Wanted: The Bag o’ 4G That Whips HD Video to the Cloud

With 14 networked cellular connections and an onboard PC, LiveU’s mobile video uplink might mean a lot more local news vans for sale on Craigslist.


Remember when former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens called the Web a “series of tubes?” Well, now that he’s dead, let’s all admit his analogy was right.

Sure, it’s a little reductive to equate the greatest human invention of all time with hamster-cage infrastructure. And indeed, calling it a mere “series” of tubes might understate the power of a trillion-PC hive. But when it comes to an obscure metric like video upload speeds, well, our human brains wont for a stupid metaphor. And pipes it will be.

So here it is: if your Kindle was a tube to the cloud, it’d be a long straw. Your smartphone? A pool noodle. And the LiveU backpack would be one of those Hollywood HVAC ducts that your average action hero can army-crawl through carrying all kinds of gear and a very long rifle.

As far as weapons go, a LiveU backpack uplink is a lot like a clusterbomb. It bonds about a dozen 3G and 4G data sticks together into one aggregate uploader that slurps HD video from a cameraman’s hands and blasts it into the cloud at speeds around 3Mbps. For the uninitiated, that’s fast.

Normally, camera operators covering live events have to tie their eyeballs to a satellite truck, which in turn beams the image to space and then back down again to the home base. LiveU puts that whole video truck on your back with several hours of hot-swappable battery power, meaning you can live stream continuously for as long as you can stand. (The current record, says LiveU’s sales and marketing guy Ken Zamkow, is about 24 hours of live broadcast.)

LiveU backpacks have been deployed by almost every major television entity you can imagine, including the NFL, NBA, CNN, CBS, and other famous capital permutations. At SXSW, several video teams were using the company’s latest model, the LU60, which weighs 11 pounds and costs about $1,500 a month to lease, depending on how much data you to burn (and whether you need overseas roaming). If streaming video isn’t your thing, you can also use the LU60 to do FTP uploads.


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About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs.