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Everything Over IP
By Swapnil Arora and Vishnu Anand with help from Sandeep Kaul
Ever since the popularity of VoIP, the whole business of communications over IP has undergone a sea change. In this story, we look at everything that can be carried over IP, including fragrances
It's well known how IP has changed the way people communicate. After data communication the buzz was VoIP. Now VoIP has become an integral part of our lives and people are hooked on to VoIP without even realizing. Now the latest buzz is Video over IP as well as on mobiles. In this story we look at some of the hot communication trends taking place over IP and some of latest developments which will pave the way to what we like to call 'Everything over IP.'
TV on the move
The announcement by MTNL to offer a bouquet of interactive personalized television and video phone services in Mumbai and Delhi has had two effects-for one, it has served as a wake up call to the telecom industry that the time is ripe to converge telephony, TV and Internet to create a new slate of value added offerings to Indian customers. The second, larger effect is to tell consumers that they've entered a new era where video and TV can reach to them anywhere, anytime through Internet. When Vint Cerf, regarded as the father of the Internet and co-inventor of TCP/IP visited India last year, he sported a Tee which said, "IP on everything," a rather rude message with a serious thought that Internet Protocol had already become the single most pervasive standard to communicate data and entertain world's connected billions. Hand in hand with its recent mobile TV offering, MTNL has also launched, in partnership with Aksh Optifibre, a new service called V Spyk, a video phone service in Mumbai and Delhi. For Rs 499, subscribers are being offered IPTV, VoIP as well as 50 MB broadband services.
While private telecom providers are still reeling from the head start that public sector companies seem to have achieved, it seems like TRAI may object to MTNL's IPTV service since they are a basic service operator while IPTV is a value added service. Meanwhile, IP is being harnessed in creative ways to move video and TV content, releasing it from constraints of place and time. The most compelling product in this space is Slingbox (a creation of India based engineers of Sling Media), a set top box which allows users to transfer all TV feeds from cable or satellite operators to any PC, laptop or mobile phone, anywhere in the world via Internet.
A competing product is Hava from another India-based developer, Monsoon Multimedia, which adds Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g) to provide wireless home networking capability. Even without these add on devices, it is possible to receive a variety of TV feeds via the Internet. The most compelling of these free web services is Joost, a creation of Niklas Zennstromand and Janus Friis, inventors, who in an earlier era, invented P2P with Kazaa. Joost has already tied up with a 100 TV channels including MTV, CNN and Sony Pictures, and in the months to come, the Net is slated to become the chosen vehicle to reach television content to customers wherever they are.
A recent report of Springboard Research conducted across 6 metros in India found that over 85% of mobile phone users in the country were ready to invest in new handsets to be able to get their most popular TV content on-the-move. With Indians buying mobile phones at 8 million a month, it is clear that the potential for IPTV in India may become one of the fastest growing markets for mobile and Net based services.
Ever since Cisco launched its Telepresence solution to provide real life experience in video conferencing, there has been a lot of buzz around such solutions and other vendors have also joined the bandwagon. HP came out with its Halo telepresence solution, Nortel has started providing telepresence services and so are many other video conferencing companies such as Polycom and Lifesize.
HP this month launched its new telepresence offering called Halo Collaboration Studio. The product is meant for enterprises with geographically dispersed workforce and the product can be easily installed at remote locations without the need for any expertise. Just like other Halo products, this solution too uses Halo Video Exchange Network with a dedicated collaboration channel that consists of an HP collaboration software and a high-definition collaboration screen. Since Halo is a managed end to end solution, enterprises do not have to worry about maintenance and upgradation of their infrastructure.
In India too telepresence is catching up, and March 08 saw Polycom launching its RealPresence Experience High Definition solution and Tata Communications launching Cisco-certified TelePresence network services in India.
Video conferencing on mobiles
Modern cellphones enable you to do everything a regular desktop PC does, with the added advantage of mobility. Lately the buzz has been around technologies that allow video conferencing between two cellphones, and between a cellphone and a PC. The latter happens over the Internet. Now many of the latest camera-equipped cellphones are ready for video conferencing as they are designed with a rotating camera. Some also ship with a compact stand which houses a camera lens. You can mount a cellphone and initiate a conference call. You will be able to see the participant and yourself on the cellphone screen. Your images will be transmitted to the viewer on the other side via the camera on the stand.
Mobile video conferencing is no longer limited to mobile phones. Vendors are also launching similar portable mobile video conferencing solutions. Tandberg has come out with a device called FieldView which is meant to provide real time collaboration amongst experts and field agents. This can help enterprises in making quick decisions and get expert advice instantly on the situation. The company is targeting companies in manufacturing, education, research and development.
IP storage for video surveillance
Demand for video surveillance has increased considerably in enterprises. This has been due to reasons such as the need to meet compliance standards or the fact that enterprises can easily deploy IP cameras and use their existing cabling for carrying video signals. Enterprises are readily deploying web based IP surveillance solutions as they provide several advantages over traditional CCTV solutions. Administrators can remotely view and manage IP surveillance systems, the system itself is fast, ease of use, etc. Further, IP video surveillance is also being used as proof in lawsuits and at times is required to meet compliance. However, it also causes problems such as storing images generated from IP video surveillance, as even a single IP camera can generate more than 20 GB of data in a single day. Also, as a video surveillance system performs constant write operations on a storage disk, using common storage devices such as NAS can degrade the performance of a video surveillance system as these devices are designed for environments where balanced read/write operations take place.
To solve such issues vendors are now offering dedicated storage solutions for video surveillance. These storage solutions are designed to work with existing infrastructure of an enterprise and can support thousands of cameras working together. They support features such as replication, clustering, thin provisioning, load balancing and failover. Vendors are now also providing a complete solution for video surveillance which includes everything from an IP camera to a media server as well as a storage solution.
Synthesized Scent over IP
There has been a lot of talk about how soon physical interactions over IP would be possible and also a lot of research has been going on this subject, to provide Touch-to-Touch, Motion-to-Motion and similar interactions. Last year a project called touch (http://phy2phy.wikidot.com/touch) demonstrated a device which allows two users to touch each other's fingers over the Internet. However, when these products would be commercially available, is hard to say at this point. There have been a few commercial products launched that deliver aroma over your desktop. A company called TriSenx has created a device called Scent Dome which has cartridges of 20 scents and by cleverly mixing these; it releases fragrances that provide a unique experience to users. So, whenever a user goes to a Scent Enabled Website (SEC), the device will spray the fragrance into the air as specified in the content, thus bringing a tinge of reality to the otherwise virtual experience. Another company, called Telewest, is soon going to release ScentMail which will use the same device to let users send fragrant email.
Similarly, another company, called AromaJet, is creating a device called Pinoke which will provide a new gaming experience by spraying aroma according to the environment in a particular game. As aromas trigger new emotions in human beings, such devices could make games even more addictive.
NAT has been used to overcome ipv4 address shortage as it acts as an interface between Internet and the local network. It translates private address of local network to the public address of ISP. Now that ipv6 is a reality, overcoming the ipv4 to ipv6 transition is an important issue. This issue was resolved to certain extent by 6to4 protocol, that could be implemented on NAS.
Teredo Tunneling is a protocol that gives ipv6 connectivity to nodes that connect through NAT devices that do not understand ipv6. In this protocol, ipv6 packets are encapsulated into ipv4 UDP datagrams that can route through NAT and ipv4 Internet. Teredo was introduced because 6to4 protocol, that is most common ipv6 over ipv4 protocol, was economically and technically difficult to implement on most NAT devices. Teredo in turn is implemented on nodes itself that can easily understand the encapsulated packets and thus gain ipv6 connectivity without NAT being ipv6 aware.
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