Research bid to make slow streaming a thing of the past

Anyone tired of slow-streaming or low-quality pictures while watching movies or TV shows online could benefit from potentially revolutionary Irish research.

Research bid to make slow streaming a thing of the past

A six-strong team at University College Cork expects its four-year project to have a major impact on the ability of internet service providers to make best use of their capacity. This, in turn, should result in customers of wired networks — as distinct from mobile and other wireless broadband — enjoying high-quality uninterrupted video playback.

“The amount of online traffic being used for video makes up around half of all internet activity, but that will reach 69% by 2017. This effects the quality, so it can lead to poorer standard picture, or video stopping to catch up while a user is watching,” said the lead researcher, Cormac Sreenan of UCC’s computer science department.

“We will use new techniques known as software defined networks, which allow service providers better manage the capacity of their network, and give them greater control over how they deliver video or other data to customers.”

Rather than delivering higher speeds, it is about a better quality picture with less disruption for customers. Rather than YouTube or similar sites, the most likely benefit will be for users of subscription video products such as Netflix and the evolving world of internet TV and playback sites such as RTÉ Player.

The reliance of networks on less fibre should, in theory, also allow them to reduce costs for their internet users.

The €1.1m funding awarded Prof Sreenan’s team of PhD students and post-doctoral researchers by Science Foundation Ireland last week will see them work closely with three companies: Tralee-based wireless network solutions firm Altobridge, founded by UCC graduate Mike Fitzgerald; data storage giant EMC, whose Irish operation is based in Cork; and AT&T, one of the world’s biggest telephone and internet service providers.

It is one of 36 projects for which €47m was announced as part of the SFI Investigators Programme, supporting over 200 researchers on work linked to more than 60 private companies over the next three to five years. The initiative of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will fund work in a range of disciplines, including biopharmaceutical production, cancer detection, sustainable food production, and investigating the control of epilepsy development.

Of 10 institutions whose projects are being funded, University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin will host seven each, followed by UCC and Dublin City University with four each. Other projects will be led from Tyndall National Institute in Cork, University of Limerick, Teagasc, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. “Not only will it provide direct support for over 200 researchers, the programme will also have an indirect impact on many other research programmes by allowing for the development of further research links with industry in Ireland and internationally,” said Professor Mark Ferguson, SFI director general and chief scientific adviser to the Government.

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