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Product Spotlight: ClearBand System

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

What it is: An operator-directed video-streaming solution that provides an easy-to-use, cost-effective way to deliver full-screen, 30-frames-per-second, television-quality video over high-speed cable networks to PCs and other Internet protocol-based appliances.
Video can be scaled from 300 kilobits per second to 2 megabits per second, with optional encryption, providing distributors full control over picture quality and security. Cable subscribers do not have to install, download or configure hardware or software. They use a standard Internet browser (such as Netscape Communicator or Microsoft Internet Explorer) to access a Web page, which leads them to a customized electronic program guide. Selecting a channel from the EPG transparently downloads the ClearViewer software decoder, which lets viewers scale the size of the picture as well as view more than one channel at a time.
Provider: ClearBand, a privately held technology company headed by Co-Chairmen Brian Flynn and Donald Flynn, who is a co-founder of Blockbuster Entertainment.
Customer feedback: Comcast Corp. has been testing the system on about 10 workstations in its lab in midtown Philadelphia and in a remote connection in Willow Grove, Pa., for the past few weeks, said Steve Craddick, senior vice president of new media development for the multiple system operator. Plans are to take it to Comcast’s Network Operations Center to test the system’s bandwidth use and see what kind of corporate applications (such as offering on-demand training tapes or benefits coverage) the system could support.
“From what I see at home [in Willow Grove], it streams just fine-the quality’s very good,” said Charlie Cerino, senior director of new media, who specializes in systems engineering. “We have it streaming at different bit rates (300 kilobits to 2.1 megabits). There’s no breakup or dropout. We’re feeding it live video off the cable system as well as canned movie trailers.”
Chief benefits are ClearBand’s ability to save bandwidth (there’s no need to dedicate a TV channel, thereby allowing for more niche applications) and its ability to move video relatively inexpensively. (There’s no need for special software or hardware on the customer end.) There was only one drawback: no interactivity.
“The user can select the stream but can’t pause, rewind or fast-forward it-it’s like watching live TV,” Mr. Cerino noted. “Technically, ClearBand could add these features to the product. But as is, it fills a need nicely, offering multicast streaming at a low bit rate.”