Datacasting is the transmission of private data over broadcast television transports like terrestrial, cable, and satellite TV. It can securely deliver computer files, alerts, commands, and streaming audio or video to any number of receivers. Special receivers are used to extract the data and share it with servers, PCs, tablets, TVs and mobile devices because standard consumer TV receivers ignore datacasting transmissions.
Datacasting technology is used to transmit computer files over broadcast television transports such as terrestrial, cable, and satellite TV. By nature, datacasting is a one way multicast transmission, making it very efficient at delivering large files to a large number of destinations. However, datacasting can also be used to deliver smaller files such as commands and alerts as well as streaming audio/video. Targeted delivery to a select group of receivers is also possible.
Datacasting is the transmission of private data over broadcast television transports like terrestrial, cable, and satellite TV. It can securely deliver computer files, alerts, commands, multi-media, streaming media, web pages, and more to a large number of receivers. Datacasting receivers are used to extract these files from the broadcast, store them, and share them with end users via a web browser, or in special situations, a dedicated application or device. Successful datacasting applications include military and first responder applications, remote education, software updates, public alerts, digital signage and more.
Common uses for datacasting may include:
- Remote education delivering web pages and multi-media (lessons) to remote areas and students with inadequate internet access
- Studio-to-theater content delivery (movie to theaters)
- Software updates to TVs, set top boxes, media players, and other devices
- Distribution of digital signage content and control
- Alerts for earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and forest fires
- First responder public safety data such as building plans, photos, images, security camera and drone video
- Religious material to missionaries and remote missions
- Points of interest for navigation devices
- Global multimedia newspapers
- Encyclopedia content to remote schools
- Global multimedia newspapers
West Pond’s FlexStream Datacasting System can support any of these and more. While many applications work with off the shelf equipment, most require some level of application specific integration. We provide turn-key solutions leveraging our existing commercial products to expedite development of custom datacasting networks.
Is Datacasting Right for Me?
Do you need to deliver data to hard to reach places?
Do you need to deliver data to hundreds, thousands, or millions of locations all at once?
Is it important that your data is delivered quickly and securely?
Are traditional content distribution networks and ISPs too expensive or unavailable for many of your destinations?
If you answered yes to these questions, datacasting may be a good solution for you.
Introduction to Datacasting
Datacasting delivers content over broadcast transports, traditionally used for television and radio, to many receivers simultaneously. Some things to know about datacasting.
- Datacasting transmits computer files, alerts, & streaming audio and video privately over broadcast transports
- Datacating is very economical as a one to many data distribution technology
- Datacasting is commonly used with terrestrial TV and satellite TV transports. Digital radio is also utilized for datacasting but given the limited bandwidth of radio it does not fit most applications.
- The most typical datacasting applications include remote learning, public safety/alerts, media distribution & digital signage
- Adjusting for overhead, a 100 kb/s datacasting stream can deliver as much as 1 gB of file data per day to a nearly infinite number of receivers. Higher bandwidth applications scale linearly to this rate.
- High priority messages and files can be delivered via datacasting in just a few seconds.
Datacasting Transmission Types
Once the ideal transport is identified, a business relationship must be established with the entity that owns and manages that transmission, In some cases this is a state, in others it is private business. West Pond can provide some guidance on these matters, especially for terrestrial broadcast within the United States. Below is a brief description of each type of datacasting, its strengths and weaknesses, and what technology is required to enable it.
A typical terrestrial broadcast transmitter can deliver television and data to a 300 – 500 square mile area. The reach of any given TV transmitter in the United States has been modeled by computer and the reception data is available via websites such as https://tvfool.com. These sites provide a useful tool for installers wishing to predict reception at any given address in the U.S.
The modulation standards used in transmission vary by country. Some standards are not capable of transmitting to a moving receiver, others are. Some frequencies require larger antennas than others. The total bandwidth available for datacasting will vary by modulation scheme and the amount of DTV programming with which the datacast streams share bandwidth. Some datacasting applications use a little as 1 kb/s while others are 2 mb/s or more. Adjusting for overhead, a 100 kb/s datacasting stream can deliver as much as 1 gB of file data per day to a nearly infinite number of receivers.
Datacasting via terrestrial broadcast is enabled by installing the West Pond MX-400SR datacasting gateway at the TV station master control facility. This device converts file data and streams and inserts them into a broadcast TV compatible transport. The transmitted data is received by terrestrial datacasting receivers which can display the content with the DTV programming or share it with other devices over WiFi or LAN networks. Additional transmission equipment may be required depending upon data types and sources.
Typical terrestrial datacasting examples include: First responder public safety media, software updates, digital signage content, regional alerts.
To enable a datacasting application, West Pond will outfit the satellite uplink facility with an MX-400SR. This device converts file data and streams into satellite compatible transport streams. The transmitted data is received by modified DVB-S/S2 satellite receivers which can display the content on the TV or share it with other devices over WiFi or LAN networks. Additional transmission equipment may be required depending upon datatypes and sources.
Typical satellite datacasting examples include: State sponsored alarms and alerts, global media newspapers, studio-to-theater movie media, and religious material for missions.
Hybrid Satellite to Terrestrial
Typical examples of hybrid networks include: software updates, state sponsored messaging, and digital signage media.
In-house cable TV datacasting is used to transmit computer files and commands to FlexDK enabled devices on any in-house cable TV network. This capability is a feature of the FlexStream MX-200CC, MX-400HY, and MX-400ST smart headend systems. It is used to deliver files and commands to West Pond devices, such as the RX-50 display controller, or third party devices enabled with the West Pond FlexDK. Unlike traditional datacasting, this transmission is optimized to deliver data to small, addressable groups, or individual receivers. Common applications include stadium display controls, digital signage media distribution, and hotel TV management. For more information on this type of datacasting, please visit West Pond’s hospitality and stadium solutions web pages.
Datacasting Transmission Technology
West Pond’s FlexStream Datacasting Transmission Technology is based upon industry standards, but optimized to meet the requirements of each datacasting application. Our technology adapts to the needs of a specific application, thus making it more efficient, lower latency, and capable of transmitting a wide variety of content. Our equipment supports the following features.
High Efficiency Carousels
Carousels are used to convert files into data streams before they are inserted in the DTV transmissions. The datacasting receiver will convert the data stream back into files for use by devices and applications at the destination. West Pond has developed carousel technology that is extremely efficient so you can get the most out the allocated bandwidth.
Extremely Low Latency Carousels
Enhanced Forward Error Correct (FEC)
Secure Targeting and Content Protection
Prioritized Datacasting Service Multiplexing
Adaptive Bitrate Encoding
Datacasting Receiver Technology
West Pond’s Datacasting Receivers serve a broad range of purposes and as such are typically designed for a specific use case. For example an earthquake early warning device that opens a firehouse door or a fire alarm that alerts the public. While both of these applications are alerts, the receiving devices perform very different actions. West Pond recognizes this and provides datacasting receiver technology in a variety of ways including:
- Flexible off-the-shelf devices that can be configured for many uses
- Custom turn-key receivers
- Computer applications
- Software Development Kit (SDK) for customers developing their own receiver devices.
Our Engineering Services Group has designed, manufactured, and enabled a wide variety of receiving devices for satellite, terrestrial broadcast, hybrid mobile & terrestrial networks, and in-house cable networks. Some examples include:
Terrestrial Datacasting Receiver Routers
These devices provide a bridge from datacasting transmissions to LAN networks. Computers and mobile devices with access to the LAN can utilize files and streaming media transmitted via the datacasting network.
Terrestrial Datacasting Receiver Router with Cell Network Return Channel
These devices are Terrestrial datacasting receiver routers with a cell modem gateway. The cell modem provides a return channel for reporting status, proof of play, and other low bandwidth uses.
These devices integrated an SDK which enabled them to receive software updates and other data via datacasting over terrestrial datacasting.
These devices integrated the FlexDK SDK which enabled them to receive software updates, channel maps, and media files.
Digital Signage Players
These devices were enabled with the FlexDK to receive HTML and related media files which are integrated with live broadcast video to create a managed digital signage display.
TV Control Set Top Boxes
These devices listen to an RF channel for receiver specific commands that will trigger control of the display to which they are connected. For example, power on, power off, channel, volume, etc.
These devices activate mechanisms when a specific alert is received. The mechanism may close a gate on a bridge, a gas valve, or even a firehouse door. They are flexible in design to allow for the widest range of uses.
Consumer Satellite Set Top Boxes
These devices are used to receive and distribute HTML and related media received via satellite datacasting transmission to WiFi connected devices such as PCs and mobile phones.
Using USB tuners, these devices are enabled with a software application that receive terrestrial datacasting files and streams and present them to the user.
Android TV Devices
These devices are enabled to receive datacasting files using an app that was installed via USB. The AP utilized the TV hardware to gain access to the datacasting transmissions which were converted to files for access by users of the device.
Earthquake Early Warning Devices
These devices receive alerts, validate their contents, and distribute warning to other devices on the LAN that subscribe to a message service enabled provided by the receiving device.
Public Alerting Device
This device receives alerts and displays the message on a TV or via other means to alert anyone viewing or near the device.
Device and Content Management Tools
West Pond’s FlexStream datacasting solution provides a number of tools that make installation, integration, configuration, and management easier for transmission personnel and datacasting subscriber personnel to access and control the system.
Access and manage the device from any network connected device via one or all of the MX-400SR GigE network ports. Use this UI to check status, configure the system, enable datacasting providers, limit and prioritize bandwidth allocation, and control bypass state.
Dual ¼ VGA graphical front panel displays
These provide transmission facility personnel with a rich and easy to use configuration and status information including full motion video when available.
An RF monitor tuner
This (terrestrial only) tuner is used by the FlexStream datacasting system to verify transmission of provider data.
FlexDM remote access
This cloud based service is used by transmission facility personnel to access the Web UI from any connected device at any time.
Integrated receiver device management
The FlexStream datacasting system manages a carousel for delivering software updates and other maintenance files to FlexStream enabled datacasting receivers.
Secure REST APIs for third party datacasting content providers
These APIs provide a secure connection and access control by transmission personnel, that enables provider software to create carousels and data streams on the FlexStream datacasting system.
This FTP service provides a simple interface for datacasting providers who do not wish to actively control the carousel configuration. Files dropped into the FTP hotfolder are transmitted via carousel and replicated on receivers.
HTML5 digital signage content management
West Pond provides an optional content management system for distributing content to West Pond digital signage players.
Private Video and/or Audio
This software development kit is used by West Pond customers who wish to develop their own datacasting receiver or integrate datacasting reception capabilities into an existing device such as a commercial TV or digital signage display.