As consumer demand for the latest tech increases, companies find themselves balancing the risks of promoting a new technology with the economic windfall that can result from its success.
A shining example is how consumers are shifting from cable TV to streaming video, which has much a lower latency than traditional television. As Wowza Media System CEO and co-founder, David Stubenvoll quips, “Nobody wants to hear their neighbors celebrate a game-winning touchdown while their own broadcast lags 20 seconds behind.”
It’s no mystery that consumers want faster connections, better mobile services, and all the fun and productivity that AI keeps promising. Social media is also feeling the push to create more high-quality streaming content. The live-streaming market will explode as all of these innovations come to fruition.
“In the technology industry, learning spikes when you begin a new career.”
We asked Stubenvoll of Wowza, a streaming media server software developer, for his insights on how the multimedia landscape is changing and how computer science graduates can get in on the bonanza.
Here’s what he had to share.
As CEO of Wowza Media Systems, what three things do you look for most in a potential new hire?
Stubenvoll: The team we’ve built at Wowza is extraordinary. Whenever we’re looking to add, we make sure candidates hit the mark on the following:
a) The ability to think ahead
We’re in a market that is changing at an incredible speed. We need our employees to not only be able to roll with the many changes that come with being in this industry, but we also like to hire folks who can help foresee these changes and bring solutions to the table ahead of time.
b) Solution-oriented mindset
When it comes to live video, there is no shortage of issues that can arise. Wowza team members are self-starters who love a good challenge. Ideally, new hires are able to look at potential issues and provide ideas for solutions without being “assigned” to the task. Our team is big, so being self-reliant and proactive is incredibly important.
c) Ability to skillfully work as part of a team
While it’s important for new hires to be proactive self-starters, it’s also critical that they’re able to work well with others. Our company is made up of many different teams ranging from engineering to sales and marketing. Part of what makes our company great is our employees’ ability to work together to solve problems and develop strategy. Any new employee should add to the team and help us build great things.
What are the biggest advances to expect in streaming video technology within the next five years?
Stubenvoll: There are three areas where streaming video will outperform other modes of entertainment.
a) Low-Latency Streaming Causing Viewers to Ditch Cable
Each year, more and more viewers ditch traditional satellite and cable services. Analysts have long held sports broadcasts as the saving grace for traditional television. But streaming services such as Sling and Hulu now deliver these programs directly to viewers’ smart TVs. Another consideration in favor of cable used to be the delay that can occur when delivering video online.
Nobody wants to hear their neighbors celebrate a game-winning touchdown while their own broadcast lags 20 seconds behind. Luckily, OTT (over-the-top) content can now be delivered with even less latency than traditional broadcasts — making it the preferred format for live footage. Streaming technologies like SRT, Apple Low-Latency HLS, and low-latency CMAF for DASH all make this possible.
OTT opens up opportunities to deliver more personalized experiences. Plus, the data gathered therein gives broadcasters actionable insight to keep viewers engaged.
b) Improved Mobile Connectivity and Expanded Use Cases
The industry is abuzz with speculation about how 5G connectivity will shape streaming technology. Connectivity improvements help remove barriers to using streaming for a wide variety of applications. Live video now lies in the palm of our hands through mobile and connected devices.
Applications that were once no more than science fiction — such as self-driving cars and surgical operations conducted remotely — will become real-life once 5G takes over.
It may take some time for 5G to become widely available, but we’re excited to see what technology comes out of it. The smart home will also go mainstream, with automated 5G systems enabling house monitoring like never before.
*Video is projected to account for 82 percent of internet traffic by 2022, a growing share of which will take the form of live streaming.*
The trifecta of technological advancement, improved connectivity, and video maturity makes streaming more accessible than ever. For this reason, video streaming will be employed not just by enterprises and media giants, but also by boutique organizations looking to engage customers near and far. From live commerce to innovative mobile apps, live streaming is now ubiquitously tied to business strategy.
Marketing requires it. Customer engagement depends on it. And innovation starts with it. For these reasons, organizations must either incorporate live streaming into their business plan — or risk falling behind.
c) Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence (AI), an umbrella term that encompasses machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) technologies, promises to transform every facet of human life — including live streaming.
For tech giants like Facebook, artificial intelligence has already become commonplace. The site uses it to automatically identify users’ faces each time a photo is uploaded. And as unsettling as it may sound, Facebook’s facial recognition software (called DeepFace) is far more accurate than the FBI’s. Why? Because Facebook’s extensive photo database grows each day, and as a result, the algorithm improves.
Thanks to Hollywood and Philip K. Dick, most of us have a healthy skepticism of AI. But what about the positive ways that it can revolutionize live streaming?
Streaming now makes up a considerable share of all the data floating around, with video forecast to account for 82 percent of all internet traffic by 2022. Leveraging AI to find more efficient ways to encode, distribute, and organize that data will streamline the digital landscape. From regulating illicit content to preventing copyright infringement, AI promises to play a critical role in the streaming industry.
*Source: Cisco, Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Trends, 2018-2022
What are the biggest dangers associated with the development of high-quality streaming video?
Stubenvoll: With streaming video, it’s often a balancing act between quality, scalability, and latency. Hitting the sweet spot and achieving all three used to be a challenge. This is no longer the case with the advancements listed above.
As far as actual dangers go, an increasing number of people have chosen to broadcast crimes and other horrific content. And that content has found its way to viewers’ screens.
While often used for entertainment, object detection offers practical benefits. Artificial intelligence will pave the way to content regulation with this tech-enabled form of censorship, which promises to replace manual monitoring.
With machine learning and deep learning, organizations like Facebook and Google will be able to act faster, smarter, and more effectively. We can expect AI to interpret streaming content and automatically extract metadata. From there, they’ll be able to monitor harmful content more effectively and protect the privacy of victims.
At Wowza, we’re working closely with Microsoft to implement object detection for live streaming. This is something we’re demonstrating at IBC2019 because we recognize its value.
Which top industries will be most affected by innovations in streaming services over the next five years?
Stubenvoll: Because consumers are cutting cables at an unprecedented rate, the media and entertainment industry will be impacted as described above. Interactive mobile apps across a wide range of industries — including trivia, fitness, and more — are also using live streaming in unique ways to better engage end-users. The role of streaming in the gaming industry will go beyond live streaming video platforms like Twitch. Instead, users will have the ability to stream the gaming services themselves as an alternative to purchasing them. We’re also seeing streaming take over in the e-commerce space (as detailed in this blog), the music industry (elaborated here), law enforcement (highlighted in this case study), transportation (e.g., traffic cams), and surveillance.
What advice would you give college students to give them an advantage over the competition?
Stubenvoll: The best piece of advice I could give to college students, or anyone looking to enter the live-streaming industry, is to make sure you’re someone that can think ahead. This industry is changing so quickly and the future is limitless as far as the types of business and technology we can improve by using live streaming. College students who can see the trends and be proactive enough to look ahead and find solutions and unique use cases will do well in this industry.
Name one critical mistake for young graduates to avoid when starting their careers.
Stubenvoll: The biggest mistake anyone can make is to stop learning upon graduation. The start of a career by no means signals the end of your education! In fact, especially in the technology industry, learning spikes when you begin a new career. Live streaming is a different game than it was only five years ago and I am intrigued to see what it will look like in another ten. I learn something new from my staff every day and would encourage anyone looking to get into the technology industry to keep their eyes and ears open for new opportunities to learn.