Live Streaming and COVID-19: When Novelty Becomes NecessityApril 9, 2020
Up until recently, much of streaming’s appeal could be chalked up to convenience — and even novelty at times. But COVID-19 has transformed live video technology into nothing short of a necessity. Healthcare, business continuity, public safety, and mental health all now depend on it.
Social distancing efforts have normalized video streaming in ways that we couldn’t have foreseen. The idea of live streaming a funeral once sounded like something plucked out of a cyberpunk novel. And yet, as sheltering in place has become a way of life, streaming now offers one of the few solutions available to those collectively mourning the loss of a loved one.
The uncanniness of this deadly force that cannot be seen is oddly familiar. Such has been depicted in popular movies and folklore. I can’t help but think of HBO’s 2019 miniseries Chernobyl. (If you have time to burn while self-quarantining, I’d definitely suggest checking out the historical series.)
Those of us lucky enough to quarantine at home are now watching the drama of coronavirus unfold from our living rooms — much as I watched HBO’s dramatized account of the Chernobyl disaster play out from my couch. I remember how easy it was then, as a know-it-all viewer situated more than 30 years in the future, to shout at the screen: “Get out of that poisonous city! Stop hugging your radioactive husband!” But today, we all now realize that it’s not that simple.
Restrictions to physical proximity take both a logistical and emotional toll. Luckily, in the current global health crisis that will go on to define 2020 and many years following, video streaming is enabling us to digitally overcome this distance. It’s allowing us to face COVID-19 together — even if not physically so.
Streaming and Interactivity: A Winning Combination
Streaming is being used as a workaround to isolation measures in countless ways. Religious services, virtual events, and statewide town halls are all being broadcast over the internet due to widespread stay-at-home orders. Many of these are just extensions of traditional broadcasts that benefit from the ease-of-use that live streaming delivers.
Streaming has also brought about new broadcasting opportunities that previously didn’t have much demand. From TV journalists reporting from home to local yoga instructors streaming their classes, this is where we start to see what sets streaming apart.
Namely, the COVID-19 crisis has revealed how powerful the medium can be in delivering authenticity. A stripped-down musical performance streamed from an artist’s living room will never function as a one-to-one substitute for a stadium concert — but sometimes that’s a good thing. Today’s viewers crave real connections over superficial productions. And streaming is delivering just that.
As the pendulum continues to swing away from traditional broadcast content, the inherent value of streaming becomes clear. With a dash of interactivity — as is found in streaming applications for telehealth, live commerce, emergency communications, and more — live video transcends physical boundaries.
Streaming has become an era-defining tool in replicating real-life exchanges. In this way, it’s helping to replace the many in-person experiences that we took for granted before the coronavirus established its roots.
Together, But Separate: Virtually Connecting Via the Internet
As of this week, even my mom has participated in a Zoom meeting. And while most of us were familiar with the world of video conferencing before this outbreak, coronavirus lockdowns have shone the spotlight on it.
Video conferencing now ubiquitously powers remote classrooms, alcoholics anonymous meetings, and other virtual gatherings. Families and friends are using popular online meeting platforms to stay in touch, while enterprises rely on real-time streaming for ongoing collaboration outside of the physical office.
Platforms for doing so are plentiful: Zoom, Skype, Amazon Chime, BlueJeans, and Cisco WebEx are all popular in business settings. Google Hangouts, Facetime, and Houseparty are also common for personal communications.
But safety concerns have hit the news cycle. Incidents of ‘Zoombombing,’ during which unintended attendees join private meetings, have revealed why many enterprises choose to deploy streaming infrastructure in house. Secure video streaming becomes all the more critical when regulatory compliance comes into play, as is the case with the life-saving solutions described below.
When Lives Are on the Line: Streaming for Healthcare and Public Safety
Several organizations that already leveraged streaming technology for telemedicine are proving instrumental in efforts to flatten the curve. Virtual doctor visits have finally gone mainstream, while live video sharing tools have helped contain the spread.
One such example is Carbyne, a public safety technology company that connects emergency call centers with the power of live video. Each time someone in need makes an emergency call to a center leveraging Carbyne’s platform, they are prompted to enable a live video stream. This provides additional information to call-takers and paramedics about the patient’s physical wellbeing and location.
In the context of the novel coronavirus, Carbyne’s platform ensures effective communication while complying with widespread lockdowns. In their own words, “Carbyne’s platform can be deployed immediately and seamlessly to remotely evaluate and map coronavirus patients, as well as those quarantined, thus reducing the risk of exposure and minimizing the spreading of the virus.”
Another company utilizing telemedicine technology to ease the burden of social distancing is AngelEye Health. The clinical communication platform allows families to keep an eye on their newborn baby while being cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
AngelEye’s solution has always provided parents reassurance by connecting them with a 24/7 feed and updates on their baby’s status. But with recent restrictions to hospital visitations, the platform has helped assuage the disruptions of COVID-19. When new mothers and fathers can’t physically be with their newborn child, AngelEye delivers the next best alternative.
The Legacy of COVID-19 on Streaming-Enabled Interactions
For both Carbyne and AngelEye, Wowza provides the secure, reliable, low-latency streaming infrastructure that today’s reality demands. We look forward to powering all of the innovative ways that businesses will solve for this ongoing crisis with live video — ranging from smart city infrastructure to mission-critical medical streaming technology.
Interactivity used to be a nice-to-have. But transforming passive viewership into immersive experiences will be critical as we continue to move exchanges and events online. For retail, interactive shopping fueled by live video is expected to surge. Likewise, the sports industry would be wise to go beyond standard broadcasts by bringing aspects of the in-stadium experience to viewers.
The COVID-19 outbreak has demonstrated just how essential interactive video technologies are to business continuity. And it will continue to influence consumer behaviors for many years to come.