Israel is no stranger to the Emmy Awards, the honors given out to TV shows, actors, and writers for outstanding performances and ideas – and this year, the tradition will remain alive; Israelis will once again get an Emmy at this year’s awards on January 8.
That it’s one of those Emmys that are given out during the part of the show when no one is watching, at about 2:00 in the morning, is of no consequence; the truth is that without the video technology innovations of the winners, Hod Hasharon-based Valens, modern television broadcasting would be a lot harder to manage than it is now.
“The HDbaseT cable protocol we invented and popularized allows the transmission of high-quality uncompressed video, electricity, USB power, and just about everything else on a single cable of up to 100 meters, and that efficiency and neatness has made HDBaseT very popular in the TV business,” said Valens senior vice-president Micha Risling. “Just imagine how much messier TV studios would be without it.”
The TV industry doesn’t want to know – and it’s gladly handing over a 2015 Technical / Engineering Achievement Award to Valens for Development and Standardization of HDBaseT Connectivity Technology for Commercial and Residential HDMI/DVI Installations, according to the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. “One of the reasons for the exciting growth of our industry can be attributed to what these talented and innovative companies have achieved,” said Academy President Bob Mauro of Valens. “Their unrelenting passion in pushing the boundaries of what television can be continues to surprise and inspire us and we salute their efforts with this well-deserved recognition.”
An international alliance
The Valens story is not just one of technical achievement – it has an international relations aspect as well. “HDBaseT isn’t just Valens,” said Risling. “It’s an entire world alliance that works together to promote the standard.” Valens has gathered over 150 of the world’s largest electronics, video, networking, software, and cable companies into a single group, the HDaseT Alliance, which “promote and standardizes HDBaseT technology for whole-home and commercial distribution of uncompressed HD multimedia,” according to the group.
The Alliance, said Risling, isn’t just a letterhead with a bunch of names on it. “It costs money to join and be a part of it, so any company that is in the Alliance is definitely actively interested in HDBaseT.” Recently, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) adopted HDBaseT as a standard as well, and that, too, is a singular accomplishment, because “they usually develop their own standards for things like this,” said Risling.
The reason HDBaseT is so popular – and why Valens was pegged for an Emmy – is because without it, modern video production would be much harder, if not impossible, said Risling. “Today, the standard for video production is 4K (4000 pixels horizontal resolution), which is high definition. Most of the cables that can transmit HD video are limited to just a few meters in length; longer ones are very expensive. So a studio ends up spending a great deal of money on cables.”
Or, studios – as well as businesses, offices that do videoconferencing, and even high-end home theaters – can use equipment with chips made by Valens that support HDBaseT. A fabless chipmaker, Valens packs the support for transmission of power, uncompressed video, Ethernet networking, audio, infrared, USB and control signals through commonly available CAT-6 networking cables – up to 100 meters in length, and with the full video resolution available today. “And the system will work when they finally perfect 8K video, which is the next broadcast standard,” said Risling.
Another reason Hollywood likes HDBaseT is because it supports HDCP, High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection, a copy protection scheme to eliminate the possibility of intercepting digital data midstream between the source to the display. “You cannot share HD content unless it is HDCP protected,” said Risling. “HDBaseT is one of the few technologies in the wold approved for this.”
Established in 2006, Valens perfected and started selling HDBaseT in 2009 – and since then has shipped millions of chips, with its technology protected by over 50 patents. Nowadays, the members of the Alliance – which include as founding members companies like Sony, Samsung, and LG, and counts among its members just about every major electronics, cable, and networking firm out there – do the heavy lifting for HDBaseT, designing products that support the protocol, and all buying chips from Valens. At the beginning, though, it wasn’t so easy – Valens salespeople had to sell customers on the idea of a new standard that would require them to acquire chips to support it from a single vendor exclusively.
“Obviously it took a lot of convincing on our part to get them to adopt this, but there really is no other solution like HDBaseT available,” said Risling. Currently used mostly in high-end video production, Valens plans to expand to other areas, like high-end home entertainment, digital signage, and other areas.
“I see Valens and HDBaseT as an authentic Israeli success story,” said Risling. “We’re a relatively small company of 200 people, most of them in Israel, and we were able to invent a new technology and get it adopted by some of the biggest companies in the world, making it the standard in the industry. I don’t know how many other start-ups in Israel, or anywhere else for that matter, can make that claim.”