The distribution of digital products over the Internet to consumers is, today, severely limited by the bandwidth restrictions imposed by the "last mile" copper connections from the telephone to the home. While many e-commerce organisations claim to "sell" over the Internet, in reality, most only accept orders. Satellite multicasting offers providers of digital content - be it video, audio, software or multimedia files - the ability to deliver high bandwidth content directly into the home.
By establishing an e-commerce Internet platform, linking content providers with registered consumers, satellite multicasting offers far-sighted organisations the opportunity to develop today the business processes of the future.
The ABARIS project will establish such a platform - a community comprising content providers and end users - focusing initially on the delivery of CD quality audio products. ABARIS will enable consumers to order a wide range of music products from an easily accessible World Wide website. Following payment and copyright clearance these products will be multicast to consumers, using the ASTRA-NET satellite communications service.
ABARIS will multicast music products to customers who are equipped with a computer connected to a standard satellite TV dish antenna. Following reception, each track may be played using a multimedia PC or written to a CD for use in a standard home or car hi-fi system. The music encryption scheme employed by ABARIS will protect artist's and composers rights by preventing unauthorised performances or recordings.
Avanti's partners in the project include V2 Music Group, a leading independent record company; National Research Group which undertakes world-wide market research into entertainment products and Central Research Laboratories - a leader in the development of advanced digital intellectual property management technologies.
ABARIS faces a number of conflicting requirements for digital product delivery arising from, on the one hand, the desire of the consumer to have virtually instantaneous download, and on the other, from the content provider who wishes to ensure economically efficient distribution of his products. Thus, while each consumer desires individual, on-demand delivery incurring high satellite communications costs in the process, the content provider, who ultimately pays for the satellite bandwidth, would prefer to see a single download reaching hundreds or thousands of customers using a scheduled multicast approach. Recognising the economic importance of this conflict, a centrepiece of the ABARIS Project will be the investigation of the trade-off between the following two performance requirements:
- Product delivery should commence as soon as possible after completion of a consumer's order and payment verification;
- Product delivery should commence once as large a number of possible of orders for the same product have been placed.
The problems of product delivery will be solved within the ABARIS Project by use of an "Intelligent Scheduler" which will match user orders with satellite and economic resource constraints to obtain an optimum delivery strategy.
The ABARIS Project is aimed at exploring uncharted territories in retail digital product distribution and marketing, finding a path through the myriad of technical possibilities and laying down standards as markers for those who follow. As such it is a true pathfinder project, aimed at stimulating organisations who use traditional means of product distribution (such as CD-ROM, compact discs, video and audio tape) to consider more imaginative techniques made possible by satellite multicast technology and generating interest and awareness amongst the general public.
ABARIS will be of direct benefit to consumers in all European countries. Indeed, this is one of the main considerations that attracted V2 Music Group to the project. The prospect for providing a Europe-wide service from a single satellite highlights one of the main advantages the ABARIS system will have over terrestrial competitors. It will enable cost-effective distribution to a potential user of base of 24 million households already equipped with ASTRA Direct To Home (DTH) TV receiver equipment. Add to this the figure for EUTELSAT Hot Bird reception and the total jumps to over 40 million households. In addition, ABARIS will, by its very nature, foster the relationship between the key players in the satellite multimedia marketplace and speed the penetration of multimedia satellite services into the consumer market.
The ABARIS system comprises a set of bespoke and third party components which, together, provide a platform for the sale, distribution and reproduction of CD quality music to consumers. Integral within this system is a comprehensive royalty management regime which protects the rights of artists, songwriters and record companies.
ABARIS comprises the following elements:
- The ABARIS Service Centre, which includes the ABARIS Web Site and e-commerce elements;
- The ASTRA-NET Network Operations Centre (NOC), which houses the ABARIS Music Database and provides for the distribution of ABARIS products via satellite multicast;
- The Consumer Terminal, which equips the user with the hardware needed to order, receive, play and record ABARIS products;
- The Liquid Operations Centre, a third party system which provides royalty management and copy protection services;
- The Content Provider, responsible for the provision of music products for sale and distribution by ABARIS.
|ABARIS provides a quick and efficient means of disseminating digital products, such as music, to consumers|
The ABARIS Project is focused on the execution of a comprehensive demonstration of an advanced retail internet service. To this end, the project addresses the complete range of issues which are important for a realistic assessment of the prospects for a commercially viable service, beyond the end of this ESA project, to be made. These include:
- legal, and;
- social issues.
Considerable effort is focused on the end-to-end business processes employed by the ABARIS Project. A significant proportion of the effort associated with the Project is expended defining novel business processes, carrying out pilot testing and undertaking evaluation and commercialisation planning.
In order to focus efforts on well-defined goals and enable progress to be readily monitored, the ABARIS Project will be conducted in three phases:
- Phase 1: ABARIS Concepts;
- Phase 2: ABARIS Implementation;
- Phase 3: ABARIS Demonstration.
It is anticipated that these phases will require an elapsed time of 15 months to complete. The first two phases will overlap to some extent, due to the extended review of commercial and legal issues, which do not impinge directly on the implementation of the ABARIS system, but are required for the business planning activities which take place towards the end of the project. The second and third phase are conducted in sequence, with no overlap anticipated.
Together, the attention paid to technical, business and sociological aspects of the ABARIS Project will ensure a firm foundation is laid on which a truly commercial service can be built following completion of this ARTES 3 contract.
The ABARIS Project ran from 20th April 1999 until April 2000. The trial phase included a community of 75 users and lasted for about 5 months. The trial has already successfully demonstrated the distribution of music from V2 Music Group's stable of artists, the distribution of music videos and multimedia products. The project is now complete. A final report is available within the Project Documentation area of this website (requires a password).