Auctioneers. You know, those people that sound like their fast forward button is stuck. They get entire sentences out in the time it takes to blink. If one isn't careful, placing a bid can be like walking into oncoming traffic.
It's fairly obvious that when it comes to placing bids, timing is very, very important. All the more so, when creating an online live-auction with live video streaming. Long delays can create giant issues.
Of course in this case, long is a matter of only seconds.
Luckily, at Red5 Pro we measure our video latency in milliseconds with a guarantee of 500ms or less. That's beyond low, that's real-time.
Why Do You Need Real-time Latency?
When the auctioneer starts the bidding, the participants raise their placards, shout, click or call-in to indicate they are placing a bid. The auctioneer then announces the current bid and raises the price. The process then repeats itself until no one else places an offer and the last bidder wins.
The problem is when you introduce a live feed where the audio and video of the auctioneer announcing the bid has to travel to the viewer watching from their computer or phone. All it takes is a delay of 2 or 3 seconds to create an issue. Wowza's Ultra Low Latency, chunked HLS, and CMAF are all protocols that fall under this problematic latency.
If there is a delay of 2 or 3 seconds, those physically attending the auction have a gigantic advantage over those online. It would be pretty frustrating getting outbid every-time because you are constantly seconds behind.
More importantly, you want to ensure that the user is placing a bid on the right item. During a stream delay, the item could sell and the auction could move to the next item. When the user places a bid it would go to the wrong item.
The other part of ensuring the user is bidding on the correct item is showing the correct item. The challenge is that the data stream containing all the information about the item (item description, current bid price, etc.) can travel over the internet faster than the separate stream containing the video. In order to synchronize the video coming from the real-life auction with the data being sent about the auction, the latency of the video stream needs to be very low.
For this reason, some live auction applications don’t use video at all. Those that do often rely on browser plugins like Adobe Flash. For a time, using RTMP via the Flash player-created low enough latency and was the most realistic option. Now that browsers are fading out support for all plugins and Flash will reach end of life in 2020, it is no longer a viable solution.
Plus, there's the added issue of slight fluctuations in connectivity. If the internet speed drops for one user the variation of seconds can mean a big problem, while a variation of milliseconds is much less of a problem.
Red5 Pro Can Fix This
This isn't some hypothetical exercise. Red5 Pro is currently powering auction sites, like Invaluable, with no issues concerning scalability and latency (did I mention that our 500ms guarantee applies to hundreds of thousands of users?). By leveraging real-time protocols like WebRTC and RTSP we are able to achieve a latency of 500ms at the very highest.
It takes valuable time to quickly make a decision. The interval between placing a bid and missing an opportunity is very short indeed. That time should not be compounded by high latency. A hesitation might cause you some regret, but a lagging video is unforgivable.