video sharing for techies

IET LogoLast night I attended a talk by Christophe Gobel and Kim someone-who’s-name-I-don’t-remember jointly organised by the IET and the BCS on IPTV. I’ve never been to an IET/BCS talk before but since a) the topic sounded fairly interesting and b) it was a bit of a family get together – both parents and brother work(ed) in IT – so thought I’d give it a go.

The first part of the talk gave an overview of IPTV technologies and distribution methods showing penetration, costs and services offered. There was a short video presented by David Sandham at the International Broadcasting Conference talking to delegates from across the industry about what IPTV meant to them.

Then the focus changed. While a lot of attention in the IPTV market is being given to large companies investing in Cable or DSL infrastructure to deliver multi-channel services down the line over IP, the IET have adopted a different approach for their technologies. They’re creating a Web TV service called built around an existing community of volunteer members and partnered companies to deliver content. This in itself isn’t particularly new – many organisations have been delivering video over the web for some time – but what’s different here is their adoption of Web 2.0 ideas and applying them to their community. has a lot of content produced by the organisation themselves but where it starts to get interesting is their systems to allow video to be uploaded. Universities can upload research seminars, corporate partners can showcase products and services and grass roots members of the IET will be able to upload their own local talks to give them a wider audience.

They did a demonstration of uploading a video and it provides more than just simple upload facilities. You can upload a corresponding PowerPoint presentation and synchronise the video and slides automatically. Once it’s uploaded you can even change the linked media to use a web page, flash video, image or many other formats. The demonstrations showed uploading already produced video but apparently it supports live and scheduled streaming as well.

It looked a little bit like the Vcasmo service that Brian Kelly talked about in August but seemed to offer much more flexibility (at the cost of easy of use, but there was a wizard interface for most uses). I have a suspicion that they didn’t develop everything in-house. They said they bought in media servers – currently Real/Helix and Windows Media soon to add Quicktime and then Flash (don’t understand why people don’t just standardise on Flash – it’s the best format around at the moment) – but they didn’t mention a provider for the video/presentation synchronisation technology.

I asked if the service was available to universities for non-research uses and the answer was “not right now”. It’s definitely got applications for teaching and distance learning and their implementation was flexible enough to link in with VLEs and other uses that an institution could think of.

Very briefly I’ll mention another service the IET have just launched in beta. IET Discover is a social bookmarking site aimed at the engineering/technology community. Nice idea and fairly solid implementation complete with browser toolbar but I question whether the world needs another clone. Maybe with the backing of their members they’ll make it work.