At Phenix, we’re dedicated to offering an unrivaled real-time video delivery experience at scale for our customers and their viewers. This commitment is deeply ingrained in the innovation and continual improvement processes of our research, operations, and engineering teams, and permeates the culture of our entire company.
Delivering innovation and continuous improvement is a significant undertaking that requires an unwavering commitment to excellence, a shared sense of purpose, and the ability to think outside the box.
Our commitment to excellence can be seen in our constant monitoring of our services that has allowed us to identify opportunities for improvements, upcoming challenges and promising future directions. Our shared sense of purpose fosters effective, efficient collaboration between our research, engineering and operations teams – a collaboration that has proven instrumental in bringing innovative solutions from initial concept to successfully deployed solution. Our divergent thinking has responded to these challenges and potential future directions with innovative solutions.
Our adaptive bitrate technology provides a perfect illustration of this. Adaptive bitrate (or ABR) streaming is a method for improving streaming, by detecting a user’s network and device conditions and adjusting the quality of the media stream accordingly. A service wants to serve a stream to a broad array of clients, each with different (and unpredictable) network and device conditions. Given the impossibility of adjusting the encoder for each client and condition, the service encodes the stream into a handful of alternative versions – each at a different quality. To allow clients to switch between versions as needed, the service splits the video into segments and encodes each version of each segment independently so it can be decoded and played back without access to other segments.
This, let’s call it traditional, ABR approach gives clients the opportunity to switch between versions at each segment boundary, in response to changing network conditions. While the traditional ABR approach is effective for on-demand streaming, such as watching your favorite TV show, it falls short when it comes to real-time video streaming.
The key problem is that clients can only change between pre-encoded versions of the stream and can only do so at segment boundaries. If the client device needs to change between versions of a stream in response to changing network conditions, it must first issue a request for a lower/higher bitrate stream and wait for the new segment. This waiting results in poor quality experience with delayed startup times, interrupted video delivery and wasted resources.
Our research team responded with a bold departure from the traditional ABR model. Under the expert guidance of our Director of Research, Dr. Fabian E. Bustamante, and our Chief Software Architect, Dr. Stefan Birrer, our team devised a groundbreaking approach that continuously monitors network conditions and dynamically inserts segments as needed. This enables a more flexible and smoother adjustment of video resolutions, resulting in a globally scalable video delivery architecture capable of maintaining broadcast-quality interactive video in any network environment.
Working closely with Dr. Bustamante, Senior Architect Andreas Schuler incorporated this new approach for adaptive bitrate switching into Phenix’s video delivery network. With Andreas at the helm, our engineering team incorporated this innovative technology into Phenix’s encoding and delivery infrastructure, enabling its utilization at the edges of Phenix’s global video distribution network. As a result of these efforts, we’re able to deliver broadcast-quality video across a wide range of network conditions with on-site, cloud and edge encoding options. Leveraging the extensive, global reach of our carefully designed global video delivery network and our WebRTC standard compliant protocol stack, we’re able to optimize video delivery for each individual viewer, based on their unique network conditions, without requiring proprietary extensions.
In a world where user experience is paramount, our commitment to excellence, shared sense of purpose and ability to think beyond conventional limitations have allowed us to redefine the boundaries of what is possible in real-time video streaming.
Professor Fabian E. Bustamante is an esteemed academic and professor at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and serves as the Director of Research for Phenix Real Time Solutions. Dr. Bustamante's expertise lies in conducting experimental research on Internet-scale computer networks and distributed systems. A significant aspect of his work involves enhancing the visibility of measurement on networked systems, effectively characterizing them and the underlying infrastructure, and designing innovative systems based on the newfound insights. He earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in Computer Science from the prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Bustamante holds 9 patents and has more than 100 journal articles and peer-reviewed publications.
With a dozen patents to his name, Dr. Stefan Birrer, Chief Software Architect at Phenix Real Time Solutions, is a recognized authority on networking and video streaming technology. He has been an entrepreneur for nearly two decades and has guided countless innovation projects from concept to market at companies like Skype, Rabbit, Barclays and IBM. His research has produced more than a dozen peer-reviewed papers and patents covering peering technologies and distributed systems. Dr. Birrer received his B.S. in Computer Science from the University for Applied Science Aagau in Brugg-Windisch, Switzerland. He holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Northwestern University with focus on scalable live video streaming.
Andreas Schuler is an accomplished software engineer and architect with multiple patents and inventions across a variety of industries for both, software applications as well as physical devices. He’s currently the Senior Software Architect at Phenix Real Time Solutions with expertise that spans a wide range of technologies, including high performance streaming, specific technologies on iOS and Android, and standardized bitstreams and packaging formats for video and audio. He is renowned for his extensive knowledge in audio handling on the iOS platform, JNI integration on Android, as well as OPUS, PCM, H264 bitstreams, and RTP and ISOBMFF packaging. Andreas holds an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Northwestern University, and a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland in Brugg-Windisch, Switzerland.