Start-Up a Better Streaming Experience


A new start-up streaming company — backed by Cisco Systems Inc. and Sony Corp. — claims to be able improve the efficiency of transmitting rich-media content to thousands of users via advanced mathematical algorithms.

Digital Fountain says its Meta-Content streaming and server technology, which supports RealNetworks Inc.'s RealPlayer and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Player streaming formats, can reduce the jitter and lost packets common to popular streamed content.

Traditionally, streaming content is sent to a PC in sequential packets. The loss of any packet causes jitters or disruptions for the end user.

With Digital Fountain, each packet sent out contains information about the entire video file. The consumer's PC can assemble the file using bits and pieces based on the packets it's receiving, without having to wait for all lost packets to be resent. Once enough of the Meta Content mathematical equations are received, the content file can be reconstructed.

The benefit of this approach is that all users can be treated as a single group, Digital Fountain said, no matter when they seek access to the content. The company claims its Streaming Fountain can support either 4,000 quality video streams at 700 kilobits per second; 10,000 video streams at 300 kbps; or 60,000 narrowband streams. Digital Fountain said its Download Fountain can support up to 20,000 dial-up users or 5,000 broadband users.

The company is targeting large enterprises that own content and want to stream their material, as well as content distribution network companies, said vice president of marketing Cheryl Haines.

"Financial houses are a huge application," she said, since they transmit popular but perishable information that loses its relevance after a day or two.

She added the company "is very interested in the cable space," from both the programmer and operator perspective. Sports highlights, for instance, also fall into the popular but time sensitive category, she said.

By leveraging Digital Fountain's technology, music, movies and other video content can be transported more efficiently to more users, she said.

Sony said it would use Digital Fountain's technology for satellite communication. "Fountain servers give content owners the ability to reach an unlimited concurrent audience with high quality," Sony Corp. executive vice president Sunobu Horigome said in a statement.

Cisco plans to use the technology for, major enterprise-wide area networks via the Internet.

Digital Fountain's sales pitch includes cost savings for service providers and content owners, as its technology requires fewer servers. That means it needs less power, less rack space and fewer support personnel.

The company also said its technology allows content providers to track unicast and multicast users, making it possible to analyze content and server performance, content effectiveness and audience usage patterns.

A Digital Fountain server costs $40,000. Commercial availability is expected in June.