The Slingbox is known best for its ability to let consumers watch their home TV channels remotely using a laptop or smart phone. But a local San Francisco news station has found a way to utilize the trapezoid-shaped set-top box to cheaply and easily deliver live news, traffic and weather updates wirelessly back to its studio.
The news operations director at CBS 5, Don Sharp, devised a way to replace more than 20 of its cameras affixed to the tops of local bridges, freeways and buildings that use microwave technology to relay video back to the station with smaller cameras combined with a Slingbox Pro and a high-speed wireless EVDO card, at 800 kilobits per second.
Normally, news stations have to pay $25,000 for cameras to monitor traffic and weather, in addition to the cost of maintaining the units and renting the space for them. Compare that to a smaller camera for $500, a $300 Slingbox and $60 per month for each data card and it could potentially change the way broadcast TV news does business. That's especially true if someday all live shots were done with a small portable camera and Slingbox, since that could eliminate the need for gas-guzzling microwave trucks normally needed to broadcast breaking events.
While CBS 5 is currently believed to be the only news outlet known to be using the Slingbox this way, Sling Media, maker of the device, says it already knows of other stations that are interested.
In the future, CBS 5 hopes to use Slingbox-connected cameras to do live shots from press conferences and local sporting events.
I visited CBS 5 to see how the newsroom is using the Slingbox. To watch a video, click here.