WebRTC World Feature Article

May 07, 2014

Driving Innovation: Q&A with Alex Eleftheriadis on Vidyo's Patent Strategy

Vidyo is a provider of software-based video communications solutions for any device, anywhere. Last week, Vidyo crossed the 50-patent mark with its 56th patent, setting the tone for the company’s role in “driving industry-changing innovation.” Curious, we caught up with Alex Eleftheriadis, chief scientist at Vidyo, to talk about these patents, why they help make Vidyo unique and what’s in store in the future.

WebRTC World: What is your 56th patent?

Eleftheriadis: I wouldn’t put particular significance on the 56th patent by virtue of its ordering (when patents are granted depends on lots of factors), but this patent turns out to be an interesting one. The 56th patent describes how the Vidyo conferencing client can make intelligent decisions on how to position the multiple incoming videos on the users’ screens.  In Vidyo’s endpoint and software client systems, the user can select two layout formats (presence and preferred participant), and he/she can select either automatic selection of the number of videos to see or set a fixed number, from zero to eight. In all cases, the video window placement is performed automatically by the software. The decision-making process takes several factors into account in order to make the transitions as transparent as possible; this ensures a seamless user experience. This is particularly interesting in large video conferences, with dozens of participants, where speakers may be moving in and out of a conversation.

WW: How does this align with the other patents Vidyo has received and Vidyo's overall strategy?

AE: Vidyo’s patents cover technical designs across the entire spectrum of system components in a video conferencing system: client, server, video coding, networking aspects, etc.  As the company that pioneered the use of scalable video coding (SVC) and layered coding in general in video conferencing, we were the first to reach this “new land” of engineering innovation potential. We are still actively developing our technology in order to deliver superior products, and are also very active in filing for patents where we believe the level of innovation meets the patent standard.  

WW: How do you expect video and collaboration online to transform over the next few years?

AE: I think we are in the middle of a very big transition phase for video. Vidyo introduced SVC and the VidyoRouter in 2008, and today, most people in the industry understand its benefits. Nearly all video conferencing companies are offering an SVC solution in some form or another. Right now this technology is being solidified in product offerings, and users are finally starting to integrate video in their daily work – but for real this time.  As you can imagine, Vidyo has a substantial advantage. In addition to being ahead by several years, it has created a very solid platform that can scale. Scaling in this case refers to the very large number of users that can be supported by modest general-purpose servers using Vidyo, to the fact that Vidyo is cloud ready, and also to the fact that Vidyo can easily incorporate new codecs such as H.265/HEVC or others.  For example, Vidyo is working with Google on adding scalability to VP9. I think the next step will be to leverage this platform, and integrate video more deeply in people’s workflows. VidyoSlate – our annotation app for tablets – is maybe an example of that.  Our VidyoWorks APIs, or soon WebRTC, will allow developers to take video to places that videoconferencing manufacturers alone never could have if they did it on their own.

WW: The press release celebrates Vidyo exceeding the 50-patent mark. Why is that significant to you?

AE: As Andrew Davis’ said in our recent press release, the number of patents issued to a company can be considered a testament to its drive for innovation and proof for its success in going beyond where everyone else has gone before.

I should also point out that the quality is equally important. Vidyo’s patents are actually used in crucial pieces of technology in a lot of video communication, including the H.264 AVC/SVC and H.265/HEVC standards. Video makes them available for licensing (together with patents from several other companies) through MPEG-LA’s AVC pool for H.264, and is participating in the formation of the HEVC pool. This way anyone who implements these standards can obtain a license. 

We also have patents that are essential for IETF-related standards, for example, on the techniques to transport SVC over the Internet using the RTP protocol. These techniques are also used in similar drafts for VP8 and HEVC so that practically anyone, including most open source projects can use them to implement these standards without having to obtain a license.

WW: Can you give some insight to the other applications in 65 patent families in development?

Vidyo has a very broad granted and pending patent portfolio which has grown to cover virtually every aspect of a video conferencing system, from server design to how to make it easier to start videoconferences.

WW: What can we expect to see from Vidyo in the future?

AE: Vidyo has created an architecture that solves fundamental problems in video communications and provides a very high-quality, or “transparent,” user experience. This transparency allows users to put video to work in their daily routines.  The results of this innovation are now reverberating in the user community, and they are reaching even users that would not otherwise deploy video. As the need for video grows, it will be important to be able to offer it in a large scale, in an economic fashion, and in a way that can be easily integrated to applications with APIs.  This technology is available today from Vidyo. Many companies and organizations are already using this capability into their own products.  This is a core strength of the Vidyo’s platform, and I think you will see this innovation being integrated in different places more and more in the future. 

Want to learn more about Vidyo? Be sure to attend the WebRTC Conference & Expo, happening June 17-19 in Atlanta, Ga., and visit the company at booth #120. Vidyo is a Platinum sponsor of the event, and Eleftheriadis will be speaking in three sessions: Keynote presentation, ‘The Video Conundrum” and “Managing and Scaling WebRTC Video.” Stay in touch with everything happening at WebRTC Conference & Expo. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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