BSO/Origin, software and services arm of the Utrecht, Netherlands-based BSO/Beheer BV, has provided the technical might behind John Bentley’s television home shopping service Viewcall (CI No 2,704). This newly-launched service will provide interactive shopping and community services via an ordinary telephone line and television set, and therefore, the company claims its service is commercially available, […]
BSO/Origin, software and services arm of the Utrecht, Netherlands-based BSO/Beheer BV, has provided the technical might behind John Bentley’s television home shopping service Viewcall (CI No 2,704). This newly-launched service will provide interactive shopping and community services via an ordinary telephone line and television set, and therefore, the company claims its service is commercially available, unlike other interactive television offerings that are still being trialled. The service will use still pictures rather than video, with simple operation from a television-style remote control unit, and it is aimed at the ordinary, non computer-literate home user. John Bentley, Viewcall chairman said the service was not video-on-demand since the public would have more movies than it could handle shortly on digital television. Our aim is to reduce everyday chores and provide convenience and cost savings to the public with emphasis on local services in particular, said Bentley. He cited shopping, local news and events, travel timetables, sport, public service information and home banking as typical uses. Viewcall will also provide a simple front-end into the Internet, for uses such as electronic mail, betting, dating, competitions and games.
Played over the Internet
Bentley was particularly impressed that bridge can be played over the Internet with people all round the world. Origin was responsible for the technical development of the project, including advising on the technology to be used and signing up suppliers such as On-line Media Ltd, which is supplying specially adapted set-top boxes that plug directly into a telephone socket. Viewcall will use fractal compression, for which it holds the exclusive UK licence from Walzer Corp, to transmit high quality pictures into the home. Origin said it has fractal compression expertise in its Cambridge software centre and it recommended the use of this technology because it enables the transmission of sharp, detailed images such as fashion photographs, to Viewcall customers. Fractal compression takes advantage of the self-similarity within images, to achieve high compression ratios while maintaining picture quality. Origin said it has addressed the problem of data security by using a system from RSA Data Security Inc called Se cure Sockets Layer, which sits above TCP/IP and uses a public and private key encryption method. The user gives out his public key code, but not his private key code, and both are necessary to access sensitive data. The company said the method, which is also being used for mobile phone security in the US, was so secure that the US government didn’t like it. For the pilot of the service, due towards the end of the year in 1,000 households, the units will offer a variety of options including CD-ROM for games, printers for bookings and facsimile use, and a special, remote Qwerty keyboard, for sending electronic mail. Viewcall expects the service to be widely available in about six months and is talking to content providers. It has already announced its co-operation with mail order company Great Universal Stores Plc, to provide a national on-line shopping mall, and hopes to have local authorities offer municipal information services.