Gadgets
Skifta Streaming App Enables Media Shifting—and now Connected Home?
Qualcomm looks to expand streaming application beyond smartphones.
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February 17, 2012 by Steven Castle

You’ve heard of “time shifting” with TiVos and DVRs—and now there’s “media shifting,” which consists of streaming content like music, video and photos from one device to another.

Media shifting is also a big part of Qualcomm’s Skifta streaming app—as well as the company’s vision for the connected home, which may start with a streaming audio system adapter for older stereo systems.

The free Skifta app is available for Android-based phones using Android 2.2 and up—sorry, no iPhones yet. Skifta can shift music, photos or video content from the phone or a PC/Mac to a networked audio system or TV, for example, via DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) and UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) protocols. The audio system or TV just needs to be DLNA-certified and attached to a network to receive the stream. DLNA works over Wi-Fi, Ethernet and powerline.

So if you want to share your phone’s photos with someone, you can stream them to a TV. Or you could stream your music from a PC to your music system—or even to someone else’s music system through Skifta’s cloud service.

A Shifting Media Platform

Since its introduction last year, Skifta’s downloads have totaled 630,000, says Gary Brotman, director of product marketing—and Qualcomm is looking beyond Skifta’s use as a handheld application. The company is working on audio and video modules that can be built into components like receivers and set-top boxes. Skifta is already available on Netgear’s ReadyNAS Ultra family of Network Attached Storage devices.

With modules and a design for an external audio adapter, Skifta looks to add premium content from online music services like Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, Slacker and the like. The Skifta app already has 10 content channels including Picassa, Facebook, Flickr and Shoutcast. You can add customized content like podcasts via RSS feeds. Premium content for video modules could include Netflix, Hulu and Vevo.

The audio adapter will be a reference design and is intended for those who have older audio systems without features like DLNA, and which they don’t want to replace.

We should also start seeing some phones come with Skifta preloaded, or the app branded under the phone or carrier’s name.

Brotman says a Dropbox channel will also be ready in next two to four weeks to provide a cloud storage option that will improve latency and opens the bottleneck that exists with uploading content over broadband from a home (as upload speeds are slower). Phone companies could also have custom content channels on Skifta for education, tutorials or promotions.

Skifta can stream HD video, though through the cloud that can still be a challenge. Skifta may also change from using the phone as a go-between to using the phone as a controller only and for streams to go directly from a PC to TV, for example.

“We see the potential of this as a platform that finds its way into all devices in the connected home,” Brotman says. “We can bring in other smart home features to make the smart home less complex and more user friendly.”

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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