AirTies was formed in 2004, when wifi was in its relative infancy, and not yet the technology blanketing most homes and public spaces it is today. The company’s product range includes broadband internet devices and IP/broadband hybrid TV set-top boxes. AirTies’ executive chairman and co-founder, Bulent Celebi spoke to Holly Ashford about the design and development of software and hardware to wirelessly stream video throughout the home – “or even in the garden” - to multiple screens.
Started by a technical team from Silicon Valley, the founders had a shared vision, explains CEO Bulent Celebi, that “everything electronic inside the home is going to get connected to the internet and to each other, and that has to occur over a wireless network.” The past 10 years have seen the rapid uptake of connected TV services, and the expectation from viewers to be allowed access to content any time, anywhere. AirTies has helped fuel and facilitate this, with the company’s “main claim to fame” explains Celebi, being “our ability to stream high definition video over a wifi network to multiple televisions, and to stream five HD video streams at the same time.”
Challenging cables and connectivity
Hybrid set-top boxes have been around for some time, though these have typically presented challenges, something which “wireless and OTT streaming specialists” AirTies hopes to overcome. One of the main problems with these traditional boxes, Celebi asserts, is that “they rarely get turned on, and so the OD services are not fully used.” This is due to users not wanting to connect the TV and home router with an Ethernet cable, and other connectivity methods being too expensive or “not good enough from a performance perspective.”
AirTies has supplied BSkyB with over 2 million Wireless Connectors since 2012, which link set-top boxes to wireless routers to enable on-demand content. The Air 4400 allows the set-top box and internet router to be located in different rooms, and configured on a TV screen via remote control or using WPS. A major draw of AirTies 4400 is the simplicity of its set up– the customer is able to self-install the device, without the need of a technician, meaning “significant cost savings.”
The world is going on demand
Recent financial reports from Sky have proven the success of the video-on-demand business model, with almost 50 per cent of TV customers now connected, and the use of on demand services tripling year on year. “The world is going on demand,” says Celebi, “there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”
Swisscom is another telecom to have taken advantage of AirTies technology, utilising the company’s next generation 11ac connectivity. “One of the main problems with wifi is that the signal strength drops over distance and over walls,” says Celebi. “You can get very good performance if you’re in the same room, but if you go two rooms over your performance can drop by 50-60 per cent. If you go upstairs you may get no connection or your performance can drop by 95 per cent.”
11ac is designed to improve range performance, in addition to AirTies’ beam forming technology, “which basically takes all the signal strength and directs it in a specific direction, so that the receiving device can get more of the signal.” Celebi is hopeful that “all of our customers will move to this next generation technology over time.”
Increasing performance ten-fold
AirTies technology creates multiple “smart access points” in the home, with the aim of “offering a very high quality, multi-room, multi-screen service, so you can play any content on any device in any room.” Wifi networks function, Celebi explains, with a “main access point in your router which communicates with each of the clients one at a time. The receivers are only active slaves to the main access point. All traffic goes over the main access point, and we convert these receiver devices and turn them into smart access points as well.”
This means multiple access points in the house are able to “communicate” with each other, as a result of their close proximity. Their performance therefore increases, and “we can calculate the best path of communication.” When a user wants to stream content stored on a PVR, for example, to a second TV or tablet, “we dynamically work out what the best path for that is and then stream the content over the wifi between these smart access points” The result of this, claims Celebi, is that the total aggregate capacity of the wifi network goes up by 200 to 300 per cent. In the case of a specific connection from a device such as a TV to a second TV, “the performance increases ten-fold.”
Celebi maintains that the technology is future-proof, as additional links can be added throughout the home, and the more devices added to a network, the higher the capacity.
The Air 7405 set-top box will make its global debut at IBC in September, one of the first set-top boxes to meet the new HEVC-H.265 video decoding standards. The Air 7405 has the capability for users to access IPTV services via the STB whilst simultaneously launching applications such as online video streaming applications alongside it. The company will also be demonstrating the Air 4820, which it claims is the world’s fastest wireless bridge using a single chipset, the Quantenna 4x4 802.11ac with beamforming, which increases delivery speeds from 600Mbps to 1.7Gbps and simultaneously streams up to 10 HD videos to multiple devices around the home.
So, after debuting the tech at IBC, will other companies – in addition to Swisscom – be deploying it in the future? “Sky is clearly going wireless and I think its fair to assume there will be more,” Celebi reveals. He also says that “there are two major operators who have aggressively deployed wireless.” AT&T and Direct TV, although not customers of AirTies, are “in dialogue” with the company, as they share the same fundamental marketing message, says Celebi: “with wireless you can place your television in any room – or even the garden – and watch wherever you want and not deal with the hassle of wires.”
Visitors to IBC2014 can check out AirTies Wireless Networks technology at stand 5.B33.