With the US Open tennis tournament coming to a close today, IBM, which has been providing IT infrastructure and apps for the event, is testing a new kind of social sharing technology called Simulcastr.
Simulcastr is a pilot feature within the IBM-developed official US Open iPhone app. Developed by IBM Research and IBM Interactive Experience, Simulcastr allows onsite fans to gain access to unique camera angles around the grounds as well as broadcaster video streams covering match play across 11 courts real time.
Fans also will be able to watch streams broadcast by other fans on site, thus allowing attendees to discover new experiences as they unfold across the US Open venue at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY.
Using the power of mobile and intelligent Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, Simulcastr takes advantage of excess capacity on the US Open WiFi enabling the real-time sharing of streaming video.
However, unlike other video sharing technologies, the Simulcastr video is not recorded and can only be shared with fans onsite at the US Open, respecting the broadcast rights and policies of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) surrounding video capture. Think of Simulcastr as a new kind of social sharing tool that gives every fan a courtside seat, no matter where they are on the grounds of the National Tennis Center.
“A fan sitting in the front row, who has a great view of the action, could be broadcasting that view and other fans not having such a great view could be using that and viewing that and enhancing that video,” said Nirmit Desai, an IBM researcher who is working on the Simulcastr project, in a video about it.
Indeed, “Fans at the tennis center who download the US Open app to their iPhones can choose real-time video feeds from various parts of the venue–anything from scenes of athletes heading for matches to shots of the queues at the refreshment stands,” Desai said in a post on IBM’s Smarter Planet blog. “Unlike with the popular video streaming service Meerkat and Periscope, the videos can’t be seen by anybody outside the tennis center.”
John Kent, vice president of global sponsorship and client programs at IBM, said Big Blue is offering fans a unique in-stadium experience for video. “So in addition to all the other features of the iPhone app, fans onsite will get access to what we call ‘perspectives’ with unique camera angles,” he said.
Yet, Nirmit says IBM is just scratching the surface of what might be possible in coming years. He noted that the technology could someday emerge as a “game-changer” for organizations that run sports and entertainment venues–making it even more enjoyable to attend an event in person rather than watching on TV.
In the current iteration of Simulcastr, fans are not allowed to shoot videos and share them with others. The video for Simulcastr is being shot by USTA employees or fixed cameras.
But you can imagine the possibilities for sports venues of all types in the future: “Fans might be able to choose from dozens or even hundreds of video feeds shot by other fans scattered around a stadium or ballpark,” Desai said. “Or a fan may ‘subscribe’ to a channel focused on their favorite athlete and gain access to a constantly updated collection of videos featuring her or him.”
IBM Tests ‘Simulcastr’ Social Sharing at US Open
Simulcastr is the first thing IBM has delivered out of a vision of the future of technology that is emerging within IBM Research, Desai said. That vision has been influenced by the notion of open source software, where software developers all share and contribute to projects for the common good of all developers.
Today, about 90 percent of the digital data in the world is generated at the outer edge of networks — via smartphones, sensors and the like, Desai said. The volume of this data is exploding and becoming harder to consume. “So, rather than handling it all via the Internet and cloud computing centers, why not use local WiFi networks and nearby computing and storage resources instead?” Desai said. “That way we can unlock the value of all that data.”
As the data explosion continues, there appear to be no physical limits to its growth. “One of the underlying reasons for this data growth is all the sensors and devices and wearables and machines and cars that are all on the ground sensing all kinds of phenomena, including temperature and accelerometer data and videos and audio are transmitting all of this sensor data to the cloud,” Desai said in the video. “These devices and vehicles and sensors that we’re talking about, bring with them their own connectivity, their own storage, their own computing power, their own sensors, and the ability to do something useful with this data right at the edge.”
A new approach to computing must emerge, he said. And this new approach to computing is going to harness together the power of connected devices.
“With our new approach to computing, people will instead share hardware resources–everything from WiFi hotspots to sensors to the underutilized storage and data processing capabilities on our smartphones and tablets,” Desai said.
However, this approach is not without its challenges. For instance, when connecting and managing a large collection of different kinds of devices that temporarily reside in a specific place, “the management system has to be able to identify the devices that are present, confirm that they’re ready to participate in peer-to-peer sharing, and then distribute computing tasks to the various devices in a highly-efficient way. Then the system has to aggregate the content from different sources, present viewing choices to participants, and serve up pieces of content to the people who choose to see them.”
This will require cognitive technologies such as image analytics that recognize specific people and activities in video streams, and deep learning algorithms that enable computers to gain knowledge through their interactions with data, Desai said.
However, when it is all said and done, Desai said he envisions several real-life scenarios where the Simulcastr technology could be used to benefit consumers, businesses, governments and other organizations. For instance, media companies could use it to gather real time video reports during a storm, a fire, a riot or a crime in progress. Or, insurance companies or police could use videos captured by connected cars to quickly gather evidence about the cause of a traffic accident, he said in his post.