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zCast: Datacasting to Fixed and Mobile Devices

The zCast project explores the potential of datacasting to provide novel services to the Media Center PC and to mobile devices. Datacasting involves the transmission of IP data over broadcast networks such as digital TV and digital radio. By delivering the popular content and experiences over broadcast networks, point-to-point networks are freed to carry interactions and responses. Where the content is huge (e.g., movies) or the networks scarce (e.g., mobile) these savings are significant.

During the first year of this project we built a number of prototypes using an experimental live DVB and DAB transmission over the whole of Cambridge. The DAB (digital radio) transmission was used to deliver enhanced radio, data, and even video services to DAB-enabled Pocket PCs. For the Media Center PC we built a movie download service and looked at a novel programme guide combining multiple live video streams to help choose what to watch.

Picking up the research from zCast recent commercial developments, especially BT Livetime, are showing how this concept can be driven to market.

The next stages for the zCast research are to take a deeper look at content snacking on the move and to carefully examine the balance between professionally authored content and community annotations.


zCast is a collaborative project involving Arqiva (formerly NTL Broadcast) and Capital Radio. The Microsoft Research project team currently consists of the following people:

Tim Regan (Main contact)
Ken Wood
Richard Harper