South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is involved in another “world first” project that is in the process of being launched commercially.

The social impact of this project is expected to be huge, both in South Africa and globally, as it will open up video streaming to mobile devices in the developing world. This technology has the potential to revolutionise education, assist in breaking down the digital divide and improve the lives of many in developing countries.

There is a global need to watch video content on mobile devices. However in developing countries the mobile networks low bandwidth infrastructure make video streaming almost impossible, especially over EDGE. Tuluntulu has technology, developed by a CSIR-led consortium, which provides a solution to this problem. Tuluntulu’s vision is to become the global leader in video streaming in the developing world.

International technology companies are now focusing on providing technology solutions to the developing world, as this is where growth is predicted to come from in the future. Facebook, for example, has recently announced a partnership with Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera and Qualcomm to launch, a project aimed at bringing affordable Internet access to the 5-billion people without it. The companies will work together on data-compression technologies and cheap, high-quality smartphones to make the web cheaper. The companies intend to accomplish their goal in part by simplifying phone applications so they run more efficiently and by improving the components of phones and networks so that they transmit more data while using less battery power.

According to the web site no-one should have to choose between access to the Internet and food or medicine. partners will join forces to develop technology that decreases the cost of delivering data to people worldwide, and helps expand Internet access in underserved communities. Transmitting data – even a text message or simple web page – requires bandwidth, something that’s scarce in many parts of the world. Partners will invest in tools and software to improve data compression capabilities and make data networks and services run more efficiently.

This is a positive development from Tuluntulu’s perspective and it places the developing world, and technology designed for the developing world, in the global spotlight. The two largest and fastest growing mobile markets globally are Asia and Africa respectively. Video consumption and Internet access globally, via online and on mobile devices, is increasing at exponential rates. YouTube now has 6-billion views per month, a quarter of which are on mobile devices. In southern Africa YouTube aggregate views grew by 90% in the past 12 months, but this was off a very low base.

The consumption of video on mobile devices using mobile networks (not Wi-Fi) in developing countries has not grown in line with these global trends as the dominant form of connection is via mobile networks. This is due to video not being suited to the low bandwidth networks that exist in developing countries.

There are patents registered in five countries or regions globally on the ARTIST technology, which includes elements of data compression.

The ARTIST technology can deliver unbroken video at about 30kbps. Current competing technologies do not perform well in low rate Internet infrastructures between 30kbps to 300kbps and, more particularly, where the throughput rate is rapidly varying within this range from one second to the next (as is common in all mobile cellular networks).

Tuluntulu’s research has revealed no other company globally that claims to be able to deliver unbroken video streams at below 100kbps. Tuluntula believes it holds the technology key to mobile video distribution in the developing world – and can unlock education, information and entertainment content distribution that can have a huge social impact on the people who live in these countries.

The technology was developed by a consortium funded by TIA (Technology Innovation Agency) consisting of CSIR South Africa, University of Cape Town and ECA that started developing the solution to the video distribution problem in 2007. The CSIR’s Dr Keith Ferguson led the team.

The solution was specialised technology known as ARTIST that allows streaming video to be viewed on mobile devices, in low bandwidth or congested environments. ARTIST utilizes patented technology to deliver unbroken standards-based live video streams with fully integrated social media interactivity. The solution covers the entire media value chain from video content ingestion to a fully adaptive and scalable service and mobile device applications.