All posts by James Meredith

Data, Data Everywhere

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Einstein wrote a riddle about data when he was just a child. At least that’s the apocryphal claim. He, allegedly, claimed that 98% of the world’s population wouldn’t be able to solve it. Personally I’m not convinced he got his numbers right as I managed to solve it in 15 minutes – and I’m no Einstein.

But the point he was making (or at least that I’m inferring) is that at first glance the data we have access to might appear of little or no value. Look a bit deeper however, and you’ll find that data provides a whole host of links and crucial pieces of information. And of course there’s a lot more data about today than there was in Einstein’s day.

At Liberty, we’ve been working with one of the leading companies at helping organisations extract value from their data for just over a year now. MarkLogic Corporation, the leading operational and transactional Enterprise NoSQL database provider, empowers its customers to build modern applications on a unified, 360-degree view of their data.

And the use cases for MarkLogic’s technology are vast. From financial services and insurance to pharmaceutical and the public sector, the number of industries that are overwhelmed by data is in many ways like the data itself, seemingly endless.

In the last month we have worked closely with MarkLogic to maximise attendance at key industry events in the insurance and pharmaceutical sectors and help drive the message of the value that these industries can gain by integrating their data quickly and efficiently.

But as we know from many high profile incidents over the last year, gaining actionable intelligence from data is one thing, but being able to secure that data is vital. Where MarkLogic play a key role here is reducing risk. Using a NoSQL database, such as MarkLogic’s, makes the whole process of integrating data faster and more seamless. No data gets discarded and you can track the details across the data lifecycle – its provenance, who can see it and how it changed – all in a single system.

We’re very pleased to have been able to champion the work of MarkLogic over the last 12+ months, and will be keeping a keen on the results of the 2018 Computing Security Excellence Awards next month, where MarkLogic is nominated in three categories.

And as for Einstein’s riddle – here’s the answer if you’ve given up.

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Five: The day after the night before

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The main headlines to first emerge on the final day of the IBC2018 conference were focused around the big winners from the night before at the event’s prestigious Awards ceremony. The flagship International Honour for Excellence Award, as announced in the run up to the show, went to Joan Ganz Cooney, Co-Founder of the long-running and hit TV show Sesame Street.

In a video message broadcast during the ceremony, Cooney said she did not want to talk about her or Sesame’s Street legacy because “this is not over.” Other winners to be crowned on the night were:

  • Eurosport and DiscoveryIBC Innovation Award for Content Creation
  • Medialaan – IBC Innovation Award for Content Distribution
  • RTÉ – IBC Innovation Award for Content Everywhere
  • Econet Media – IBC Judges’ Prize
  • BBC (Civilisations AR) – IBC Special Award
  • BBC R&D – Best Technical Paper Award

Other discussions on day five included a conference session on public service media and the coming of age of AI and cloud-based workflows.

The panel included George Wright, Head of Internet Research & Future Services Section at the BBC, who told the audience that the broadcaster did not view as Netflix as a threat or as competition. He outlined that the BBC is in fact currently one of the OTT media services provider’s biggest suppliers.

Wright also recapped an amusing discussion he and the R&D team at the BBC had with the public broadcaster’s ethics team, when the question was posed on if footage that has been edited by AI can be held accountable for satire, sarcasm and parody. Answers on a postcard please.

When questioned on if increased use of AI at the BBC would see people losing their jobs, Wright was keen to stress that the opposite is in fact true. He revealed that while computers are being used in more incidences to help select the best shots to go out, it is a myth to think that this means people will be replaced in the process,.

Rather he outlined that the BBC produces 1,080 hours of content every hour and that AI requires more people rather than less; to train, analyse and supervise the systems. Ultimately, Wright said, the end goal is to provide viewers with a better shot or a shot that they have not seen before, and that these are not necessarily the same thing.

In one of the final afternoon sessions at the IBC Content Everywhere Hub, there was another discussion on one of the big topics of this year’s event – the convergence between the telecoms and media industries.

One of the key takeaways was a word of warning from Gilles Domartini, CEO of Cleeng, about what he called ‘content fatigue’. In other words, that producing more and more content might drive engagement, at least in the short term, but it won’t necessarily engender the most crucial aspect – customer retention.

And that’s a wrap for IBC2018. It has been five packed days of discussion, debate and collaboration at the world’s most influential media, entertainment and technology show. Thanks to all of the team at IBC for putting on such a fantastic show. Here’s to 2019!

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Four: From Sesame Street to Amsterdam

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The conference track delivered just before the mass exodus for lunch on day four of IBC2018 provided a fascinating insight into how the digital revolution is driving the world of sports broadcasting to attract new audiences.

Ralph Rivera, EVP & MD at Eurosport Digital, highlighted how what differentiates digital is consumer choice as people (viewers) can now go beyond what a broadcaster prioritises on its schedule. He described the big challenge this creates for broadcasters: delivering the principal reliability provided by traditional TV with the desired level of interactivity that TV alone cannot.

Strides in the right direction are being taken, but Rivera stressed that the industry is in a transition period that will take at least a couple of years. He revealed that Eurosport will be focusing a lot of efforts towards the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo where the broadcaster wants to utilise up to 360 cameras on track and field for better use of athlete data.

He also emphasised that storytelling is intrinsic in bringing data to life. Take the biathlon for example; getting the heart rate of a biathlete during cross-country skiing is great for viewers, but they also need to have the understanding that biathletes need to bring their heart rate down for rifle shooting.

Also on day four was a presentation from Julina Tatlock, Founder & CEO of 30 Ninjas, who talked about the opportunities for new media forms in 5G, which she said will provide massive connectivity possibilities for new forms of storytelling.

The key, Tatlock said, when it comes to 5G and content creation is that while you can hypothesise as much as you like, you only really learn through ‘making and doing’. She gave the example of being able to turn a self-driving car into a moving movie theatre through VR enabled by 5G connectivity.

And how about working with Tom Cruise? Well as an actor who prides himself on always knowing where the camera is, Tatlock revealed the struggles Cruise had on the set of 2017 film American Made.

Directed by 30 Ninjas’ other founder Doug Liman, who has a predilection for quickly cutting sequences (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith etc), the ever so cool Cruise stopped a scene at one point to shout: “Where’s the camera?!” The truth Tom, I’m not sure you could handle it.

But Mr Cruise was not the only Hollywood A-Lister to crop up on day four of IBC2018. No, the real red carpet treatment was saved for Ernie who travelled all the way from Sesame Street to collect the IBC International Honour for Excellence Award on behalf of Joan Ganz Cooney, Co-Founder of the long-running and hit TV show.

More on the Awards tomorrow after what is sure to be a fantastic ceremony this evening.

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Three: Pugafly, giggles and gigabytes

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With it following a Friday, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that day three of IBC2018 would be host to a few bleary eyes. But in actual fact you couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The third day of the world’s most influential media, entertainment & technology show kicked off with a 4k charity run completed by over 500 IBC participants, raising over $40k in the process for two fantastic Dutch charities: Stichting NewTechKids (NewTechKids Foundation) and Iridescent.

Meanwhile, during a press conference in the media centre, some of the key figures at IBC revealed some of the early successes of this year’s show. This included the fact that the number of female speakers on stage this year has more than doubled last year’s line-up, while IBC2018 has also attracted a record number of 1,700 exhibitors.

5G also continued to be a key topic of discussion during the day’s conference programme. Mark Hyung-Joon Kim, EVP & Head of Global Business Unit at Korea Telecom (KT), provided a fantastic behind-the-scenes glimpse from into how KT was able to deliver the world’s first trial of 5G services at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Mr Hyung-Joon Kim set the scene by walking a captivated audience (most definitely including yours truly) through a brief history of both the Summer and Winter Olympics’ longstanding history with technology and innovation:

  • 1936 (Berlin) – The first live broadcasting in black and white TV
  • 1964 (Tokyo) – The first satellite coverage in colour TV
  • 2006 (Turin) – The first mobile live broadcasting
  • 2016 (Rio) – The first 4K UHD live broadcasting
  • 2018 (Pyeongchang) – The world’s first 5G trial services to provide an ‘inside the track, first-hand experience of the Olympics’

He then revealed how 2,294 minutes of coverage (including highlights) during the 2018 Games had been broadcast and delivered through KT’s 5G technologies. This included providing audiences with a live feed from the viewpoint of athletes competing in the bobsleigh, which was facilitated via a sync camera embedded within the front of the bobsleigh in real time via a 5G module and network.

After a brief interlude, Mark Hyung-Joon Kim joined a number of other panellists on the stage in the Forum to discuss the road to 5G. Christian Harris, Head of Digital Entertainment at Three, perhaps best described the current state of affairs by stating that “we know what the destination is, just not the journey that will get us there.”

Harris also described how Three is working hard to change its business model and public perception. He outlined a commitment to stay relevant by changing the company’s organisational culture to better engage with the whole media-telco ecosystem.

Three’s partnership with Snapchat, Harris emphasised, is a fantastic demonstration of this through the much loved (he assured everyone) ‘pugafly’. After all, as a colleague of Harris’ has said on 5G: “it’s about giggles, not gigabytes.”

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day Two: A Scot and two aliens walk into a bar

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Day two of IBC2018 kicked off in esteemed fashion with a welcome from the Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, before attention turned to the main topic of the day’s keynote session – blockchain.

Buzzword? Hype? Ground-breaking technology? Well Kim Jackson, Co-Founder & President of Entertainment at SingularDTV, detailed how blockchain is being utilised by her business to empower content creators to retain control of their IP and evolve the entertainment industry.

Jackson explained that blockchain is essentially a public digital ledger of transactions, and that with a decentralised system in place you can create an ecosystem where everything is connected. It also, Jackson said, eliminates the need for an intermediary, thereby creating a peer-to-peer value chain and fair exchange process between creators, producers and buyers.

But how is blockchain being used in practice by content creators to do this? Well joining Jackson on stage was Maurice Schutte, Producer & Co-Creator of Space Beers, described as ‘an insane alien abduction film where beer is the only hope of survival.’ Brilliant.

Schutte explained how and why he and his team have used blockchain to tokenise the whole brand. He emphasised the importance of all financial supporters of the project (who purchase Space Beers Tokens) reaping the benefits of its (hopeful) success.

There were further blockchain discussions during an afternoon session in the IBC Content Everywhere Hub, as well as an in depth look into 5G. Andreas Westhoff, CEO of Smart Mobile Labs, talked a packed audience through a number of use cases his company has been supporting, including in Formula One, e-Sports, live music festivals and football.

However, he also highlighted that market adoption for 5G is a case of evolution not revolution, with full functionality likely at least three years away, and complete widespread network coverage realistically taking up to a decade.

In other news on day two, Maria Ferreras, VP Business Development for EMEA at Netflix, was asked if the over-the-top media services provider would be following the lead of Amazon and others and expanding into live sports.

While admitting “you can never say never”, Ferreras explained that ultimately there isn’t any value in Netflix doing so because they wouldn’t be able to do it any better than current broadcasters. As for the next chapter, Ferreras revealed that Netflix’s revenues are currently growing 43% year-on-year.

But as for Space Beers and a Scot vs two aliens in a drinking contest at an intergalactic bar, well I know who my money would be on.

Liberty at IBC2018 – Day One: BBC, Beyoncé and Mr Bean

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Over the next week, around 60,000 visitors from over 170 countries will descend on the RAI in Amsterdam for the prestigious annual IBC show.

Today was day one of IBC2018, and things kicked off in style with a welcome from Keith Underwood, Chief Operating Officer of Channel 4, followed by the Opening Keynote from Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Studios.

Davie wasted little time before announcing a significant new deal for BBC Studios, which will see it collaborate with Clerkenwell Films and Anton Corp to develop and fund a schedule of high-end, short-form drama and comedy projects.

The agreement will see the creation of premium, high volume, short-form content produced for digital and linear platforms, with additional funds set aside to self-commission. This, Davie highlighted, represents a major move from BBC Studios into more short form content, with several other initiatives being pursued at significant investment.

When asked to comment on rumours of a bid for Endemol Shine Group, Davie didn’t shy away. He ruled out bidding, stating that the BBC is focused on premium British content and suitably scaled in certain areas.

Davie also explained that he is “exhausted” by events and conferences that review the threat of online to the industry. He emphasised that a growth market should be welcomed as good news, and content makers who can’t make this work should probably look at alternative employment.

Not long after, Peter Salmon, Chief Creative Officer of Endemol Shine Group took to the Forum stage to discuss how broadcasters can best create content for the connected generation. Leaving the question of a rumoured bid from BBC Studios to those “above his pay grade”, Salmon discussed the “war for attention” driven by the huge premiums for successfully connecting with today’s young, connected audiences.

He highlighted the success Endemol has had by focusing on constructed reality content through shows such as Hunted and The Island, as well as a brand new programme he revealed is set to air soon: The Heist. It is the non-scripted element, which makes up around 70% of all of Endemol’s shows, and ‘box-settable’ nature that mainstream audiences buy into, Salmon explained.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, at least to yours truly, was when Salmon revealed that one of Endemol Shine Group’s biggest success stories is a comedy animation series following the daily trials and tribulations of Mr Bean and his best friend Teddy. With some 79m+ fans, Salmon confidently stated that this is the biggest media brand on Facebook – ahead of Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Harry Potter and The Simpsons. Who’d have thought it.

So here’s looking forward to day two and what other surprises are in store.

The Netflix effect

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The battleground for viewing figures has arguably never been as hard fought as it is today, with legacy media companies being forced to play catch up and offer multiple services in order to compete, thanks in no small part to the ‘Netflix effect’.

The capabilities offered by Netflix’s video on demand streaming service, which allows subscribers to stream films and TV series on any number of platforms and devices, has seen the over-the-top media services provider reach 130 million total subscribers worldwide as of July 2018.

This success has not been missed by more traditional broadcasters, with Sky agreeing a deal earlier this year to integrate Netflix’s subscription VOD offering into its pay-TV service for customers with its ultra HD Sky Q platform.

These strategic business moves and partnerships are continuing to become more commonplace, with arguably the biggest of more recent times being the bidding war between Comcast and Disney to acquire 21st Century Fox. The latter won the battle, at a reported cost of more than $70bn, but rather than lick its wounds, Comcast simply turned attention to acquiring a controlling stake in Sky plc.

While we can consider Netflix as one of the biggest catalysts behind many of these major partnerships in terms of the need to provide and deliver exclusive and original content, sport is also a driving force.

Amazon in particular has been making a major play in this market, including breaking the stranglehold of Sky and BT for Premier League football rights earlier this year. The online retail giant has also made a foray into tennis, outbidding Sky last year to obtain exclusive rights to broadcast men’s top flight matches from 2019, as well as more recently securing a £30m deal to exclusively broadcast the US Open in the UK next month and for the following four years.

In such a competitive and fast moving marketplace it’s difficult to predict what the future will hold or where the next partnership will come from, but what is clear is that the FAANG giants (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) are re-shaping the rules of the game at all levels.

But this doesn’t just bring challenges, it also opens the door to new opportunities for telcos in particular, through broadening their offerings by adding content assets and exploring partnerships with these leading content providers. AT&T has already paved the way with its acquisition of Time Warner, and now it’s time to see if anyone else will follow suit.

Liberty will be at IBC2018, the world’s most influential media, entertainment and technology show at the RAI in Amsterdam from Thursday 13 to Tuesday 18 September 2018. If anyone would like to meet up at the event please get in touch – info@libertycomms.com.

Liberty’s Mobile World Congress 2018: Day Three and 5G is still the talk of the halls

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It may be three quarters of the way through Mobile World Congress 2018, but 5G continues to dominate most of the headlines. Today saw another leading operator draw a line in the sand and commit to timeframes for launching 5G services, as T-Mobile US confirmed plans to build 5G in 30 US cities this year. Top of the list, according to the operator’s CTO Neville Ray, are ‘places that matter’ – namely New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Dallas.

While Ray acknowledged that it won’t be until 2019 that 5G mobile devices can take advantage of the network, he explained that T-Mobile will use equipment from Nokia and Ericsson to build a network spanning the operator’s 600MHz, 28GHz and 39GHz airwaves.

But it isn’t just American operators aiming to lead the 5G charge. Telenor Norway’s CEO Berit Svendsen today expressed confidence in her country’s capability to continue its impressive track record with 4G and keep the ‘leader jersey’ in 5G while speaking to Mobile World Daily. Given Norway’s similarly impressive pedigree in the Winter Olympics, I’d have been tempted to go with ‘flag bearer’. But that’s just me.

Outside of 5G, one of the other big stories to emerge from day three of MWC 2018 was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by the GSMA and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Signed by GSMA Director General Mats Granryd and ICANN President & CEO Göran Marby, the MoU aims to advance the organisations’ shared objective of fostering the continuous expansion of interoperable networks and ongoing deployment of information and communication technology. Both organisations have committed to a number of joint activities as part of the agreement, including a series of workshops and regional events.

Away from the technology talk, the weather has been a topic of conversation amongst many. Reports and pictures of the aftermath of the ‘Beast from the East’ have caused many here in Barcelona to worry about flights being cancelled, redirected or rescheduled.

It’s a far cry from the warmth on display from the 900+ exhibitors welcoming thousands of delegates to their stands; not to mention the heat sensing cameras on display between halls 5 and 6, which we couldn’t help but stop for a selfie in front of.

So bring on tomorrow MWC and the final day of what has been another fascinating show.

Celebrating 20 years of technology – the birth of GPS

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As we continue the countdown to our 20th anniversary next month, so we resume with our series of blogs detailing our favourite technology innovations of the last 20 years. And today it’s the turn of in-car GPS navigation.

The best way to celebrate how fantastic an innovation it was when the likes of Garmin, Magellan, TomTom and others flooded the market around the mid-2000s, is to think back to how it was before.

Remember those joyous car journeys of 20 years ago with the front seat passenger sifting through a stack of print out directions from AA Route Planner? Ah the heady days of mum and dad cursing at each other as the final piece of paper highlighted that you’d ‘arrived at your destination’ and you glanced out the car window from a layby on the A466 to see a herd of cows staring back at you.

In many ways it can be difficult today to imagine how people actually got anywhere 20 years ago. Having a strong sense of direction and being able to recall every inch of the M6 from the trip you’d done the week before seems almost superhero-esque. Nowadays we are surely guilty of taking being able to get from A to B so easily for granted.

The introduction of in-car GPS navigation really was quite revolutionary. A perhaps little known fact is that publicly available GPS devices had actually been around since the 1980s, but it was only after an intervention from Bill Clinton that the accuracy of consumer-based GPS navigation systems increased dramatically and devices became more mainstream.

While it’s true that sales of TomToms and the equivalent have fallen over the past few years, largely due to market saturation and the exponential growth of smartphone technologies, many of the cars of today continue to offer the very latest by way of in-built and voice activated GPS systems.

Unfortunate incidents aside (driving into a Canadian lake is never a good idea), today it really is easier than it has ever been to simply not get lost. Go back 15 years or so and we have in-car GPS navigation to thank for taking us on that journey.