New video streaming startup takes aim at digital signage sector

September 13, 2010 by Dave Haynes

A suburban Boston video startup called BurstPoint Networks Inc. came out of stealth mode today and announced some interesting technology it says has a role to play in, among other things, enterprise-level digital signage networks.

Reports Mass High Tech:

BurstPoint, based in Westborough, is making a series of products that convert all video that an enterprise touches in a standard format so it can be delivered, manipulated, combined or otherwise used seamlessly, eliminating the problems that arise with disparate codecs, streaming technologies and end players, officials said. BurstPoint already has its Video Communications Platform in the hands of customers, said Tom Racca, CEO of BurstPoint. The company, incorporated earlier this year, was able to get a jump on its technology by purchasing some of it from Starbak Communications Inc., a now-defunct company formerly based in Burlington.

“Starbak had some pretty good technology,” Racca said. “We acquired some of the property of Starbak. We took a few of the engineers and we pulled together some really strong industry veterans and we have been working on this for months.”

Among the products BurstPoint makes is an encoder that converts captured video from, say, a web cam or camcorder, to the WMV format BurstPoint uses on the fly, and video conferencing system that does the same for the type of video seen in those systems, all the way up to full HD systems such as those made by Cisco Systems Inc. Cisco, in fact is a licensee of the technology BurstPoint bought from Starbak, through the Cisco subsidiary Tandberg. Starbak had sued Tandberg ASA when it was an independent maker of video conferencing technology in 2006 over patent infringement. The companies eventually settled out of court, with Tandberg paying Starbak licensing fees for the technology.

Two keys of BurstPoint’s video platform are its Delivery Node and its VCP Manager. The first, officials said, is a way to multi-cast a video stream out to various endpoints, or to other nodes, which can then multiply the endpoints exponentially. According to Racca, the delivery nodes come in sizes from 50 video streams up to 1,500. The manager handles all of the components of a system, even down to the Display Engine, a dongle that allows any digital display to show the video from a BurstPoint stream.

Racca says that display engine is key to one target market for the company – digital signage.

“There is a large retail customer we are talking to,” Racca said. “They are thinking about using this for their digital signage, but they also want to offer training videos on the signage before the store opens.” By having all the video in the same format run through the BurstPoint technology, that can be done easily, he said.

The platform includes a central management portal that seems to be a conduit for various video sources, and has the systems in place to “assign user privileges to certain content, create and update playlists for display on digital signage, collect and analyze usage data, produce reports, and centrally manage updates.”

The “dongle” that’s referenced is described by the company more as a small form factor set-top box kinda thing, which makes more sense but is less interesting than something that really could just stick into a USB slot or some other connector on a panel.

Streaming does indeed make sense when you have a pile of locations and all of them getting pretty much the same thing. The challenge is the quality of service. On a closed enterprise-level network bandwidth can be somewhat managed and the number of packet errors and pixel-blocking limited. On the public Internet, I think we all know how good the cablecos and telecoms are at providing rock-solid reliable connections.

I’ve sent a note to these guys to get more detail on how they do things.

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