4K Video Demands Better than Blu-Ray : Sony + Panasonic Create Next-Gen Optical Disc

Sony and Panasonic have signed an agreement principally to unite their efforts in developing the next generation of optical media. The goal is to expand the capacity of optical archiving digital media by 2015, while providing a compatible system with older generation devices.

According to the two Japanese firms, optical disks still retain some advantages in terms of preservation of data that do not have flash systems (USB, etc.) and tapes. This new type of optical storage will be resistant to water, dust and extreme variations in temperature.

The two companies have thus met the growing demand of the storage market, especially for the video industry, but also for cloud computing. Currently, Blu-Ray is the larger standard among companies, with a storage capacity ranging from 25 to 100 GB (depending on the number of layers used). For example, it is used in the storage of high-definition videos and games to support Sony’s PlayStation 3.

“Optical discs have excellent properties to protect them against the environment, such as dust-resistance and water-resistance, and can also withstand changes in temperature and humidity when stored. They also allow inter-generational compatibility between different formats, ensuring that data can continue to be read even as formats evolve. This makes them a robust medium for long-term storage of content,” both the companies said in a press release.

In September 2012, Sony developed a storage system using the XDCAM (recording using blue laser technology) technology, which can handle up to 12 drives with a capacity 25GB each, for a total of 300 GB. Panasonic has meanwhile launched LB-MD9 Series last July, which can store up to 180 TB of data.

Storage Demand Drives Innovation


In recent years the need for content storage is becoming greater, both for the mobile and video industry as well as for data centers and cloud services. It is quite possible that such optical discs can be used by data centers leveraging cloud technology.

With the era of Big Data coming down on us, there’s also the problem of historical data — in the end, while we have many companies working on faster and bigger Flash, we still need some way to provide long term storage of gigantic amounts of data. Increasing storage for optical discs in this fashion could lead to a revolution in offsite storage as well as multi-year storage of historical data.

Many cloud storage and cloud providers including Amazon, Microsoft and Google, are busy trying to persuade users to switch to cloud computing. But as far as the professional-grade storage of certain data, such as high-definition video, one still uses large capacity drives.  Sony and Panasonic are hoping that these businesses will benefit from the new proposal.

Although both the firms indicate the primary target market for the new technology will be businesses, there is also likely to be demand from the consumer market for higher capacity discs, even if sales of existing formats are waning. The rise of 4K contents and streaming services, such as recently announced Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon’s Lovefilm, and Netflix have eaten into disc-based television box set and movie sales. The demand for extra storage is also likely to be fuelled with ultra-high-definition footage.

Both Sony and Panasonic say that when they start releasing readers for optical discs of the new format, the devices will be backward compatible with the current disc Blu-ray, DVD and CD standards. The company also said that the new media will be considered as a means for long-term storage of digital information. Previously, Sony, JVC and Panasonic had already demonstrated consumer devices to work with 4K-video, but their price is still measured in the tens of thousands of dollars and unattainable for most consumers.

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