Sony upgrades LocationFree platform

Sony is upgrading its LocationFree platform with more efficient video compression and a receiver add-on for televisions.

Sony is upgrading its LocationFree platform with more efficient video compression and a receiver add-on for televisions.

The upgrade comes a year after Sony last introduced a new base station and should mean better video images for users, the company said Wednesday.

The LocationFree platform allows streaming of a live video and audio signal from a base station to client devices such as computers and the PlayStation Portable games device. Streaming to local devices can be done via wireless LAN while a connection to the Internet allows video and audio to be streamed to remote clients anywhere in the world as long as they are connected to the Internet via broadband. The system is promoted as a way to watch local TV or other content from home when travelling.

With the launch of the new base station, the LF-PK20, Sony will begin the MPEG4 AVC compression system. This is more efficient than the MPEG2 and MPEG4 systems used in the current devices and should mean that a better quality image can be transmitted across slower Internet connections.

Sony said the new system will work on connections as slow as around 200k bps (bits per second), which is half that of the previous version.

The images transmitted will still be in standard definition. A high-definition version of the LocationFree platform remains some way off, in part because of the high cost. An HDTV signal requires a lot of bandwidth and so a fast network connection would also be required, or significant processing power to transcode the signal in real time to a lower-bandwidth stream.

Sony is also adding a new receiver device, the LF-BOX1. Named the "LocationFree TV Box," the device connects directly to a television to allow for viewing of streamed video on a TV.

A new software player for Windows PCs with support for MPEG4 AVC will go on sale in October. Users wishing to watch on the PSP or an Apple Mac computer will have to wait until suitable software updates become available, Sony said.

The LF-PK20 base station will go on sale in Japan on Oct. 20 and will cost around YEN 33,000 (US$282) and the LF-BOX1 will be available from Oct. 27 for around YEN 23,000. The base station will also go on sale in the U.S. as the LF-B20. It will cost US$250 and the LF-BOX1 will cost US$230.

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Martyn Williams

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