This year’s Summer Olympics will mark the third time London hosts the modern games, making it the first city to do so. And for the first time, this year's Olympics will be watched by thousands of people on their smartphones and tablets. The Games are to be beamed to the smallest screens in the smallest corners of the world – thanks, in part, to Elemental Technologies, a six-year-old Portland-based startup and its innovative use of Nvidia GPUs. When all is said and done, Elemental expects up to a billion viewers of its streaming content. In addition to more than 2,500 hours of live coverage, the company will encode and archive video for on-demand highlights and other assets for time-shifted viewing.

Streaming the Olympics right to your smartphone

Streaming the Olympics right to your smartphone

Elemental, a pioneer in using GPUs to power video streaming over IP networks, will provide the back-end infrastructure to live stream the games to set-top boxes, PCs, smartphones and tablets. Major broadcasters in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Japan, Europe and Latin America are using technology from Elemental for the task.

Using Nvidia GPUs, Elemental can encode three times as many streams per server rack while drawing one-third the watts per stream. Such gains have put Elemental in a position to offer a solution at half its competitor’s footprint, power consumption and cost. The result of this is that broadcasters around the world will be able to serve up high-quality streaming across video formats, cost-effectively.

Streaming video gained traction during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. served up 75.5 million streams, the BBC served 40 million and China’s CCTV served 100 million. But four years is an eon in the technology industry, and seismic shifts having occurred in the media space, new players with new business models have cropped up. Primetime TV has been replaced by time-shifted TV. And traditional broadcasters have responded by expanding their digital offerings. But mobile computing is moving at a headlong sprint. Some 725 million smartphones and 70 million tablets were in use at year-end 2011, according to industry analyst firm Gartner. In addition to untethering the London Games from the living room, mobile devices will act for many as the so-called “second screen” they turn to for stats and replays as they take in the event on larger displays.

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