While putting the final touches on his technology and awaiting patent approval, Raj Karamchedu is dreaming of the day he can walk into a Starbucks and see a sticker on the door that not only says, “Wi-Fi Available,” but also “Wiflow TV Available.”
Karamchedu is the founder of Wiflow TV — a small Silicon Valley-based company that has developed a technology that can deliver the legacy ATSC broadcast television signal to all consumer devices, including TVs, smartphones and tablets. Wiflow’s technology uses one to four wireless mini-antennas that deliver a beefed-up signal to a TV or mobile device through Wi-Fi. As a result, in-home reception can become as strong as having a 30-foot antenna installed atop a roof. The technology also allows the ATSC — not the mobile DTV — signal to be broadcast in cars potentially traveling as fast as 65 mph.
The company wants to put a full working solution by year’s end and is now actively looking for funding, specifically from some familiar organizations to the broadcast community: The Mobile500 Alliance and Dyle, the two companies behind today’s mobile DTV efforts.
“Mobile500 and Dyle should buy us out, give us about a year and we’ll get them going,” says Karamchedu. “Let’s say that about 20,000 people have downloaded the Dyle app on their phone today. If they work with us, we’ll make the entire United States access that app.”
A traditional OTA TV model grabs the signal from a broadcast tower using an antenna, feeds it into a TV’s ATSC tuner, then demodulates that signal to the picture that shows up on the screen. Wiflow takes a slightly different approach.
The ATSC signal comes in and is tuned inside two to four Mini Wiflows that consist of an antenna, ATSC tuner and Wi-Fi transmitter. The Mini Wiflows, which users scatter around their home, are no bigger than an average wallet. Once decoded, the signals are sent to main box called the Max Wiflow, which bonds together the multiple signals into one strong signal. The Max Wiflow can then be hooked up to a TV’s antenna or HDMI jack to play OTA live TV programming, or it could be played wirelessly if the user has a smart TV.
That’s where Wiflow TV needs some help from consumer manufacturers.
An app could be developed for smart TVs (TVs that are Internet-ready) or over-the-top devices, like a Roku or Apple TV, that would detect that signal and play the live signal. The same goes for smartphones and tablets. Karamchedu says developing an app, or putting their technology on an existing app, such as Dyle’s or Elgato’s mobile DTV app, would be easy to do.
Those same antennas can be installed in a car, allowing passengers to watch OTA TV at potential speeds of 65 mph. Karamchedu says he has successfully tested the technology at 45 mph. The video below shows the ATSC signal being broadcast into a car driving down the Las Vegas strip:
And just like mobile DTV, which currently requires a dongle, Wiflow TV doesn’t use data to obtain a signal. It does, however, require those antennas and main receiving box to be nearby.
Karamchedu says a company like Starbucks, that already offers free Wi-Fi, could add even more value to its business by installing a few antennas and a Wiflow TV box that could simultaneously send out a wireless Internet and TV signal. In Karamchedu’s perfect world, entire city blocks would have antennas scattered throughout, allowing a user to walk around watching TV without losing a signal.
With a pending spectrum auction coming up that aims to sell off broadcast spectrum to the wireless industry, Karamchedu says his company’s technology would be a huge win for broadcasters and show the true value of their spectrum.
“Broadcasters have a lot more interesting data and content then the Verizons and AT&Ts of the world,” says Karamchedu. “This is a big positive in favor of broadcasters. They now have this big stick in their hand to show why they are the best suitable people to manage the spectrum, deliver content on the spectrum, so I will not be surprised if the tide turns the other way.”