Bridge Technologies – The essence(s) of monitoring

Bridge Technologies – The essence(s) of monitoring

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Bridge Technologies – The essence(s) of monitoring

Wed 17, 04 2024

Bridge Technologies – The essence(s) of monitoring

Simen K. Frostad, Chairman of Bridge Technologies

There is a human instinct to distil things down into neat packages. Even the biggest questions that face us are posed in the singular; what is the meaning of life? We aren’t happy when people suggest there might be multiple meanings; operating either in isolation or in parallel. We want a coherent, simple, distilled, unifying and singular response. It’s what makes Douglas Adams’ pithy responses of ‘42’ so wonderful; it satisfies all of our desires in terms of what we want from the answer to life, the universe and everything (except of course the really crucial one: meaning).

Which is why, in response to the question: ‘what is the essence of monitoring’ it would be disingenuous to pretend that there is any singular essence. Some of key principles that underpin monitoring – or more accurately, effective monitoring –  run in parallel with each other; a set of multiple pillars rather than a singular base. But others change according to context; what makes for good monitoring in one situation may not in another. (Of course, you could call that itself an essential pillar of effective monitoring: it needs to be flexible, adaptable and context-specific – but more on that below).

So, whilst a singular ‘essence’ of monitoring is beyond our grasp, with 20 years of monitoring experience behind us, we can at least manage five key principles for effective monitoring:

 Monitoring is not just about error detection

You don’t watch the weather report in order to find out if it’s raining outside right now; you watch it to plan what to wear later. Monitoring is not (just) about finding out about what went wrong, it’s about stopping it from going wrong in the first place. By monitoring trends and out-of-parameter occurrences, data is generated to inform predictive diagnosis, which ultimately ensures that your audience remains blissfully ignorant to the fact that there was ever the potential for a problem.

But monitoring doesn’t just help avoid mistakes, it also informs active improvement – suggesting points where network efficiency and delivery could be improved. And this isn’t just on an operational basis, but an organizational one too: reporting from monitoring probes can inform engineering and strategic C-suite decision making alike, or it can be handed to stakeholders – such as advertisers – to provide accountability.

And at Bridge we’ve gone one step further in turning monitoring from a passive error-detection solution into an active, value-adding tool. With the VB440 we’ve taken the complex data delivered by the probe and turned it into actionable information that can be used in production studios – remote, distributed or on-site – by a range of creatives and network engineers alike, simultaneously and in real time. Network data is turned into visual previews, waveforms, vector colometry, LUFs and gonio metres, timing path displays and any number of other production tools, ready to be used by audio technicians, camera painters, producers and engineers.

There is no singular, holy grail approach

This pertains heavily to the point raised in the introduction about monitoring needing to be flexible and context-orientated. The broadcast industry has seen a significant move away from hardware solutions, with both software and cloud-based platforms becoming de rigueur  for a variety of tasks and workflows. And rightly so; there is a host of advantages to using software-based tools.

But, those advantages don’t always apply in every situation, or to every use case. There are many reasons, some might say 330, why you might want your monitoring solution to operate on its own appliance, or on an embedded basis. Each network configuration is different, and at Bridge we provide the expertise needed to advise on the best solution, and the flexible deployment options – appliance, embedded, software and cloud – needed to achieve it.

 There’s no time like the present (except for the past)

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now’.  – Chinese Proverb.

Something that we’ve been working hard to communicate is the message ‘build it in, don’t bolt it on’. Monitoring should be a key consideration for network strategy right from the start, and broadcasters who keep monitoring at the forefront of their minds whilst developing a network strategy and operations plan will see far more effective results from their systems.

But of course foresight is a luxury not everybody has. Not everybody can develop a greenfield site or wipe the slate clean and build a network from the ground up. Even for legacy systems, investing in monitoring today can significantly improve the performance of a network – not just in terms of error resolution, but error prevention, efficiency and performance improvement, and enhanced strategic performance across the board.

 Functioning comes before functionalities

A tool with lots of bells and whistles is all well and good, until it doesn’t work. Piling on functionalities without providing a secure, stable and reliable base is not just counter-productive in the long run, it’s downright bad business practice: frustrated customers mean lost revenue and a huge expenditure of resources to correct what should have been right from the start. Companies developing monitoring solutions – indeed engineers and programmers in general – have a responsibility to work to develop the core of their systems in a way that sets an effective base for ongoing development; ensuring stability, reliability and sustainability of operation no matter how many functionality upgrades may follow in the future.

The problem is – even though it’s more efficient and effective in the long run – it can feel time-consuming, laborious and decidedly unglamorous. Ultimately though, doing things right first time brings its own rewards.

Monitoring is for everybody, not just engineers

Another responsibility product developers have is to ensure the usability of their product, and not only for network engineers. Monitoring is a complex undertaking at the technological level, but it shouldn’t have to be at the personnel level. That’s why we design our tools to ‘make the complex simple’. We deliver network metrics in a way that is at-a-glance intuitive – often using graphs and visualizations, and we supplement them with meaningful, contextual information that facilitates in-the-moment decision making, even by non-engineers, without confusion or delay.

By applying these five principles, both monitoring solution developers and their customers can approach monitoring in a way that truly maximizes its potential and delivers measurable benefit to the entire broadcast chain, from end-to-end. That’s the essence of the issue, ultimately.

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