Advancing Multimedia Content Distribution

Guest Editors’ Introduction • Christian Timmerer and Ali C. Begen • December 2017

IoT-Enabled Awareness

Universal media access, as proposed and discussed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is now a reality. It is very easy to generate, distribute, share, and consume any media content, anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Most of these real-time entertainment services (streaming audio and video) are typically deployed over the open, unmanaged Internet. Multimedia — and specifically video traffic — will be 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021, up from 67 percent in 2016 ( Thus, multimedia content is the dominant type of data on today’s Internet.

In this December 2017 Computing Now theme, we’d like to highlight articles published in IEEE Computer Society magazines in 2017 that focus on multimedia and its distribution online. We’ve also included a list of links to related resources.

The Articles

The July-September 2017 special issue of IEEE MultiMedia covers network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) for enhancing multimedia distribution. One of the articles in the issue addresses the question of whether adaptive bitrate streaming—the predominant method for multimedia and video delivery — requires pre-transcoding each video asset and caching all required video chunks. In “vCache: Supporting Cost-Efficient Adaptive Bitrate Streaming,” Guanyu Gao, Yonggang Wen, and Jianfei Cai describe an NFV-based virtual cache (vCache) that allows for the dynamic management of video chunks and intelligent provisioning of resources. The goal of vCache is to reduce the operational costs of adaptive bitrate streaming, which is a major issue in today’s deployments.

Stefano D’Aronco, Laura Toni, and Pascal Frossard present a novel network-assisted HTTP adaptive streaming system in “Price-Based Controller for Utility-Aware HTTP Adaptive Streaming.” The authors assert that the system provides a higher overall user satisfaction than other systems and that it shares available bandwidth fairly among all clients, including cross-traffic users.

Adaptive bitrate streaming assumes TCP at the transport layer, and latency has been an issue since its inception. Junzhou Luo, Jiahui Jin, and Feng Shan, authors of “Standardization of Low-Latency TCP with Explicit Congestion Notification: A Survey,” suggest using low-latency TCP instead of UDP in public networks due to its heterogeneity and dynamicity. It would be interesting to see how adaptive bitrate streaming could be deployed here and how it performs compared to UDP-based solution adopting such as quick UDP Internet connections (QUIC).

Meanwhile, Yong Cui and his colleagues introduce QUIC in “Innovating Transport with QUIC: Design Approaches and Research Challenges.” QUIC’s features include connection establishment, stream multiplexing, congestion control, and loss recovery. The authors discuss some challenges and future directions: congestion control in special network scenarios, forward-error correction, application-based optimization, prioritization, and security and privacy. Interestingly, adaptive bitrate streaming is discussed only briefly, which is a clear indication that these communities need to work together more closely.

Quality of Experience (QoE) is probably one of the top-ten problems in advanced multimedia content distribution, as the user is typically very concerned about it. Nicola Iotti and his colleagues propose using fog computing in “Improving Quality of Experience in Future Wireless Access Networks through Fog Computing.” Fog computing hosts applications close to the user, specifically by deploying virtual machines dynamically at the edge of the access networks. The authors show that, by dynamically allocating resources much closer to the user, it is possible to increase QoE.

In “Real-Time Video Analytics: The Killer App for Edge Computing,” Ganesh Ananthanarayanan and his colleagues argue that the public cloud and edges need to connect down to the actual cameras to meet the real-time requirements of live video analytics at scale. Therefore, they propose a video analytics software stack called Rocket that has a video pipeline optimizer at its core, which executes tasks across a geographically distributed collection of edges, private clusters, and the public cloud.

Anatole Lécuyer discusses how to exploit ambiguous sensorial situations in virtual reality (VR) to generate new kinds of perceptions in “Playing with Senses in VR: Alternate Perceptions Combining Vision and Touch.” In particular, the author believes that by combining vision and touch, “one plus one equals three,” meaning that alternate, powerful perceptual experiences can be created in VR.

Finally, we’d like to highlight an article by Graham Hudson and his colleagues from the original JPEG development team. “JPEG at 25: Still Going Strong” looks back at 25 years of JPEG and, specifically, how the standard was created before it was approved in 1992. Additionally, it is worth noting that MPEG will celebrate 30 years in 2018, and, together with JPEG, they have developed an impressive set of standards within its scope of “coded representation of audio, picture, multimedia, and hypermedia information.”

Related Resources

Guest Editors

Christian Timmerer is an associate professor at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Austria, and his research focus is immersive multimedia communication, streaming, adaptation, and QoE. He has authored more than 170 articles in his research area and was the general chair of WIAMIS 2008, QoMEX 2013, ACM MMSys 2016, and Packet Video 2018. He participated in several EC-funded projects such as DANAE, ENTHRONE, P2P-Next, ALICANTE, SocialSensor, and the COST Action IC1003 QUALINET. He also participated in ISO/MPEG work for several years, notably in the areas of MPEG-21, MPEG-M, MPEG-V, and MPEG-DASH. He is a co-founder of Bitmovin, as well as its CIO and head of research and standardization. Follow him on Twitter @timse7, and subscribe to his blog:

Ali C. Begen recently joined the computer science department at Ozyegin University, Turkey. Previously, he was a research and development engineer at Cisco, where he designed and developed algorithms, protocols, products, and solutions in the service provider and enterprise video domains. Currently, in addition to teaching and research, he provides consulting services to industrial, legal, and academic institutions through Networked Media, a company he co-founded. Begen has a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from Georgia Tech. He received a number of scholarly and industry awards, and he has editorial positions in prestigious magazines and journals in the field. He is a senior member of both the IEEE and ACM. In January 2016, he was elected distinguished lecturer by the IEEE Communications Society. Learn more at


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