Instil's Matthew McComb on Surge, mobile streaming, and working at Instil

  • Cameras are everywhere in today's tech world, from the security cameras keeping your office safe to the embedded cameras in smart devices and new technology applications. Writing an app that efficiently and reliably streams video from internet-enabled cameras can be tricky, and it's a challenge belfast-based software development company Instil has tackled head-on with its new Surge library.

    Instil recently won the FSB Business & Product Innovation Award for its work on Surge, so we caught up with Commercial Director Matthew McComb to find out more about what makes the product special and what the company does as an employer to promote innovative developments like this.

    Sync NI: First up, congratulations on winning the FSB Business & Product Innovation Award this year for Surge. For those who aren’t familiar with Surge, can you tell us a little bit about the library?

    Matthew: Surge is a software library, targeted at mobile devices, that enables high performance streaming of IP cameras through an easy to use API. It is used primarily in the security, medical and drone industries.

    The two case studies for how the Surge library has been used in industry (The Blueye Underwater Drone and the victor Go security camera system) are very interesting. What makes Surge so well suited for these applications?

    Both use cases are very different, but common to both is the need for performance when streaming high definition video. victor Go is used by security staff to monitor CCTV cameras on their mobile phones. In replacing a traditional video wall interface there is a need to support streaming of up-to 9 live camera feeds. This is where Surge excels, by availing of hardware decoders on the mobile device and an event based architecture we can achieve unparalleled performance.

    Blueye brought their own set of challenges. They needed to maximise performance of a single quality high definition feed from their underwater drone to their control app. Adopting Surge addressed this challenge, but also freed up the Blueye engineering team to focus on solving other issues, rather than focus on the complexities of video streaming.

    What makes Surge really stand out from the other video streaming APIs out there? What are its killer features compared to the competition?

    Performance and simplicity. In developing Surge we've encapsulated a complex engineering problem (RTSP streaming) in a simple to use library that can be integrated into a client app in a matter of minutes. Users of Surge are generally surprised at how simple the library is to use and how well it performs.

    On the company side, does the company culture at Instil help you to develop innovative products like Surge?

    As an organisation we are very protective of our culture and identity. Underpinning everything that we do is a focus on engineering excellence, which to us means producing high quality, robust, performant and scalable software. Emphasising this culture prompts our engineers to innovate.

    We also run a number of internal initiatives to encourage company wide innovation. For example, our bi-annual 'Kode Kong' events allow our team to work on a MVP (minimum viable product) for a product idea submitted by the team over the course of two days.

    How do your staff stay at the forefront of new technology developments, and is there anything exciting on the horizon?

    As a predominately services based company we largely have our customers to thank! Our teams are challenged every day by our customers to provide solutions to complex problems. Our teams work on everything from development of modern banking platforms through to assisting the development of one of the most well known software development tools in the world. Working with innovative customers on largely greenfield projects challenges our developers and gives them opportunity to learn.

    As an employer we also place a lot of emphasis on staff development and training. With access to a yearly conference and training budget our developers are well equipped to keep up-to-date with new technologies. In addition we are fortunate to have one of the country's leading software training teams who regularly run in- house training sessions.

    Instil is currently looking for developers to join the team. Find out more at

    About the author

    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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