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What are automated workflows and agnostic architecture?
Video on Demand (VoD) can justifiably be seen as a very complex world, thanks to its buzzwords, jargon and confusing industry terms.
‘Automated workflows’ and ‘agnostic architecture’ are just two examples that may cause confusion – even though they’re essential to how we work at Arqiva. So the least I can do is offer some kind of explanation of what these terms mean for Arqiva.
Salvation through automation
Let’s start with automated workflows; a concept that fits in extremely well with what Arqiva is all about.
Everything this company does involves workflows – every task, however major or menial, is either part of a workflow or requires a workflow to be completed. We’re no different to other businesses in that sense. The process sequences involved in VoD services, however, can be particularly complex.
We have to collect and process all of the data in the customer’s schedule or work-order, and the asset itself. We have to determine how it will be processed, then monitor everything to ensure it all goes smoothly and everyone’s happy. There are variables to consider too, and even with highly skilled engineers at hand, things can – unfortunately - still go wrong.
Well, that used to be the case anyway; before we designed and built our system to take care of it all with minimal human intervention. The workflow itself has the intelligence to do everything mentioned above without being prompted by anyone.
That’s not to say our engineers and operators are sitting back twiddling their thumbs; it just means they have more time to spend on other critical tasks that require their expertise and further benefit the customer’s output. The result is that we can offer better services across the broadcasting value chain. We can still carry out human quality checks on request, but automated workflows mean that everything’s so much more efficient – both time and cost-wise.
So where do agnostic interfaces come in?
We live in a world filled with technology. It allows us to enjoy endless entertainment, and live super convenient lives. It’s far from simple, though. We’ve got different files, formats, and protocols coming at us from all directions – and rarely does it all work in harmony.
As you can imagine, this has the potential make things difficult for a company like Arqiva. We work with a wide range of different organisations, each with its own way of working, its own equipment and its own preferences. What’s to say any of it will be compatible with our systems?
The answer is simple: our agnostic interfaces. We build our systems to accept as many file-types and formats as possible, or at least to be able to convert anything into something with which we can work. So, when a customer wants to supply their own assets and schedules, we can – nine times out of ten - say yes.
We’ve basically developed a customisable enterprise service bus that sits between the customer’s systems and our own media processing systems, and that takes the data we need before converting it into a compatible format. We can then use it to drive the media asset management system.
From an efficiency perspective, it means the processes are largely the same across the VoD product range. It might be a subscription-based service, some kind of catch-up platform, or even a traditional PPV channel – our work on it doesn’t have to change.
In simple terms, the customer is now separated from our back-end systems – they just provide the content and we do the rest through that intelligent transformation. In even simpler terms, it means the on-boarding process is as easy as it can be. Our main goal right from the start has been to make this initial stage as smooth and hassle-free as possible, and I think our agnostic interfaces play a big part in us achieving that.
Feel the power
The convenience allowed by the agnosticism and automation mentioned above is complemented perfectly by a whole lot of power. Without getting into the specifics, Arqiva’s system is capable of outputting hundreds of thousands of hours of content every year. With consumption still rising fast, and people watching TV in a growing number of ways (devices, times, formats etc.) this capability will prove essential.
Not only do agnostic interfaces and automated workflows play a key part in our operations now, they put us in good stead for the future. We’re the position to keep up with evolution, and whatever that may go on to bring.
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