Playout & Transmission Global Viewpoint – May 2022

The Age Of Collaboration

Although numbers were severely curtailed, NAB was a huge success, mainly because it actually took place!

One of the NAB themes that came across for me is that of vendor collaboration. Broadcasters are demanding it and more importantly, the vendors are not only delivering collaboration but also fully embracing it. The days of closed communications protocols of the past are being rapidly pushed aside by the open protocols encouraged by virtualized and cloud computing.

In times gone by, broadcast engineers would be pulling their hair out trying to encourage vendors to liaise to make their systems communicate. Protocols such as SWP-08 helped enormously with control but flexibility was seriously limited, even when SMNP type messaging was employed. And this is probably one of the reasons GPIOs are still ubiquitous in broadcast television.

The new control, status, and monitoring systems employed in virtualized and cloud technologies employ the RESTful API. Combined with data exchange using protocols such as JSON, RESTful APIs are setting the broadcast world on fire.

RESTful and JSON are open standards that form the backbone of API interactivity across the whole of the internet, and it is this technology that is facilitating the technical side of vendor collaboration. The APIs are backwards compatible and support secure exchange of control and monitoring data through tokens from protocols including OAUTH-2.

Although these APIs may encourage vendor collaboration, they are only a tool, and their implementation is only as effective as the motivation behind the vendors supporting them. And for me, this is where the real change has occurred. At NAB vendors were falling over themselves to show how collaborative and inclusive their systems are. To the point where we can now assume a vendor’s application or service will have APIs at the core of their design to facilitate interconnectivity. This isn’t just limited to SaaS type products but is evident in traditional hardware designs too.

I believe we have seen a major sea-change in the attitude of both vendors and broadcasters in our industry as collaboration is now at the core of designs. I’m not quite sure who is leading who, but more than one broadcaster told me that they now expect vendors to work together to deliver collaborative solutions with concrete attitudes towards demarcation being a thing of the past. As Simen Frostad of Bridge Technologies said to me “if it’s not working together, it’s not working at all”.

It's greatly encouraging to see teams working together like this and such collaboration can only be to the benefit of everybody in the industry. Maybe we’ve finally seen the end of the GPIO after all?