PS Consultants - ideas & solutions

This news is good news
January 2001

In the beginning there was the town crier. Arguably this news medium lingered for around 7,000 years in one form or another. Then came the written word , which became the printed word in the middle ages, and in the 18th century, “mass printing” got under way, and the 19th century saw the birth of daily newspapers.

Then the rot began to set in with the electric telegraph, where for the first time ever the news was delivered in a disembodied electric format, allowing news to travel great distances in an instant.

In the 20th century we got telephones, radio, television, cellphones and then the internet.

And in the 21st century, the promise is that all of the aforementioned media are due to converge into one all pervasive, omnipresent and essential stream of global consciousness. And if you are not logged into that 24x7, what crucial information opportunity might you be missing..?   Arrgggh! 

Information overload.

It’s possible for people to sit and graze the numerous electronic information sources that clamour for attention, be mesmerised by the enormity of it all, and end up doing nothing all day long. In the early days of the internet, many businesses (especially in the UK) decided to try to prevent their employees from getting access at their desktops to surf the web; but it soon became apparent that the information around the web is a valuable business tool. It was proved to be worth the risk, and most enlightened employers decided that their staff would get over the fascination soon enough.

Email has become de rigeur, but that too can be a double-edged sword in the wrong hands.  Various surveys on internet abuse at work appear from time to time, and most seem to be designed to scare bosses into buying software that keeps track of what their staff are up to on the web – and increasingly, in their email.

But used intelligently, the web is a cornucopia of information on just about everything – although the temptation to try and watch as all that information is being accumulated from the aggregation of the numerous information sources can be very distracting.

The state of the art

One of the problems of the internet is that despite the hype, it cannot deliver reliable “video on demand”, there is simply not enough bandwidth available in the system – and companies that pay around £1,000-2,000 a month for their relatively modest internet connections in the UK do not want this be consumed by staff casually grazing the “rich media” (content with sound and vision) that’s out there. And there is now just everything out there from Madonna videos to video feeds from CNN and BBC sites, and plenty of viewing that will get you fired on the spot.

As a result, even sites that feed continuous news information in the form of text “tickers” have been blocked from many company networks, because the effect of 10 or more employees connecting to such services can bring the company’s external internet feed to its knees, and important must-have services like reliable email are compromised.

One early prominent business that operated in this mode was Pointcast. It went for a stratospheric dotcom valuation – but when companies started shutting it out, the $400m price collapsed down to nothing. And this was long before the “Great DotCrash of 2000”. Pointcast had fumbled around trying to find another business model (the “rich media commercials that it streamed were probably the main reason that it was blocked), but all require more bandwidth than corporate network administrators are willing to sacrifice. However, Pointcast was a victim of its popular success, and tripped on technology, not lack of demand.

The latest information source clamouring for space on your desktop and in your attention span specifically gets around this problem, by offering rich media to the desktop, but without eating your precious external internet bandwidth.

What’s more, unlike just about every other darned thing on the web is the product of a British company. This news delivery solution is called EnfoCast., and it is a blend of just about all the “essential” real-time news television services (including the BBC News 24, Bloomberg, CNBC, Bloomberg and others) from around Europe.

EnfoCast reckons it will succeed where others have stumbled since it uses a broadcast technology called IP Multicast to completely get round the limitations that have sunk the likes of Pointcast, and that make watching TV across the web a non-starter. Enfocast is delivered by satellite across the whole of Europe, and it provides multi-channel full motion TV to the desktop using the network that businesses already have to connect their computers.

“Real-time TV via the corporate network..?” you ask incredulously. That’s right, full motion, jerk-free TV can now be delivered to your desktop via the corporate network, it requires no extra hardware in the network itself, or the PC. In fact the only thing that a corporate network requires is the satellite router that comes as part of the service subscription. The Enfocast signal (delivered as IP data) arrives inside your network, and the existing internet connection is used to provide a simple “back channel” that manages the users’ logins, and provides other services.

“Enfocast can save an employee around 20-30 minutes a day by simply improving their efficiency of access to news and information through our single, manageable gateway” suggests Andrew Wand of EnfoCast.

The pricing model is the same as “set top box” cable/satellite TV. Cost per seat is around £10-15 per user per month, which is a considerable bargain if the employee time saving is just 10 minutes a day! As well as the comprehensive news TV, EnfoCast includes access to a news aggregation services called NewsScape that reads and indexes some 2000 websites. EnfoCast users get to select the topics they want to appear in their news tickers

Moreover, EnfoCast is genuinely interactive TV – and does not want to be confused with the pseudo interactive TV that is delivered to consumers via Set Top Box solutions. The EnfoCast system is already delivering distance learning solutions, private TV services – and content that is simply not available using any other medium.

EnfoCast founder and chairman William Poel observes: “It’s a lot easier to get a real computer to provide a smart and wholly interactive TV solution than it is to try and get a dumb TV set to act smart with the addition of a cheap set top box.” 0cm">Street legal

EnfoCast has cut deals with the content providers for an important reason – the broadcasters are required to manage their content and control who is viewing since they buy material from other sources. That Sky card is not just there to fill Murdoch’s coffers – it’s there to establish and protect the rights of the content producers.

Unlike the over hyped and over promised broadband delivery systems, be they ADSL, cable or 3G – EnfoCast is available today to just about any location in Europe – although the channels available in some countries may be affected by local licensing agreements. for more information.