The Best Way to Avoid Buffering

The Best Way to Avoid Buffering


A new neural network AI from MIT CSAIL has been making headlines recently for using machine learning to solve some issues associated with buffering. We’ve all experienced buffering before, either in the form of pixilation, long wait times while loading a video or audio file, and everyone’s favorite nemesis: the spinning pinwheel of death. Buffering occurs because it’s impossible for your computer (or TV) to receive data all in one lump for immediate playback. Therefore, data is broken up into smaller packets and sent to its destination, sequentially. So while you’re enjoying your favorite Spotify playlist played to wireless speakers throughout your home, or streaming the latest episode of Game of Thrones in your living room, your entertainment media will always be sent bit by bit. If all goes well, you’ll never notice this is even happening. But more often than not, you’ll experience some sort of indication of file buffering. If there isn’t enough bandwidth, you’ll either experience pixilation, longer buffering times, or drop outs because your network can’t transmit data fast enough to maintain a sufficient “buffer.”


Essentially, what MIT CSAIL’s AI, dubbed the “Pensieve” neural network, does is use machine learning to switch between pixilation and buffering so your videos aren’t over buffering when they don’t need to, or pixelating when they don’t need to. According to MIT, the neural network will tune itself over time based on a system of rewards and penalties, allowing streaming services to customise this for their content—with priorities for buffering or resolution. If the streaming service is able to predict that a user watching a video on a handheld device is about to walk into a poor connectivity area, the system will be able to reduce the streaming resolution sufficiently, creating enough of a buffer for (potentially) stutter-free streaming (livemint). This is all fine and good, but it’s essentially like putting a Band-Aid on a festering wound: it may cover up the problem, but it by no way solves the underlying issue.


The real problem with buffering lies with your WiFi network. Conventional WiFi runs on TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), designed in the 1960’s for transferring files down wired Ethernet lines – certainly not for streaming real-time video and wireless audio throughout the Smart Home. (For more information on the shortcomings of TCP, check out this blog post). As long as your WiFi runs on this outdated protocol, it doesn’t matter what techniques are being innovated to combat the annoyance of buffering – the cause of the issue still needs to be addressed, not the symptoms.


Blackfire Research understands this. That is why we developed Real-Time Packet Management (RPM), the Blackfire Research solution to buffering. For whole home, wireless audio, RPM uses a special multipoint, real-time feedback signal from each speaker to monitor the effects of noise on the audio data stream, allowing for a much shorter queue and much less buffering. RPM is part of the Blackfire Realtime Entertainment Distribution (RED) framework, a revolutionary new protocol designed to stream both HD 5.1 audio and 4K video, simultaneously, across multiple devices around your home- all over the standard WiFi – with precise synchronization, low latency for lip sync, and overall reliability.


RPM can be found in any Blackfire powered device. Partnering with Blackfire Research means you’re ahead of the pack, and most of all, one step closer to defeating your nemesis: that darn spinning pinwheel of death.

Apple kills the iPod Nano and Shuffle. So, what’s next?

Apple kills the iPod Nano and Shuffle. So, what’s next?


With the announcement in late July that Apple is officially retiring the iPod Nano and the iPod Shuffle (the last of the pre iPhone iPods) we can safely say that “video killed the radio star” or rather, the rise of online/app-based streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music, have essentially wiped out the need for music file downloading on portable devices (and the products that were designed for that sole purpose.) When the iPod debuted in 2001, Steve Jobs promised 1,000 songs in your pocket. Today, through streaming, you can play almost any song in existence, instantaneously and fairly cheaply, without bogging down your smartphone or tablet’s storage. Thus, it’s not surprising that Apple is finally saying goodbye to the standalone MP3 player (although it does pierce a knife right into the heart of my childhood.)


With online/app-based streaming swiftly becoming the norm, home A/V and speaker manufacturers are adapting as well by offering products with built-in streaming services like Spotify Connect and Chromecast built-in, allowing music lovers to stream their music wirelessly from their phone or tablet to their speakers. But this shift comes at a price because they are exposing major flaws, not just in their products, but in the wireless protocols their products are built on.


Conventional Wi-Fi runs on TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) which was designed in the 1960’s for transferring files down wired Ethernet lines, not streaming real-time, wireless, audio. Unfortunately, most products out today that boast wireless streaming capabilities still use these outdated protocols and therefore, can’t properly support wireless streaming.


This has posed a huge problem for manufacturers who want to stay on trend, but are unwilling to invest in new, wireless infrastructures. As we’ve seen with Apple’s retirement of standalone MP3 players, products that support app-based streaming are the future. And yet, manufacturers continue to release products that are fundamentally unable to support the future of wireless home entertainment.


So what can be done? Well, Blackfire Research has an answer for that.


It’s called the Blackfire Realtime Entertainment Distribution (RED) framework, and it’s the industry’s only wireless and entertainment-centric infrastructure software framework built from the ground up to both overcome the limitations of Wi-Fi and meet the needs of wireless, entertainment-related apps and products. Top global audio brands, such as Harman Kardon, Onkyo, Pioneer, and Integra have already licensed the Blackfire RED framework, and are currently shipping products that leverage its capabilities: reliable multi-room, multi-channel, low latency, wireless audio and video over Wi-Fi. With the Blackfire RED framework in products such as home A/V systems, wireless speakers, smartphones, and TVs, home owners can finally become Smart Home owners – enjoying all of their digital streaming services wirelessly, synchronously and seamlessly throughout the home.

With the original iPod, you could carry 1,000 songs in your pocket. Today, the Spotify song collection alone boasts over 30 million. We’ve been adding more and more music into our pockets, but after all this time, we’re still trying to figure out how best to get it out.

Re-Broadcasting Spotify Connect Throughout Your Home With The New Harman Kardon Omni+ Speakers

Re-Broadcasting Spotify Connect Throughout Your Home With The New Harman Kardon Omni+ Speakers


Blackfire Research partner, Harman Kardon, recently released an updated version of their Omni Wireless Speakers, which they are calling The Omni+ Series. Like the first generation, the new series features the same lightweight, portable design of the Omni 10 and Omni 20, but this time, they’re trading in the glossy exterior for a more sophisticated matte finish (in both black and white.) Additionally, Harman Kardon has added another speaker to the series: The Omni 50+, a wireless HD indoor/outdoor speaker with a rechargeable battery, perfect for your next backyard BBQ. And of course, all speakers in The Omni+ Series feature Blackfire wireless multiroom technology built-in, so your favorite song can follow you from room to room.


One of the most exciting updates in the Harman/Kardon Omni+ Series is the addition of built-in Spotify Connect which lets you play your Spotify library through the Omni+ wireless speakers directly from the internet – freeing up your phone to take calls and do other things. But what if you have one or more of the first generation Omni wireless speakers and want to play music from your Spotify account throughout your home? With the addition of one or more Omni+ wireless speakers to your home, re-broadcasting Spotify Connect to your existing Omni collection is as easy as pressing a button. Literally.


Whether you have an Omni 10, an Omni 20, or Adapt, the process will be exactly the same. After you add any speaker from the Omni+ Series to your collection, initiate normal setup (make sure you have the latest version of the Harman/Kardon App first):

  1. Place the speaker in your desired location
  2. Connect it to a power source
  3. Open the Harman/Kardon app and follow the easy setup instructions
  4. Make sure you have added the new speaker to the same Wi-Fi network as your other speaker(s) and your source device(s)


Now that you have chosen a location, a name, and the correct network for the new speaker, you can begin to re-broadcast Spotify Connect throughout your home!

  1. With all your Omni and Omni+ wireless speakers on and connected to the same Wi-Fi network, open the Spotify App from your phone, tablet, or desktop
  2. With the Spotify App open, click on “Devices Available” at the bottom of the pageHarman Kardon
  3. Find the name you’ve given to your new Omni+ Wireless Speaker on the list of available devices. Since the Omni+ speakers all have Spotify Connect built-in, it will show up as an available device on the Spotify App automatically
  4. Choose your Omni+ Speaker from the list as your playback device
  5. Test the connection by choosing a song to play from your Spotify account – music should now be playing from your new Omni+ speaker


While music plays from your new Omni+ speaker, you have two options of how to re-broadcast Spotify Connect from you Omni+ speaker to your Omni speaker(s). You can either:


Press and hold down the “Slash Button” on the top of your Omni+ speaker until all of the Omni speakers in your collection start playing the same song




Press the “Slash Button” on each individual Omni speaker so you can control which specific speaker(s) to re-broadcast to (in case you don’t want to re-broadcast Spotify Connect to all of your wireless speakers.)


These same steps apply if you want to stop re-broadcasting Spotify Connect to your Omni speakers: simply press and hold down the “Slash Button” on your Omni+ speaker, or, press the “Slash Button” on each individual Omni speaker to stop the re-broadcasting.


And that’s it! Re-broadcasting Spotify Connect from an Omni+ Wireless Speaker to your first generation Omni collection is as easy as pressing a button. Now you can enjoy music from your Spotify account played from any speaker, throughout your entire home. Did someone say “Party?”

Bay Area Concert Buzz: July-August

Bay Area Concert Buzz: July-August


On Saturday July 22, the hugely successful and highly acclaimed hip-hop duo, Run the Jewels, are taking the stage at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. In the wake of their third album, “Run the Jewels 3,” they’ve been selling out venues and headlining summer music festivals. With their political lyrics, they’re widely viewed as the future of hip-hop. For ticket information, click here.

On Sunday July 30, legendary folk rock singer, Neil Diamond, will be performing at San Jose’s SAP Center as part of his 50th Anniversary World Tour. Presented by Live Nation, the world tour is in celebration of the artist’s astonishing career: from selling over 125 million albums worldwide, to multiple Grammy wins and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Neil Diamond and his music has helped shape the American landscape over the past half century. For more information, check out this link.


The Band Perry will be coming to the Bay Area and performing at two different outdoor venues this summer. The first, at Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Tuesday August 1st; and the second, at Wente Vineyards in Livermore on August 3rd. Both venues will serve as a perfect background for an evening with the unstoppable pop-country trio. Their popularity and massive industry success leaves other country stars shaking in their cowboy boots.


At the Oracle Arena in Oakland on Friday August 4th, the most talented and sought-after rapper in the business, Kendrick Lamar, will be gracing the stage to what is sure to be a spectacular night of hip-hop. Lamar is coming to the Bay as part of THE DAMN. TOUR, celebrating his latest album, which went straight to No. 1 and was certified platinum. For more ticket information, click here. And check out my review of DAMN. here.


Finally, Hans Zimmer, the Academy Award winning composer behind over 150 film scores including “The Lion King,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Pirates of the Caribbean” series and “Inception” has been on tour this year. To the surprise and delight of many music and movie fans, he was even a headliner this year at the largest summer music festival, Coachella. Now, Zimmer is scheduled to take on the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on Wednesday, August 9th. Get your tickets now before they sell out! And don’t forget to bring some popcorn.


What concerts or events are you most excited for in July and August? Comment below!