The FLAME Project – Transforming experience in digital media ecosystems

Digital media is everywhere. Sports, music, television, art, fashion, business, education, medicine, retail, safety, and just about anything people do uses digital media. What happens to the production, distribution and consumption of digital media is extremely important to everyone.

Consumers are increasingly playing an active role when interacting with media, with brands, and with each other.They are always connected and increasingly surrounded by sensors, computing and communication infrastructures in their homes, buildings and public spaces.
Add to this the rise of immersive technologies offering virtual- and augmented reality and interactive location-based experiences, and you get major opportunities for new user experiences, services and business models. You also get massive structural change that will disrupt digital media ecosystems.

Of course today’s’ content delivery networks do support access to petabytes of high-definition and interactive audio-visual content. Many successful services such as YouTube and Spotify are delivered Over-The-Top (OTT). OTT is where audio, video, and other media is delivered over the Internet without the involvement of a network operator, beyond the provisioning of Internet connectivity.

OTT solutions do adapt to network performance in attempts to improve user experience but they don’t interact directly with network management to achieve it. This can cause overprovisioning costs for network operators. There are also limits to how much content can be adapted before an experience is worthless, and more importantly, many future media services won’t work well, if at all, on a best efforts basis.

Immersive media, such as 3D teleimmersion and mixed reality, are highly interactive and time critical. Infrastructure performance matters much more to user experience, much more than for today’s on-demand streaming services. Getting the performance at scale at acceptable costs will be essential for adoption of future media services.

Enter FLAME

With the FLAME (Facility for Large-scale Adaptive Media Experimentation) project, we’re building a ground-breaking media delivery platform. What’s different is the possibly tighter integration of media services with the programmable compute, storage and communication infrastructure of Telcos. This allows placement of media services deep in the network, in metro data centres as well as at the very edge of the network in street cabinets.

The platform’s use of highly distributed resources connected by dynamic network routing has major benefits.The platform knows where services and content are, and where they need to be. This allows the network-level indirection, essentially a quick way of ensuring the right content is served to consumers from the best place in the network. These decisions are fast and driven by where, when and how consumers want to interact with media. For emerging immersive experiences, that would be a placement offering very low latency connections to the compute and storage. Another advantage is in-network multicast. Here, similar service requests can be automatically combined to increase network efficiency and dramatically reduce costs.

The platform will be rolled-out to smart city infrastructures around Europe. Then, using an Experimentation-as-a-Service approach, we’ll run over 20 experiments to explore user acceptance and commercial viability.

Our goal is to allow media service providers, technology and infrastructure providers to understand the interplay between content and infrastructures used to deliver it. Cost efficiencies and market revenue sharing models are expected to emerge for providers, while new media services offering better personalisation, interactivity, mobility and localisation are some of the consumer benefits.

Initial trials have been designed for Bristol and Barcelona. The trials will validate the approach and platform capabilities:

  • Participatory Media for Interactive Communities explores community storytelling around live events (e.g. city festivals, concerts, etc.) produced in cooperation with professional media companies.
  • Personalized Media Mobility in Urban Environments explores the changing way consumers participate and access personal streaming media on the move.
  • Collaborative Interactive Transmedia Narratives explores virtual design and deliver of 3D narratives embedded in real life environments.
  • Augmented Reality Location-based Gaming explores highly interactive immersive gaming with real-world interactions in smart cities.

Open calls for a vibrant ecosystem

Over 2 Million Euros will be offered to organisations wanting to join us through open calls. Open calls provide companies of all sizes the opportunities to explore performance, acceptance and viability of highly localised media products and services. Companies get access to a programmable city infrastructure, testing tools, knowledge bases and expertise to scale solutions.

Most importantly, we offer a trusted environment to explore new alliances between media service providers and operators, and partnerships based on programmable infrastructures.
You can follow FLAME here, and on twitter. More information about joining the open calls is here, and if there’s anything else you’d like to know about what we’re doing to change the we interact with our world through better media delivery, . We’d love to hear from you.

Post from Michael Boniface, IT Innovation