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The goal of GAIA: Bitmovin working to improve video streaming sustainability

Ahead of its presence at IBC, Bitmovin provides an update on its major research project to develop a climate-friendly adaptive video streaming platform that provides complete energy awareness and accountability

Bitmovin, the category leader in video streaming infrastructure, was founded ten years ago and, since then, has been in the vanguard of developing new solutions for the ever-growing global streaming sector. Now, in one of its most significant initiatives to date, the company is working to create a more sustainable platform for streaming through a two-year research project called Project GAIA, in partnership with the University of Klagenfurt in Austria.

Project GAIA is co-funded by Bitmovin and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) and it is based on three primary areas of recognition surrounding the environmental impact of streaming. Firstly, there is an urgent need to reduce the global impact of digital technology, particularly internet data traffic, which accounts for 55 per cent of energy consumption in this sector each year. Secondly, video processing and streaming’s emissions must be reduced; they currently generate 306 million tonnes of CO2, which is 20 per cent of digital technology’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and nearly 1% of worldwide GHG emissions. Thirdly, any new innovations in this area must be documented and presented straightforwardly and transparently.

Christian Timmerer, chief innovation officer of Bitmovin and Professor at the University of Klagenfurt, explains, “We aim to design a climate-friendly adaptive video streaming platform that provides complete energy awareness and accountability, including energy consumption and GHG emissions along the entire delivery chain, from content creation and server-side encoding to video transmission and client-side rendering; and reduced energy consumption and GHG emissions through advanced analytics and optimisations on all phases of the video delivery chain.”

To this end, the company’s research is focused on providing benchmarking, energy-aware and machine-learning-based modelling, optimisation algorithms, monitoring and auto-tuning to provide more quantifiable data on energy consumption throughout the video delivery chain. Timmerer adds: “Eventually, we hope to be able to use our findings to optimise encoding, streaming and playback concerning energy consumption.”

In the most recent update posted to its website, Bitmovin revealed that the project has also been examining the current power requirements of data centres. While their energy needs are considerable, there are ways to make them more sustainable, including the selection of “energy-optimised” and sustainable cloud services, the identification of cloud computing regions with low carbon footprints, the use of more efficient transcoders and encoders, and the revision of video encoding parameters to reduce bitrates without a negative impact on quality.

Bitmovin’s progress report on Project GAIA outlines the key milestones and results from the research to date, including the various challenges and opportunities. Bitmovin will discuss the project in further detail and present its sustainability-led innovations at the IBC Show 2023 in September, where it will be exhibiting on stand 5.D72.

“There are some excellent initiatives taking place around the reduction of streaming’s environmental impact, but the entire industry needs to put its foot on the pedal to accelerate progress for the good of the planet. It’s also essential we do more to educate the consumer about the current state of play and the steps being taken to make this sector much more sustainable,” concludes Stefan Lederer, CEO and co-founder of Bitmovin. “I can’t wait to be back at IBC to connect with the industry so we can drive climate-friendly video streaming solutions forward.”