Tuanz award winners look to broadband future

The winners of the recent Tuanz Interactive Awards see a logical extension of some of their projects into broadband, though the model might have to be significantly changed.

The winners of the recent Tuanz Interactive Awards (see Awards show broadband possibilities) see a logical extension of some of their projects into broadband, though the model might have to be significantly changed.

Brian Smith, creative director at Shift, which had five projects in the final round and won two awards in the annual event, sees great potential for applying larger bandwidth in the areas approached by its winners. While careful to say that nothing about potential applications is necessarily indicative of actual future projects, Smith notes that broadband would enable a larger range of film clips to be shown on the Film Archive website in larger display format and higher quality. Shift is, however, seeking to improve the Film Archive site’s video material by exploring more advanced systems for data compression.

With broadband available, video applications of a kiosk type, hitherto limited to storing content on magnetic disk and DVD, will be able to use an online feed, he says.

With video material drawn online from a repository like the Film Archive, the copyright problems are far more significant than the technical aspects, Smith says.

Shift’s other winning entry in the awards, the Victoria International website, is a straightforward narrowband-oriented information source, Smith agrees. But its task – of introducing overseas students to Victoria – lends itself to broadband extension, with more elaborate moving displays possible, immersing the prospect more fully in images of student life. And education itself can be delivered via broadband. Victoria is already experimenting with web cameras at lectures, allowing remote students to participate with the help of a text “chat” channel.

But how do we encourage enough users of broadband to make dissemination of information through that medium a viable proposition? “I hesitate to say ‘if you build it they will come’, Smith says, but having the right kind of content is key to attracting users."

And it’s possible that the evolution to broadband will simply occur through “the natural evolution of vendors phasing out old systems”, and the newer alternatives becoming more affordable.

In a country like New Zealand, with a very small number of telecommunications providers, it would be much easier to phase out slow connections than it is in the US, with thousands of such providers, he says.

But at least one award winner acknowledges that its current applications are better suited to narrower and/or less “symmetrical” data networks.

“Interactive TV can be either broadband or broadcast, and we emphasised at the presentation that ours is a broadcast model,” says Gillian Vosper of overall winner Oktobor and its SkyTV Weather service.

It is oriented to satellite transmission and does not accommodate uplink traffic. The entire application is downloaded into the user's set-top box, with the essential weather information. It would all fit on a floppy disk, she says. The data is updated over the broadcast link in periodic small increments, while the user communicates with the program in the box, using the TV remote control.

Oktobor is talking to other TV services, two in Asia and one in the UK, about future applications that Vosper is unwilling to describe in detail. “Two of our clients use satellite and one cable,” she says, the latter offering more opportunity for two-way broadband data flow.

When broadband does come on stream, interactive television is likely to branch first into video-on-demand, Vosper says.

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