Dr. Abdul Rehman, CEO and co-founder of SSIMWAVE, likens the journey a video takes as it’s transmitted from a broadcaster or streaming service to a viewer sitting in their living room as a trip through a dense jungle.

The journey is fraught with peril. The route through is never clear. Threats await at every turn – threats that can impact the quality of a viewer’s experience.

“There are a lot of things that can go wrong,” says Dr. Rehman.

“You have maybe hundreds of thousands of connections. You start your journey from one end of the globe and you end up at the other end. At any point in the delivery chain you can have a wire cut, or a wire unplugged. A server can lose power. The number of potential problems are almost endless.”

SSIMWAVE’s product is a video’s companion and guide, helping achieve safe passage through the jungle. It helps ensure a video arrives intact, and of high quality, to its intended audience. In fact, it’s capable of assessing the quality of a video, in real time, along the journey until it arrives to its intended audience. It continuously alerts those who are transmitting the video whether viewers would be satisfied with the picture quality, and it does so as if a viewer was making that determination at every stage along the route, not just at the end. If problems occur, if a server goes down, if a wire gets cut, a dashboard alert tells technicians where and how they need to intervene.

This complete, end-to-end, quality assessment has never been achievable before. And that assessment has certainly never been undertaken from the viewer’s point of view, to see what the viewer would see – as if a machine had the capabilities of a human’s visual system.

“We are changing the whole picture about how quality should be monitored and controlled,” says Dr. Rehman’s colleague and SSIMWAVE co-founder and Chief Science Officer, Dr. Zhou Wang. “Not only that, we’re changing how quality assurance should be done in the real world.”

SSIMWAVE achieves this quality control by deploying probes at every stage of a video’s journey and monitoring its progress through to its delivery at a viewer’s cell phone or living room TV screen. The result is better picture quality, often delivered at a lower cost.

The product also helps SSIMWAVE’s customers optimize their networks for speed, quality and cost.

“Let me give you a straightforward application,” says Dr. Wang.

“Imagine you have two video channels. One channel is an NBA game. The other is, say, C-SPAN,” the U.S. cable news network.

The NBA game, says Dr. Wang, presents a relatively complex problem from a video delivery point of view. The images are constantly shifting and changing according to the movement of the ball and the players. That complexity requires lots of compression and network resources to move the pictures through to a viewer.

C-SPAN, by comparison, is much simpler. The images are relatively static. It requires less bandwidth, less compression.

By applying SSIMWAVE’s quality of experience measurements, a content provider can observe the performance of both streams and make adjustments in real time that optimize each broadcast. Excess bandwidth can be taken from C-SPAN, for example, and applied to the NBA game. The C-SPAN feed retains its quality – it doesn’t need the excess bandwidth – and the quality of the NBA game gets a significant boost.

“Users, in the end, will be happy about the quality of experience no matter which channel they’re watching,” says Dr. Wang.

“In the end, you improve the quality of viewer’s experience without allocating more resources overall. And sometimes you find you can even reduce the resources and maintain the quality.

“On average, using our optimization, you can achieve both. You improve the overall experience and you save money. That’s the benefit you can get out of the SSIMWAVE solution.”

The delivery of that solution is the result of a hierarchy of investigation on SSIMWAVE’s part. SSIMWAVE’s probes, deployed along the delivery chain, perform a number of checks and tests and report outcomes in order to ensure that a viewer at the end of the chain isn’t disappointed.

The first check is fundamental in nature: “Our primary job is to tell if the connection is available or not,” says Dr. Rehman. “We need to know if the video is getting there or not.”

Once that check is satisfied, SSIMWAVE’s technology tests the configuration of the network. “Is it optimally configured or not?,” says Dr. Rehman. “A delivery chain is very complex.”

Cable companies, for example, build redundancies so they can switch from one pipeline to another in the event of transmission problems. But when a switch takes place, it has to be seamless, or the viewer experience will be impacted.

“So you need all these configurations with all these IP address and video properties, and everything that has to match across these redundancy pipelines for it to work properly and seamlessly all the way,” says Dr. Rehman.

And then there’s the audio portion of a video, aspects of which must comply with regulatory oversight.

Do proper flows exist for each available language? Is the volume correct? Is the audio in synch with the video? Is closed-captioning available to the viewer and is it in synch with the video? SSIMWAVE’s technology checks all this and more.

And it performs similar checks when an ad is inserted into a video stream.

“It’s very important that ad insertion is done properly,” says Dr. Rehman. “If you’re advertising, and spending money, you want to make sure the video quality is as good as possible or it may reflect poorly on that brand.

“So we measure quality before, during and after an ad to give feedback on whether the ad was delivered at least at the same quality level as the rest of the programming. That way it’s not going to impact the revenue of our customers or the revenue of the people who are delivering those ads.”

In every case the guiding principle is the satisfaction of the viewer and the quality of their experience.

“Quality of Experience is user-centric,” says Dr. Wang. “Everything is focussed on the final experience of the viewer. At the very end, what matters is whether you like the video or not.”

With SSIMWAVE, what matters is the certainty that the jungle can be tamed.