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3/26/2002
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Treating Digital Files Like Physical Packages

Startup Radiance Technologies has unveiled its digital delivery software, as well as a partnership with personal video-recording pioneer TiVo.

This week marks the coming-out party for startup Radiance Technologies, which bills itself as the FedEx of the digital world. It's launching its debut product, the TrueDelivery system; revealing a $13.4 million round of venture capital, to go along with $3.6 million in angel backing raised nearly two years ago; and unveiling a partnership with TiVo Inc. Whereas content-delivery networks have helped move digital content by providing customers with virtual networks and caching large files at the edge of those networks, Radiance provides software that lets customers deliver digital files to a defined audience on a guaranteed schedule that's confirmed after delivery.

So, a 350 Mbytes sales kit could be delivered to 700 sales personnel worldwide by Monday morning regardless of bandwidth limitations. Or, in the case of TiVo, having Radiance software embedded in a customer's set-top box can make video-on-demand feasible, whether the viewer has a digital-subscriber line or a dial-up connection. Or a software vendor could deliver updates to customers without sending them as CD-ROMs. "If an object is digital, it's an absurdity to convert it into physical form for delivery," says John McCrea, senior VP of marketing at Radiance. "Any company that's doing this is a potential customer for us."

The company says it has a dozen pilot customers in industries such as software, aerospace, and media and entertainment. Mercedes-Benz USA, which wants to deliver high-quality video to its dealer network for E-learning and communication, has been testing the software for three or four months. Richard Thomas, media development and E-learning manager, says it's currently not physically or economically possible to deliver high-quality video to bandwidth-starved dealers. But Radiance has assured Mercedes-Benz that its software will turn a 128 Kbytes pipe into the equivalent of a 2 Mbytes connection by scheduling delivery of the data during the network's nonpeak hours, making bandwidth-intensive streams unnecessary, Thomas says. "If we can push that content ahead of time, that really solves the issue for us," he says. Mercedes-Benz expects to make a decision soon on whether it will use the technology.

A lot of energy is being devoted to finding alternatives to streaming, which is the single most intensive source of network demand, says Peter Christy, co-founder of market research firm NetsEdge Research. Radio and television each took about 35 years to progress from commercial transmission to local storage, but digital media storage has followed digital delivery much more closely. Taking advantage of the developing storage capabilities by delivering digital content to a local server during nonpeak hours could be the answer, Christy says. "Once that video is on a machine near you, there's no trade-off in terms of quality vs. cost."

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