Applied Technology: Bridge Technologies NOMAD Portable Network Probe

As the broadcasters increasingly embrace IP infrastructures, two phenomena are becoming apparent. The first is that network engineers and managers are increasingly mobile. Their lives no longer revolve around an operations centre. Rather, they spend an increasing amount of time on the road, monitoring and optimising their networks.

The second phenomenon is that, as a new technology to many broadcast professionals, IP is still not as widely or as well understood as it is, for example, in the IT world. Understanding packet behaviour, for instance, and its potential impact on latency or perceived image quality, is still a challenge, as the industry gets up to speed.

In response to these two challenges, Bridge Technologies developed NOMAD, with the design goals of creating a network probe that is both highly portable and easy to use.

Network probes

Historically, network probes, which monitor and analyse IP network traffic, were deployed in the operations centre. The NOMAD is designed for use at any location in the network and easily understood by non-expert users.

NOMAD addresses the lack of deep operator knowledge of the media technology by using Bridge’s patented MediaWindow visualisation technology. This feature allows complex structures and data to be readily understood by non-expert users. They can identify appropriate corrective actions quickly and easily. Traditional constellation diagrams, for example, enable at-a-glance understanding of signal behaviour and quality.

Designed to replace PCI cards, USB-based dongles and other laptop-dependent devices, the new probe is a complete, freestanding unit complete with its own CPU. The probe can monitor signals by itself without the need for a host system.

Bridge Technologies NOMAD IP network test platform.

Bridge Technologies NOMAD IP network test platform.

Physically, NOMAD is the size of two tablets mounted one on top of the other, weighing less than 1Kg. The probe’s housing is built from a single piece of high quality aluminium providing the ruggedness needed for deployment even in harsh environments.

The probe’s portability is enhanced by its ability to act as a Wi-Fi zone. By pointing a laptop towards this, the unit is ready for use without further configuration, and becomes a standalone solution. With 32GB of Flash memory available, it can record live streams from any input to memory for documentation. Also included is alarm-triggered recording across multiple sources for later review via the web browser.

Systems tested

This new portable probe covers all the monitoring requirements encountered in hybrid IP multicast, OTT and RF networks. The probe features optical/electrical Gigabit Ethernet, ASI in/out, DVB-C QAM cable, DVB-T/T2 COFDM terrestrial, DVB-S/S2 satellite and an external 1PPS GPS time-reference. The NOMAD can analyse all RF transmitted DVB signals as well as OTT multiscreen streams like HLS and DASH, IP multicast, SDIoIP, ASI, satellite, terrestrial and cable sources.

Transport stream analysis is built on the award-winning ETR290 Engine, enabling deep investigation of TS streams. IP packet traffic is viewed in real-time, and broken down into individual protocols. This gives the operator an unprecedented and simplified presentation of otherwise complex structures in the transport mechanics.

Full insight

Total passing of OTT multiscreen playlist and manifest files secures coherence and standards, with full insight into chunk availability, download times, sequence latency, profile alignment and much more. Full RF metrics, with rigorous specifications, visualisations, and advanced analytics like reflections in digital terrestrial networks are all examples of advanced functions the probe provides.

NOMAD also has a substantial additional set of extended analysis options, giving it exceptionally broad and deep functionality making it an ideal laboratory tool for desktop analysis.

The new NOMAD portable probe from Bridge Technologies represents the culmination of 12 years of accumulated engineering knowledge and R&D in IP and broadcast monitoring. It provides all the functionality required for a network engineer to monitor, analyse, rectify, and optimise IP networks.

The unit is highly portable, capable of being deployed almost anywhere, and is a self-contained solution. The probe is also remarkably affordable. Recognising that expertise in IP networks is still developing in the broadcast industry, it is designed to enable even those without an in-depth understanding of IP systems to be effective and efficient in network trouble-shooting. It can be described as the Swiss Army knife of digital media.

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