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Using Innography software, we recently completed a high-level analysis of High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) technologies. Our subsequent technology intelligence report provides a detailed landscape of essential patents for HEVC technologies, identifies the major players in the area, and offers insight into licensing costs, market trends and future challenges for large corporations exploring HEVC. In this blog, we take a closer look at the history of HEVC and its first stages of development.

HEVC (also known as H.265) is a video compression standard originally developed to provide high quality video coding using half the bandwidth cost than existing standards. The technology will be used in almost all video processors and display devices in the future, but where did it start and why does it matter?

HEVC delivers an average bit rate reduction of 50% compared to the previously adopted standard of H.264, transmitting the smallest amount of information necessary for a specified level of video quality.  This saves bandwidth cost, but also enables higher quality television and video delivery over the internet.

The latest television technology (4K) contains four times the number of pixels as 1080p (full HD).  Without HEVC, broadcasters wanting to stream programmes in 4K quality face the challenge of needing high quality broadband reception. A benefit of HEVC is that it makes broadcasting 4K more feasible– reducing both the cost and time it takes to deliver high quality programming.

A developing technology

Development of HEVC started immediately after the preceding video coding standard (AVC) was finalised in 2003. AVC (Advanced Video Coding) is a block-oriented motion-compensation-based video compression standard that remained one of the most commonly used formats for recording, compression, and distribution of video content.

The main profile (‘8-bit’, or Profile 8 of HEVC) was finalised in the first version of the standard in 2013. The below Fig. 1 shows the timeline of development of various video coding standards:


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Figure 1: Video Coding Timeline, Source: SlideShare

The techniques specified in the first version of the HEVC standard described the main 8-bit coding profiles and the technology has since been implemented in software and hardware decoders now found in mobiles, computers, televisions and set top boxes (STBs). It is predicted that HEVC will be adopted in satellite, cable, broadcast, gaming and streaming by the end of the decade.

The big players

HEVC technology is the brainchild of several technology giants and was developed as a joint venture between Samsung, Qualcomm, LG, Mediatek, Microsoft, SK Telecom and Huawei. The technology was developed during several meetings between the companies from 2010 to 2013. Of the 993 relevant HEVC patent families - identified through our analytics team's analysis of 6500 patent families - most are still owned by the companies and institutes involved in the first stages of development. However, there are approximately 75 other companies and institutes that now own patents defining the HEVC standard.

HEVC is likely to become the de facto standard for high quality video streaming and internet delivered television.  It is backed by many of the key market players and delivers improved video quality at the same bit rate as other technologies. As the market for streaming and internet television continues to grow, HEVC has a bright future.

Find out more about the insights we provide in our Technology Intelligence Reports.