support for Qualcomm, Samsung Exynos and HiSilicon chipsets. Among other elements on the platform are SmartAnalytics, Smart Benchmarker, SmartMonitor and the TSMx multi-network scanner.

Synamedia describes its Gravity as an industry-first managed service that makes it easier for operators and service providers to offer their small-to-medium business and residential customers a richer suite of advanced broadband and video capabilities. It includes software lifecycle management, support, integration and operational services, all from one source.

Telestream’s Surveyor ABR Active is a proactive real-time monitoring solution for OTT streaming video services. A recent addition is decryption and content quality analysis providing Content Owners, Broadcasters, Programmers and Service Providers visibility into the quality of their streaming services post-CDN.

Streaming Video Providers do not have the visibility into their content as it travels through the CDN and over the access networks making it difficult to provide a high-quality viewing experience and be proactive fixing issues before viewers see them.

Surveyor ABR Active uses synthetic client technology to verify that the video content - live and on-demand - is available, plays as expected (no buffering), for every bitrate variant and format. With QoE (quality of experience) metrics and visual reference thumbnail images added, Surveyor ABR Active measures video and audio impairments that can degrade the user experience just as much as poor network delivery. This monitoring technology acts as the most critical viewer, keeping staff informed about the services’ content quality and performance from content storage out to the network edge.

Witbe’s QoE Monitoring Robots are a combination of hardware and software that are claimed to be able to reproduce end-user behaviour such as renting a video on demand programme; monitor live TV and report on the quality of the video; communication by phone; send texts and emails to other devices; and send social media messages.