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Study Group 16 at a glance

ITU-T Study Group 16 - Multimedia coding, systems and applications
 Study Group 16 is responsible for studies relating to ubiquitous multimedia applications, multimedia capabilities for services and applications for existing and future networks, including the coordination of related studies across the various ITU-T SGs. It is the lead study group on multimedia coding, systems and applications; ubiquitous multimedia applications; telecommunication/ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities; human factors; intelligent transport system (ITS) communications; e-health; Internet Protocol television (IPTV) and digital signage; and e-services.

Multimedia is at the core of the most recent advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs) – especially when we consider that most innovation today is agnostic of the transport and network layers, focusing rather on the higher OSI model layers.

SG16 is active in all aspects of multimedia standardization, including terminals, architecture, protocols, security, mobility, interworking and quality of service (QoS). It focuses its studies on telepresence and conferencing systems; IPTV; digital signage; speech, audio and visual coding; network signal processing; PSTN modems and interfaces; facsimile terminals; e-health, ICT accessibility, visual surveillance, distributed ledger technologies, ITS, immersive live experience, and digital culture.

Work highlights

SG16 is home to all media coding work in ITU-T and is home to some very well-known standards following a long tradition of work. This includes narrowband and wideband speech coders, and work carried out together with ISO/IEC's JPEG and MPEG working groups in image and video compression, including JPEG and JPEG 2000 (ITU-T T.80 and T.800 series) and MPEG-2 Video (ITU-T H.262). This collaboration led to two Primetime Emmy award winning Recommendations, the first in 2008 for ITU-T H.264 (or MPEG-4 Part 10 Advanced Video Coding, AVC), and the second in 2017 for High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC, published as ITU H.265 | ISO/IEC 23008-2). H.264/AVC and H.265/HEVC remain the most deployed video compression standard worldwide. H.264 is the first truly scalable video codec, and continues to deliver excellent quality across the entire bandwidth spectrum – from high-definition television to videoconferencing and 3G mobile multimedia. H.265 supports more video at higher quality on the available bandwidth. HEVC needs only half the bit rate of H.264 | MPEG-4 AVC, delivering an HD viewing experience while concurrently enabling operators to utilize network capacity more efficiently. Now the next generation video coding technology called "Versatile Video Coding" (VVC), consented as ITU-T H.266 at SG16 in July 2020. VVC is expected to achieve about a 50% bit rate reduction vs. H.265/HEVC for equal subjective video quality. Test results demonstrate that VVC provides about a 40% bit rate reduction for 4K/UHD test sequences using objective metrics.

SG16 is the origin of a large family of successful videoconferencing systems tailored to several networks: for example, ITU-T H.320 and H.310 for narrow- and broadband ISDN, and H.324 for PSTN and 3rd Generation mobile. ITU-T H.323 – the ITU standard for interoperability in audio, video and data transmissions over IP – is the world's most widely used voice over IP (VoIP) communication protocol. It also developed various foundational standards for telepresence systems.

SG16 is responsible for standards enabling IPTV services and terminals, detailed by the ITU-T H.700-series. Some of them – ITU-T H.721, H.761 and H.762 – are already employed by millions of users in Asia. Compliance testing specifications for various Recommendations in the H.700 series have been the references for ITU IPTV interoperability test events.

Work is underway on standardized digital signage systems. Proprietary solutions are available, but there is agreement that globally defined solutions have the potential to lower the cost entry point through, for example, the federation of content and reaching wide audiences. A large push for standardized digital signage solutions came after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, as standards-based digital signage systems can be a powerful vehicle for public announcements in the event of public emergencies.

The media gateway protocol family of standards in the ITU-T H.248-series is also used worldwide,  especially for NGN. It allows the different functionalities needed for modern IP-based gateways to be added as needed, in modules ("H.248 packages") defined in ITU-T standards; thus maximizing flexibility, scalability and return-on-investment for network operators.

SG16's work evolves in line with industry needs and the group is currently accelerating its development of standards for e-health, accessibility and ITS.

With collaboration with WHO and other SDOs, e-health standardization work is active in areas such as safe listening; brain informatics; UHD medical imaging; and personal connected health. SG16 is also the parent group of Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence for Health (FG-AI4H) established in 2018.

WHO has partnered with ITU to bring together governments, health professionals, academia and the industry to discuss how ICTs can help make listening safe. Expected outcomes include policy briefs, international standards and awareness campaigns to ensure that people of all ages can enjoy music, games, movies and live events without jeopardizing their hearing. ITU-T leads the development of technical standards for devices (such as mobile phones) as ITU-T H. 870 series that would allow for safe listening. When implemented, these standards will allow controlling exposure to loud sounds through personal audio systems and will provide information that enable users to make safe listening choices.

The Continua Design Guidelines (CDG) are rubberstamped as ITU-T H.810 series on personal health systems which define a framework of underlying standards and criteria that are required to ensure the interoperability of components used for applications monitoring personal health and wellness. They also contain design guidelines (DGs) that further clarify the underlying standards or specifications by reducing options or by adding missing features to improve interoperability.

ITU-T pioneered accessibility standardization with ITU-T V.18 (an ITU-T Recommendation on a multi-function text telephone for deaf communication) back in 1990. Since then, ITU-T continues to engage through its standardization work to ensure equitable access to telecommunication through new and old technologies. Recent work includes ITU-T F.921 on Audio-based network navigation system for persons with vision impairments; ITU-T F.930 on telecommunication relay services, and ITU-T H.702 on accessibility profiles for IPTV systems.

The ISO/ITU Joint Project Team on Vehicular Domain Service was established in October 2019 by ITU-T SG16 and ISO TC22/SC31 to develop technically aligned standards for ITU-T Recommendations | ISO International Standards for vehicle domain service technologies that will enhance the current V2X communication mechanisms.

Other work includes the V-series modem Recommendations (ITU-T V.34, V.90, etc.), without which the Internet would not enjoy its current state of ubiquity. Anyone accessing the Internet before the advent of ISDN, and then broadband technologies, would have used a modem built according to these ITU specifications. If proprietary standards had been adopted, the Internet's development could well have been far more fragmented. Even today, modems remain a very important way of accessing the Internet and SG16's work to extend the life of modems for transport over next-generation networks (NGNs) is thus very important. Also part of SG 16's heritage is its fax work, including standards for high-speed fax over PSTN, ISDN and IP networks.​