Home >> December 2010 Edition >> Year In Review... Bridge Technologies
Year In Review... Bridge Technologies

bridge_sm1210_l_2 This time last year, I wrote with some surprise that the anticipated dip in market activity after the financial crisis of 2008 had failed to materialize: Instead, we experienced a record year, with some major projects coming to fruition as well as strong increase in demand for our systems across the board. There were some jitters at times as customers paused to consider their investment strategies, but then pressed on as before.

The last 12 months have seen a continuation of this trend — and perhaps that is not so much of a surprise as things settle down after the initial shocks of 2008. Nevertheless, this is not a favorable financial climate for business growth — excuse me for stating the obvious. What makes our sector of the market so buoyant in difficult times?

When times are tough companies look to protect their business. In a rapidly evolving industry, such as the media, this can require several considerations. First, no-one wants to lose ground while competitors forge ahead carving out a market position in new service provision. In the media industry there are so many new opportunities arising from technological development, expanding infrastructure, and changes in consumer habits, the impetus for investment cannot be ignored. There’s also the economist’s adage that as money gets tighter, people turn more to entertainment as a form of escape.

If investment is an absolute requirement as a key to survival, the other main concern that follows from this is that investment should be directly linked in a quantifiable way to financial performance. Put more succinctly, if an organization can see rapid, tangible financial payback arising from an investment, it is likely to press the button.

This means those manufacturers and service providers whose offering delivers direct benefits in terms of cost savings — or a competitive advantage in service levels — are strongly placed to do well in the current climate. As that’s exactly what Bridge Technologies offers its customers, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the past year has been another period of strong performance for us.

Behind every headline-grabbing innovation that holds the promise of media industry expansion — 3DTV is this year’s poster child — there remains one simple constant: Consumers may be excited by these innovations, and demand may rise as a result, but unless media services are delivered to acceptable standards of quality, they will not be successful in the market. Unless media organizations can provide those quality standards in a cost-effective way, they will lose competitiveness.

bridge_sm1210_g1 A monitoring and analysis system offering a precise and efficient way of maintaining standards all the while keeping costs down is a good investment decision for any media business. We’ve seen a clear trend that the logic of this is inescapable for media operators, even if they did not factor such a system into their initial planning. After operating without good fault diagnosis capabilities for years and seeing maintenance costs and customer dissatisfaction rise inexorably, what media organization would not take the opportunity to halve maintenance spend, and boost service levels? This is exactly what happened this year at Tre-For, a public utility company turned media provider in Denmark. Tre-For since 2010 has experienced a tenfold increase in their business, dramatically reduced costs, and increased service levels — all vital to the company’s performance.

Service-affecting errors can be introduced anywhere in the media delivery chain. Therefore, integrated monitoring of all key points in the chain is important. An end-to-end solution such as VideoBRIDGE is so valuable precisely because it is comprehensive and can pinpoint exactly where errors are being generated, anywhere in the chain. In 2009, our Company placed the last link of the system in place, with the introduction of the VB270 probe with its satellite DVB-S/S2 interface, giving VideoBRIDGE true satellite-to-STB capability.

Since its introduction, the VB270 has been installed by many companies, often with results that surprise them. The quality of the satellite signal is often overlooked as the source of problems further downstream, yet companies using the VB270 soon learn such an assumption is a mistake. Any device, such as a satellite dish, which is exposed to atmospheric conditions and widely varying temperatures will undergo physical changes. In the case of a satellite dish, this means drift. The general assumption is that once a dish is in place, and as long as signal is being received through it, no further attention is necessary. However, the built-in error correction that makes satellite reception viable is designed to compensate for atmospheric conditions such as fog and rain. If, through physical drift and misalignment, a large part of the error correction headroom is taken up, higher levels of errors will be introduced into the signal. By checking the integrity of the signal at the dish with the VB270, companies ensure they do not waste time and costs trying to track errors further downstream, when the cause is at the dish. Larger operators use the VB270 on every dish to ensure the quality of uplinked data. Even on a smaller scale, the results can be dramatic: after introducing the VB270 into its system, Tre-For quickly traced 85 percent of its data errors to satellite dish misalignment.

bridge_sm1210_bio Uplinking, downlinking, contribution, IPTV... there are many applications, and high-quality integrated monitoring that embraces the broadcast and IP domains delivers crucial benefits in all of them. The key is to be able to monitor — in detail — at all points in the chain. The principle of total access to every inch of the signal’s journey is at the core of the Bridge Technologies offering. It’s what’s driven the design of our main product launch in 2010: the VB12-RF. This compact, highly portable broadcast-IP monitoring and measurement appliance for terrestrial and cable applications packs every required interface for RF, ASI and IP into a ruggedized chassis smaller than a laptop computer, with full TR101290 alarming and analysis, and support for all major media transportation codecs. Designed for the rigors of real-world use on the road, the VB12-RF is smaller, lighter and tougher than any comparable monitoring solution. And, like all VideoBRIDGE probes, it instantly contributes detailed data to the system as a whole, adding to the ‘big picture’ of the digital media delivery chain, without being limited to an IP or RF approach alone.

It’s this big picture view — from satellite to STB — that saves media operators time and money.