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5 Technology Innovations in the 2018 FIFA World Cup

5 Technology Innovations in the 2018 FIFA World Cup

FIFA World Cup has always been the center of introducing new technologies when it comes to sports broadcasting. For example, 2014 saw technologies like vanishing spray, goal-line technology, and mind-controlled robotic suit in action.

As 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off, we look at the five technology innovations that will be used for the first time in the most significant soccer competition of the world.

1. Video Assistant Referee (VAR)

With the International Football Association Board approving VAR in March 2018, Russia is witnessing the first World Cup using video technology as an additional tool for referees. FIFA has deployed VAR at all the matches, where a dedicated team with a lead VAR and three assistant VARs is located at the Moscow International Broadcast Centre.

According to FIFA, VAR is used as an additional tool to “correct clear and obvious errors and missed incidents in clearly defined match-changing decisions.” 33 broadcast cameras and two dedicated offside cameras are transmitting feeds directly to the VOR using optical fiber – eight of which are in super-slow motion and four in ultra-slow motion. VARs can also speak to the referees on the ground using a fiber-based radio system.

2. Electronic Performance and Tracking System (EPTS)

In 2018 World Cup, the coaches of all the 32 playing teams have access to a tablet-based system to track the statistics and real-time video footage of the players. Based on wearable technology, EPTS is a camera-based system that captures data via two optical tracking cameras on the main stand and selected tactical cameras.

EPTS is considered as the second significant innovation for FIFA after VAR. Each team has three tablets – one each for the analyst on the bench, in the stand, and the medical team. The system will also provide statistics around player positioning, passing, speed, and tackles, and match footages with a maximum of 30-seconds delay.

3. Adidas Telstar Ball

For the first time in the history of FIFA, Adidas, the official manufacturer of the World Cup match ball since 1970, has introduced NFC chip in the ball. Telstar 18 – the ball used for World Cup 2018, includes a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip apart from a new carcass and panel design. The chip allows the ball to communicate with a smartphone. Adidas claims that the new model will dramatically improve the performance durability of the ball.

4. Virtual Reality (VR) and 4K UHD Video

4K UHD videos that were tested in 2014 Brazil World Cup is made available to the broadcasters in 2018 Russia World Cup. BBC has confirmed that 4K streams of the match are available on BBC iPlayer on a first-come-first-served basis.

BBC has also made a VR feed available via its VR application to give the viewers a feeling of watching the match from a private box at the stadium.

5. 5G Services

Though yet to be available commercially, the 2018 World Cup is a testing ground for the 5G services for the network providers. Ericsson and MTS have confirmed to install 5G-capable radio equipment covering cover fan zones, stadiums, transportation hubs, and famous landmarks across more than 40 sites in seven of the 11 host cities.

Additionally, Megafon and TMS – the official communications partner, is holding trials of the 5G network across cities during the event.

While the players play on the ground, sports broadcasters are busy competing for innovations off the field to make the experience more real-time and competition more transparent. But for now, enjoy the game!

 

Virtualization – The Way Ahead for Broadcasters

Virtualization – The Way Ahead for Broadcasters

Virtualization is the doing-away of physical infrastructure in favor of software mimicking the hardware’s functions. From the viewpoint of broadcasters, however virtualization is the employment of equipment to perform a variety of tasks simultaneously or a shared piece of machinery that serves multiple studios or locations. Specialized software running on high-powered machines eliminates the need for dedicated, often-expensive equipment performing individual tasks.

Disney, one of the earliest adopters of the Cloud have set forth an ambitious plan to take their massive master broadcast facilities at New York City and Burbank, California and diffuse them globally – broadcasting from data centers around the world. They feel it critical to separate the data center from the broadcast center. Disney’s host of cable-based channels are preparing for their move to the Cloud.

The BBC has found virtualization to be the way ahead in the race against redundancy that most radio broadcasters are facing. The BBC’s Virtual Local Radio (ViLoR) project centralizes the infrastructure of four major stations at one remote, shared location. While the local stations from four major UK cities shall compile their content independently, their audio files shall be stored, streamed, mixed and processed at the central data center. As radio channels come up against budget-trimming by parent organizations, they can look towards virtual stations to keep up their operations without compromising on the scale.

Hardware heavyweights NVIDIA have devised an ingenious method of optimizing the use of their products. Known for their Graphical Processing Units (GPUs), the firm has set up gargantuan blocks of interconnected GPUs which can be remotely accessed by paying customers – albeit at a fraction of the price of a physical unit. NVIDIA’s workstation grade Quadro & TESLA cards can render video and process data at lightning speeds. By decentralizing the usage of its cards, NVIDIA has ensured optimal and future-proof utilization of its products.

Besides being an obvious financial asset, the adoption of virtualization grants a plethora of benefits to broadcasters both small and large.

Being unfettered from carry-along apparatus has given increased mobility to broadcasters. Growing network speeds and the advent of 5G means it is exponentially easier to set up pop-up stations and better, wider on-ground coverage. Having software-based computing power further allows creative freedom and experimentation. Launching new services over a broadcaster’s existing distribution network is a quicker, less cumbersome process.

Troubled organizations, those which pumped in significant resources into setting up equipment have found a lifeline in virtualization. Letting out leftover space on servers remotely or granting access to their specialized machinery through software-based virtual interfaces – these companies recover costs faster, some even generating profits.

Content creators have struggled to maintain a healthy distance between themselves and the infrastructure support in an organization. Media specialists have long bemoaned limited knowledge of equipment and technicalities prohibiting their creativity. Virtualization provides a seamless way for journalists to avoid the everyday altercations with physical machinery and divert their energies to creating content.

With many of the industry bigwigs already on-board and newcomers seeing the many advantages of a virtual station, embracing a virtual future is soon to become an industry norm.

What will 2018 hold for media broadcasters?

What will 2018 hold for media broadcasters?

2018 will see broadcasters streamline their content, technology, and operations for a new segment of customers who consume content on-demand. Driven by the changing content consumption, we foresee media organizations looking at following:

Dawn of the OTT Era

Industry reports reveal that an average Indian consumes 8.5 hours of video content every month on Facebook and YouTube, which accounts for 47 percent and 42 percent of market share. Add the popularity of Over the Top (OTT) platforms like Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Jio TV, and VOOT to that, and you’d realize that the way Indians consume digital content has changed over the years.

In India, the popularity can be attributed to access to faster and cheaper internet, affordable smartphones, and the wide range of content on offer. With over 460 million internet users, India is the second largest online market[1] whose smartphone penetration rate is expected to reach more than 28 percent by 2018.

While some broadcasters have already launched their platform like Ozee, others will pick this trend in 2018 and look at launching their platforms. Some may also look to optimize and produce their content on commercially successful OTT operators. Broadcasters will be seen investing in tools and technology to prepare their content and distribute it to CDNs.

Solving the Content Conundrum

OTT has changed the way content is created and consumed. As viewers consume content anytime, anywhere, and on any device, the demand for short-form, high quality ‘snackable’ content has been on the rise. Citizen journalism is gaining momentum, with viewers recording events and posting live on social media for the global audience.

Original, consistent, and addictive content is on demand. With players like Apple planning to invest over $1 billion in original content and Facebook spending a chunk of its marketing budget on content, fresh content production depending on current affairs, mood, and preference of the viewers is on the rise.

However, creating fresh consumable content is only one side of the story. To retain subscribers and provide a shared experience across devices, OTT providers also need to recreate the legacy content with proper archiving, metadata and tagging, and digitization. For this, broadcasters will need to dig into their archives to sort, organize, digitize, restore and optimize legacy content to enable easy search, access, and distribution of content across channels.

Embracing Virtualization

Newer digital broadcast avenues like OTT are creating pressure on traditional broadcasters to lower their Broadcast Operations and Engineering (BO&E) budgets. A survey by Devoncroft reveals that more than 40% M&E vendors have products that operate in a virtualized environment. While it is debatable if ‘virtualization’ refers to only IT infrastructure or the entire content supply chain, the fact is – new, small, and medium-sized broadcasters are gradually migrating their infrastructure to cloud-based solutions.

Moving to IP comes with the benefits of using a standardized connectivity and infrastructure to transport videos from locations to the central facilities and on to distribution. Therefore, broadcasters will continue digital transformation keeping content at the center of business to achieve faster time-to-market, scalability, and agility at a lower TCO.

Enhanced User Experience with 4K, HD Formats

A 2016-report by Chrome Data Analytics and Media[2] reveals that 8.34 million households in India have HD televisions, of which 89 percent have DTH HD connection and 11 percent have digital cable HD connection. However, only 9 percent or 91 channels out of 857 permitted private satellite television stations and more than 190 government channels in India are High Definitions (HD).

With the market share of OLEDs, 3D and 4K television increasing every day, viewers often forget to ask – does India have enough 4K and 3D channels? Wikipedia lists only five 4K channels and one 3D channel.

To address the change in viewership, media organizations will continue to upgrade their technical infrastructure to broadcast in HD or beyond (4K). With 2019 General Elections in sight, it is expected that news broadcasters will upgrade their technology, investing in workflows and solutions for presentation and analysis of election results in high definition.

To summarize, 2018 and 2019 will be the year of digital transformation and adoption of technology focusing on improving the viewer experience.

Hot 100- System Integrators, MediaGuru

Hot 100- System Integrators, MediaGuru

We are pleased to share that MediaGuru got featured in Digital Studio Hot 100 Power list for the second time.The list was presented by leading broadcast media technology publication, Digital Studio under the aegis of ITP Publishing Group.

Sushil Khanna, Global COO, MediaGuru has been featured among most influential leaders in broadcast and media industry in the region. The nomination was analyzed by industry experts, followed by a detailed survey to select best in each category. The results were declared in July edition of Digital Studio magazine. Click here http://bit.ly/2vbHskt to know about the winners across categories such as film directors, cinematographers, film editors, broadcasters, technocrats, etc.