Update: Draft IEEE standard would speed video uploads on mobile devices

HQME's P2200 standard, now under IEEE review, proposes 'intelligent' content caching

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A newly formed industry group has proposed a standard that could help eliminate those long pauses - buffering and rebuffering -- that users experience during video content uploads to mobile devices.

The High Quality Mobile Experience (HQME) Steering Committee said their P2200 draft standard proposes using local storage and intelligent content caching to relieve network congestion and thus accelerate data delivery to mobile devices.

Buffering is the way computers deal with differences in the rate at which data is received and the rate at which it can be processed due to limited bandwidth. Buffering preloads content into a device's memory before playing it.

Bandwidth constraints today often cause users to stare at loading animations as a video pauses to buffer and rebuffer over and over again.

The P2200 standard proposes taking advantage of the same type type of predictive software that is used by online retail sites such as Amazon.com to preload content onto a mobile device.

"So, if you purchased Madmen seasons one and two, there's a good chance you'll like seasons three and four. Using predictive software, you can pretty easily figure out what a consumer might like next," said Mike Wong, a spokesman for SanDisk, one of a half dozen or so corporations on the HQME Steering Committee.

The standard proposes that content be downloaded during off peak times, such as when a device is being charged or when a user happens to be in a Wi-Fi hot spot.

HQME's P2200 draft has been accepted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and is now under review there.

The HQME Steering Committee includes hardware manufacturers, service providers and entertainment companies, such as SoftBank Mobile, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Orange. More are expected to sign on in coming months, Wong said.

"This issue affects all members of the mobile ecosystem, including content owners, network operators, device manufacturers, memory providers and app developers," said Flint Pulskamp, IDC's research director for wireless and wired communications semiconductors, in a statement. "The proposed solution requires an industry-wide approach so that it is both effective and sustainable."

Wong said while smartphones could also use the standard, the tablet market is a more likely target because the devices will soon have enough storage -- 64GB to 128GB on average - to allow predetermined downloads without overusing available capacity. And, if something were downloaded and a user didn't want it, they could simply delete it, he said.

"You could also include settings. Maybe you download everything or maybe just the things I prioritize. For example, you could refuse downloads if they're over a certain number of gigabytes," Wong said. "So there's a number of ways to limit what you may download onto a [smart] phone or tablet."

The HQME Steering Committee includes hardware manufacturers, service providers and entertainment companies, such as SanDisk, SoftBank Mobile, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Orange.

According to Cisco, consumer demand for mobile content is set to outpace the needed spending and innovation in network capacity for years to come.

Overall mobile data traffic is expected to grow at an annual rate of 92% between 2010 and 2015, which would keep the bandwidth constraints in place. The projected growth of 6.3 exabytes per month by 2015 represents a 26-fold increase over 2010, according to Cisco.

The rebuffering problem is expected to worsen over time as content size grows while bandwidth continues to be constrained, according to the HQME Committee.

The proposed IEEE P2200 standard would use memory on the mobile device as the last node on the network, which calls for compliant applications to download content when the mobile device is connected to AC power and Wi-Fi instead of during peak hours the next day.

Essentially, by utilizing the device's onboard memory it would preemptively download content to the device's local storage, allowing users to access the content they want while circumventing the bottlenecks associated with mobile network congestion during peak hours.

Susan Kevorkian, research director of IDC's mobile connected device service, said in a statement that HQME's intent is to align key mobile content delivery players in an effort to minimize the inconveniences associated with acquiring content over capacity-constrained mobile networks.

"Intelligently coordinating content delivery in advance to local device storage lets consumers enjoy their video, games, periodicals, books and music when they're ready, and may help mobile operators and service providers to reduce churn by improving the perceived quality of the experience," Kevorkian said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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