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Technology Roadmaps

Archived - Canadian Digital Media Content Creation TRM (Phase 1) — Executive Summary

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Prepared by the Centre for Public Management Inc. For the Cultural Human Resources Council

January 2009

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

This project is funded by the Government of Canada's Sector Council Program and Industry Canada.


In a dynamic environment of global competition, demographic change, and migration, Canada's culture sector plays a critical role in attracting people, businesses, and investment; stimulating creativity and innovation; and distinguishing Canada as an exciting place where people can celebrate their heritage and achieve personal and professional fulfillment. Use of the Internet, digital technologies, and mobile devices has grown exponentially over the past decade, serving as a major driver for growth within the sector, and also influencing consumer dynamics and business models.

Valuing Arts and Culture as Cornerstones of the Creative Economy 
Conference Board of Canada, August 2008 

In this period of economic sea change, it makes sense to invest in future infrastructure (e.g., symmetrical broadband) and the new skills needed to compete in an increasingly digital economy. This document provides a roadmap for industry and public commitments by governments at all levels to spending on infrastructure and training to help stimulate the economy through investment in the promise and potential of Canada's digital media industry.

Executive Summary

This document presents the results from Phase 1 of a Technology Roadmap (TRM) process for Digital Media Content Creation (DMCC) in Canada. The objectives of Phase 1 of the DMCC TRM were to identify a set of high priority technology projects that would assist Canadian Digital Media content creators in meeting future market demands; and to identify related skills development issues and how they could be addressed.

The following summarizes the technology projects and skills development projects identified in Phase 1 of the TRM.

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Technology Projects

Infrastructure

  1. Open, fast, and affordable networks/access with Quality of Service

    The industry requires a faster network in order to effectively collaborate among content creators and deliver content to users as it is intended to be presented. Ideally the network will operate at 100 GB. This will require a change in policy among the telecommunications networks that currently run the networks and a major investment in the networks' infrastructure (i.e. upgraded switches). Furthermore, the new networks need to have reliable Quality of Service algorithms to ensure that users are experiencing the content as the content creator intended it to be experienced. The policies that would oversee this new network could be modeled after other International Standards.
  2. Tools for compression to optimize bandwidth use

    New tools are required to compress large amounts of content, particularly for video, in order to deliver this content to users in an efficient manner. The lack of fiber optic infrastructure necessitates enhanced compression tools. These tools will help optimize the bandwidth available in non-fiber optic networks to deliver content to end-users. These new tools must be reliable and fast in order to ensure high Quality of Service at the user's end. More specifically, the tools would have to consist of compression software and decompression software. The compression software is used at the upload side and the decompression software would have to be delivered and pre-installed on the end-user's devices. Another alternative would be to develop an open source initiative, instead of a proprietary software, that would define new video codec and software. The advantage of this latter approach would be a higher and faster rate of adoption and it would position Canadians as lead players and partners in this field. The business model would then be to sell services and expertise for implementation, adapted hardware or business and research partnerships.

Collaborative Environment Technologies

  1. Collaborative creation network environments and tools

    Based on concepts modeled by Montreal's Society for Arts and Technology and the Interactive Canada proposal, create a pan-Canadian network of "digital urban hubs" that will become a supportive mesh for pioneering efforts in creative, investigative and instructive collaboration.

    These interconnected urban hubs will be open and evolving platforms, consisting of leading-edge software (mostly open source), digital technology and resources for the creation, diffusion and distribution of interactive digital cultural content in a "fast-forward microcosm" of the rapidly evolving global digital environment. They will be a springboard for Canadian entrepreneurs, artists, producers and researchers to develop new content and methods to compete in the world of the future.

    The urban hubs will function as "interfaces" between physical geographical space and networked virtual space. This interface will offer access to talent, knowledge, and the capability to create and distribute digital cultural content, through:

    • Large, multi-purpose performance spaces ("eSpaces"),
    • High quality, high speed IP connectivity,
    • Technological and logistic support for explorations, experiments and cultural events,
    • Access to a network of partnerships and collaborations with universities, colleges and research centres in Canada and the world.

    A secondary and closely related component of this project would involve developing a virtual learning environment for content creators to learn commercialization experientially and be mentored by successful practitioners. This can leverage technologies such as broadband telepresence, artificial intelligence, and serious games.

    Manifestations of this environment could be:

    • An immersive virtual trade show with simulations of sales and development negotiations,
    • Virtual commercialization "institutes" and conferences to bring creators together without travel,
    • Live multipoint broadcasts to celebrate achievements on National Digital Media Day.
    • This environment can be built incrementally.
  2. Mobile network and device technologies to distribute, create, and present content/services (Open Network)

    Uniform standards and a supporting engine are required so that content can be utilized across all platforms. This will help content creators reach a larger audience. Development of the standards will have to involve a collaborative process that includes major Digital Media industry members, platform developers, and others.

    A supporting engine is required that will be used to decipher and convert the standardized data for each platform configuration. The engine would likely have to reside on every platform to ensure the standards are fully supported. This will require support and buy-in from platform developers. This project expands on some of the successful work conducted by Mobile MUSE. Just as Mobile MUSE has created an open mobile platform for developers to use as a test bed for emerging mobile applications, this project will expand that work to multiple media.

  3. Digital Media Usability Research Network

    Access to state of the art usability testing facilities and research results in the Digital Media industry is currently limited to major multinational industrial players whose work is commercially driven. This project opens up access to both usability facilities and research results to the full range of potential Canadian stakeholders in Digital Media content creation. The project creates a pan-Canadian network to conduct research into Digital Media usability testing that is cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional and collaborative between academia and industry.

    The makeup of the network is designed to optimize available resources and expertise. The Digital Media Usability Research Network will involve four or five academic institutions across the country with research interests in such areas as video game design, computer science, neuroimaging, psychology, marketing, education and the like. Researchers will undertake major collaborative research efforts to tackle such questions as: How do various types of video games affect cognitive development? What is the most effective way to embed marketing messages in a digital media experience? How can interactive media products be optimized to maximize user engagement? Such a network will also be able to provide services to individual companies seeking assistance to design, test, refine and validate individual products.

Commercialization Technologies

  1. Centralized interoperable mechanism for micro-transactions

    Micro-transactions on multiple platforms, be it online games, mobile applications or just-in-time training products, are a massively growing revenue stream for interactive media products and services. Micro-transactions are digital products, services and assets that can be purchased by the user for a very minimal cost, usually under a dollar. This type of sale through digital media products, applications and services is often amounting to millions of dollars a month of potential revenue. Facilitating these micro-transactions is cumbersome and costly. While the consumer demand for micro-transaction based purchases grows at a significant rate, companies, especially young and emerging applications, struggle to capture the associated revenue. A uniform, open system that enables micro-transaction capturing across multiple platforms will not only address this significant challenge, but position Canada as a true leader in solving a universal payment processing problem.

    This project proposes the development of an open, multi-platform payment processing system that will enable content creators to sell creations, add-ons, and upgrades directly to users.

    Secure server technology and standards related to currency and data transmission and handling will have to be developed. This will require a collaborative standards development process that should include major Digital Media industry members and financial services companies.

Skills Development Projects

Table 1: Skills Development Projects
Technology Projects Skills Development Projects
Open, fast, and affordable physical and mobile networks/access with Quality of Service CHRC will need to track employers' labour needs and content creators' training needs in relation to the introduction of the new networks. CHRC will work with employers to address labour shortages through, for example, recruitment initiatives; and with workers to address skills shortages through, for example, development of training material.
Tools for compression to optimize bandwidth use Once the project is in beta testing, the CHRC will work closely with the development team to help develop training materials on the new tools; and support training to content creators on the new tool.
Collaborative creation network environments and tools

CHRC should develop training materials related to commercialization. This could include material on developing a business plan, go-to-market strategies, and business "pitch" strategies. CHRC will also work with the development team to determine the most effective delivery mechanisms to deliver the commercialization training materials. The delivery mechanism could impact how the material should be constructed and presented.

Once the project is in beta testing, the CHRC will work more closely with the development team to help develop training materials on the new tools.

The training materials should be reviewed and tested by content creators to gain feedback on their usefulness. Changes should be made as needed.

CHRC should enable the provision of training to content creators on the new tools and continuously research and update the training materials related to commercialization.

Mobile network and device technologies to distribute, create, and present content/services (open network) The development of new standards will be required for this project. This could also lead to the development of new applications to create and present content on mobile devices. The CHRC will have to stay up to date on the progress of these standards (and any new applications) and it will actively communicate this progress to content creators. More specifically, the CHRC could communicate to content creators how these standards impact them and what opportunities they may present.
Centralized interoperable mechanisms for microtransactions CHRC will also develop training tools in commercialization for Digital Media content creators and producers to learn how to commercialize their goods and services; and on how to utilize the micro-transaction mechanism.
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Other HR initiatives

  • Incentives for hiring newly graduated post-secondary students from Digital Media related courses of study, to offset some of the costs involved in training and mentoring new graduates who lack job-experience.
  • Support for internships to provide on-the-job training for emerging Digital Media content creators from education to the workplace.
  • Funding to encourage enrollment in retraining programs to help transition individuals from previous work to a career in Digital Media content creation.
  • Programming to attract internationally renowned researchers and academics in Digital Media to conduct their research in Canada.
  • Strategies for retaining Canadian-trained Digital Media workers, that are not now included under the NAFTA Professionals Category system of labour mobility. This category grants qualified applicants a one-year work term in NAFTA nations.
  • Facilitating access to foreign workers in Digital Media content creation, and easing the mechanisms for hiring them.
  • Matchmaking-mentoring programs to support collaboration between companies of different scales with varied capacities to enable intensified collaboration as well as mentoring.
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A National Digital Media Strategy

Parallel to the technology projects identified above, an overarching strategic framework needs to be developed to guide the policies, program development and regulations that affect Digital Media to ensure that they are coordinated and complementary to enable maximum growth of the industry. A National Digital Media Strategy should be adopted to this end.

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Next Steps

The steps to launch Phase 2 of the TRM are to:

  • Establish an Implementation Committee with a clear communications strategy to approach and enlist collaborators. This should be led jointly by CHRC and CIAIC; operating funding for the Implementation Committee should come from HRSDC and Industry Canada.
  • Prioritize the projects identified in the DMCC TRM as short term, medium term and long term.
  • Define the objectives, expectations, funding, workplan, and milestones for the short term projects. Each project will have its own "project management" node that will encourage momentum, collaboration, information sharing and accountability.