IPTV for Schools - 21st Century Solutions

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Many educational institutions need to upgrade the systems used to deliver video content to classrooms, either to replace aging technologies or to support a greater range of content and viewing devices. IPTV networks, particularly those based on newly available technologies, offer significant video quality improvements and provide a unified user interface for live, pre-recorded, on-demand, and Internet-sourced video. IPTV systems can be installed incrementally as an overlay to an existing network, or can be deployed as complete replacements of an existing system. Recent cost reductions, particularly in key software and server components, have now made IPTV technology affordable for virtually any school system.

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  • 1. _______________________________________________________________________ IPTV for Schools 21st Century Solutions White Paper Created by Visionary Solutions, Inc. August, 2013 http://www.vsicam.com _______________________________________________________________________ http://www.linkedin.com/company/visionary-solutions-inc. http://www.facebook.com/vsiptv http://www.twitter.com/vsiptv http://www.youtube.com/vsiptv
  • 2. IPTV for Schools 21st Century Solutions Executive Summary Many educational institutions need to upgrade the systems used to deliver video content to classrooms, either to replace aging technologies or to support a greater range of content and viewing devices. IPTV networks, particularly those based on newly available technologies, offer significant video quality improvements and provide a unified user interface for live, pre-recorded, on-demand, and Internet-sourced video. IPTV systems can be installed incrementally as an overlay to an existing network, or can be deployed as complete replacements of an existing system. Recent cost reductions, particularly in key software and server components, have now made IPTV technology affordable for virtually any school system. Introduction Todays students live in a multimedia world. Innovative teachers use video technology in the classroom to enhance course material and reach pupils who may have different learning styles. The challenge for many school systems is coming up with a technology platform that is flexible, scalable and affordable enough to delivery top-quality video content to students of all ages. Many forward- looking educators have recognized the limitations of traditional video delivery systems based on dedicated coaxial cable networks or videotape/DVD projectors. These schools are moving rapidly to deploy Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) throughout their facilities. Modern IPTV systems are a far cry from the postage-stamp- sized, low-frame-rate Internet video offerings of just a few years ago. Using technology that is built to take advantage of private networks, IPTV can deliver full-motion, HD video content at a quality level that meets or exceeds that of broadcast, satellite, Blu-ray and cable-TV systems. IPTV technology has been chosen by AT&T for their fast-growing U-verse platform that competes directly with cable and satellite TV in serving hundreds of channels of HD content to consumers across the country. Comparable, affordable technology is available for the school district or site level ecosystem. IPTV systems can deliver video directly to devices that are already in most schools, including desktop/laptop PCs, tablets, smartphones, and specialized devices such as digital signage. This makes adopting IPTV technology less expensive and more attractive, as pieces of your network are already in place. In fact, it is not uncommon for new IPTV deployments to be done in stages, allowing applications to be moved onto new systems as they become ready for deployment. Innovative teachers use video technology in the classroom to enhance course material.
  • 3. IPTV for Schools 21st Century Solutions IPTV System Architecture The job of an IPTV System is to efficiently transport video signals from a source to a display. Between these two endpoints, there must be an IP network, as well as video/audio encoders to convert content into streams. Systems also include a variety of optional equipment such as servers to handle tasks such as playing scheduled video programs, acting as video on demand (VoD) suppliers, controlling viewer access, and publishing channel guides. To get a better understanding of a typical IPTV System, it is beneficial to look at each of the major system components. Sources Video can originate from a wide variety of sources in an IPTV system. Video cameras with coax, FireWire, USB or HDMI outputs can feed live signals into the system, or they can record video onto tape, disk, or flash memory cards for later editing and encoding. Real-time video feeds from satellite TV, over- the-air broadcasts, cable TV systems or Internet video sources can be encoded in real time for use in schools. Pre-recorded video on tapes, discs, flash memory cards, or computer files can be captured and converted into live video streams or loaded on servers for on-demand playback at the viewers request. Video from other devices such as smart phones or computers with built-in USB cameras can also be delivered via IPTV. Video signals may have to be converted into formats that are compatible with the protocols used on the IPTV network. This process, called encoding or transcoding, accepts many different forms of raw video as input and conditions them for use on the system. The most popular standard today for encoding IPTV video is known as Advanced Video Coding (AVC), also called H.264 in reference to the international standard number. This compression format can be decoded by virtually all types of PCs, smartphones, tablets, standalone video playback devices, and by any modern IPTV set top box (STB). AVC encoding can be done either offline or online. In offline encoding, which is used for pre-recorded content, a server runs a software package to encode a captured video file. On-line encoders, such as the AVN443 from Visionary Solutions, can take the output from virtually any video source and provide a compressed, packetized AVC stream that can be delivered real-time over an IPTV network. Networks With todays technologies, virtually any data network can be used for IPTV services. A basic complement of Ethernet switches and IP routers can usually be configured to provide at least limited services, reducing the need to upgrade major system components when launching a basic IPTV system. As traffic levels increase, network upgrades may be required, such as adding higher capacity switches and routers and increasing the bandwidth of interconnections. One important network capability is multicasting. This technology permits one video source to deliver real time streams to dozens (or thousands) of receivers simultaneously. While this capability is built into most recent-vintage enterprise-class networking equipment, multicasting is often not enabled in basic enterprise networks. Enabling multicast requires changing the configuration data inside the network routers and switches, and in some cases, a firmware upgrade may be required. (Only rarely will older equipment need to be completely replaced.) Multicasting permits much more efficient use of network bandwidth, and greatly reduces the workload of video sources such as encoders. Multicasting can even eliminate the need to install servers for replicating streams being delivered to multiple viewer devices.
  • 4. IPTV for Schools 21st Century Solutions Servers A number of functions are usually relegated to servers installed within an IPTV network. One common function is to supply VoD services, where video content is stored inside servers and transmitted to viewers on request. A server is also typically employed to provide a channel guide function, allowing viewers to see and select programs that are currently playing or are available in the VoD content library. This server may also provide mechanisms to control which viewers are allowed to view each content element, by means of device IDs, passwords or other security protocols. The software to provide this control, called middleware, has recently been made affordable and easy to use by the release of cloud-based products like PackeTV Views from Visionary Solutions. Servers may also be required for transcoding video, which involves converting content from one compression format to another, or changing the bit rate of the content. Another use of servers is to format and supply video signals to mobile phones and tablets by way of HTTP streaming. Viewing Devices A key advantage of IPTV systems is the wide range of devices that can be used to receive and display video signals. This flexibility helps to dramatically reduce the initial deployment costs of the system, and avoids the disruption of converting large groups of users over to new equipment. Most recent-vintage desktop and laptop PCs are capable of real-time playout of IPTV streams, using a variety of different software packages. One popular package is the VLC player, which an open-source, free download in use on Windows, Apple and Linux devices. Media player software also comes bundled with every Windows PCs;, and Apple QuickTime also works well with IPTV streams. For standalone displays and projectors, IPTV systems support a variety of self-contained players and set top boxes (STBs). Traditional STBs from vendors like Amino can support many different kinds of IP video streams, and frequently offer advanced configuration options that permit customization for many different display applications. Display connections can also vary significantly, ranging from composite and component analog video through VGA and DVI interfaces to HDMI ports. Other standalone devices, from vendors such as Roku, Apple, and Google, have a more limited range of features and functionality, but are inexpensive and widely available. Two different kinds of wireless networks are commonly used to deliver IPTV services: Wi-Fi or 3G/4G LTE. Wi-Fi based private IP networks that are owned and operated by the educational facility provide nearly the same set of configuration options as a wired network, and can support multicasting, advanced channel guides and other enhanced operations. Many tablets, laptops and other portable devices can be setup to use Wi-Fi connections. Smart phones and tablets that use 3G or 4G LTE services from commercial wireless operators have a much more limited set of capabilities for private IP video services, because they need to connect using a wireless data plan. These carrier-based systems are much more restricted in the range of permitted protocols. In most circumstances, video delivered through these networks is constrained to use HTTP streaming or similar Internet-compatible technologies.
  • 5. IPTV for Schools 21st Century Solutions Education Applications Services can be delivered over IPTV networks to support a broad array of educational methods and objectives. Students of any age, from preschool to graduate students and adult learners, can benefit from well-designed video content. Well present a number of typical education applications here, however, there are many more that can be successfully accomplished with IPTV systems. Live and Pre-Recorded Programming This form of video, often called linear TV, offers the type of programming provided by broadcasters and television networks. These one-way services deliver entertainment, educational and news content on a predetermined schedule by way of a number of pre- designated channels setup in an IPTV system. Viewers select the channel they want to see using some type of channel guide, which can be printed or delivered electronically. These channels can be directly converted from commercial or public television broadcasts, or they can be created by an administrator from live or pre-recorded video content. Morning Announcements Schools everywhere have been pleasantly surprised by the increased levels of students attention to announcements provided using video technology. Whether the content features an administrator, other students or animations, these short video broadcasts can measurably increase awareness and message retention. With an IPTV system, an inexpensive camera, a real-time video encoder, and a wired or wireless network connection, announcements can originate virtually anywhere on school property. Multicasting can be used to distribute the source stream to dozens or even hundreds of destinations simultaneously. Staff Meetings and Training IPTV networks can be used to reduce the cost and simplify logistics of many staff-related events. Live streams can be created from almost anywhere with a simple portable systems consisting of a camera, an encoder, and a network connection. If two- way (or multi-way) communications are required, multiple...