4K will really take off once its mobile and broadband ecosystem really developes

by on November 20, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – November 20, 2014

4K ultra HD resolution is developing very quickly as its popularity grows and as more TVs, PC displays, cameras and hopefully soon even mobile devices are designed with the resolution built into them.

Already, the worldwide market penetration of 4K TV displays is approaching 10% and the same upward trend is being seen in video camera technology as well. Even many of the higher end smartphones being sold today come with their own 4K video cameras built into them.

The problem however, and one of the big deterrents to wider development of 4K resolution as a whole, is that the overall technological ecosystem for creating, sharing and moving the digital content generation in this resolution does not yet really exist.

Parts of it are definitely in place but there are still huge gaps everywhere. Movies filmed in 4K on professional, amateur or even smartphone cameras can’t easily be uploaded to a PC for sharing on the web without the use of a hardline connection like HDMI 2.0 or Display Port 1.2, which many devices don’t yet have, and this is just one example.

Even when 4K content reaches a web connected device, sharing it to another device via the internet is difficult thanks to the insufficient speed of most internet connections. Furthermore, there are the problems of running 4K visual displays on many devices. Ultra HD TVs have managed to do okay in this regard but PCs with 4K monitors still face many problems in properly rendering anything that involves both really rapid movement and high degrees of visual detail, games being a notable example.

For 4K screens on mobile devices, expected to arrive sometime in early to mid-2015, the problems of processing and battery drainage for displaying 4K visuals are even larger.

This is where a major argument being made by processing chip maker Qualcomm comes into the picture.

According to the company, the real revolution with 4K will come when the resolution is empowered by an entire well connected ecosystem of associated digital technologies.

According to Qualcomm Technologies Co-president Murthy Renduchintala –referring specifically to 4K smartphone screens in this case, “Concepts are going to drive it [4K resolution]. It’s not going to be the phone screen that’s going to be the promoting factor in 4K. It’s going to be what you want to do with the data that’s captured on your phone in 4K and what you want to do with distributing data”.

One of the fundamental factors in building this ecosystem is having the right amount of memory for simply storing 4K videos on a device such as a video camera or a smart phone camera. Given that these devices –particularly smart phone cameras—are expected to be the driving force behind the proliferation of “amateur” 4K video content on the web, their memory capacities and the ability of the devices themselves to move video to those memory storage media quickly will become crucial.

For example, many of the latest phones still have only about 16 GB of internal memory or SD storage; when a video is being shot with 8 million pixels in each frame of its video sequence on these devices, then that memory is simply not going to be enough.

One of the bigger problems facing 4K video in mobile devices and small cameras is the need for larger, faster internal memory

One of the bigger problems facing 4K video in mobile devices and small cameras is the need for larger, faster internal memory

Then there are the problems of bandwidth. So far, WiFi simply isn’t powerful enough for easy wireless transmission of UHD video shot on a phone or camera to the wider web or network through a home-based network. Because of this Wi Fi technology itself will have to change over to something more powerful with a better capacity for transmitting data.

The same issue applies to the wider web itself. Internet connectivity will have to evolve to a point where most homes and offices gain access to enough bandwidth for any 4K video content to be easily streamed and watched without massive delays.

This is already mostly possible with HD but 1080p HD didn’t really proliferate on the web until bandwidth became strong enough to handle it in most locations. The same will apply to ultra HD but on an even more bandwidth intensive scale.

As Qualcomm itself is arguing, these issues will need to be resolved and as a result a whole easy to use ecosystem formed, before 4K can really expand outward from a major starting point among UHD enabled mobile devices.

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