NFL collaboration software looks for a win with businesses

PlayerLync technology, which helped the NFL migrate to digital playbooks, is now being applied to the enterprise

A collaboration platform that was initially developed to help professional sports teams share video on tablets is now trying to score with businesses.

PlayerLync, which counts the NFL and Major League Baseball team the Denver Rockies as customers, said the Enterprise Edition of its software can improve collaboration and training by eliminating the need for a fast and constant Internet connection. The application, launched Monday, allows companies to centrally distribute and manage content like videos and documents to multiple tablet users.

PlayerLync was created to help NFL teams roll out digital playbooks and game video to tablets. Some of the lessons learned from that experience, like how to design a user-friendly collaboration tool and get relevant content to the people who need it, are applicable to the enterprise, said PlayerLync CEO Bob Paulsen.

"The software is all about helping people focus on the right content at right time and keeping everyone current and consistent across an organization," he said.

The platform works like a shared drive, said Paulsen. People select the content they want to share and drag it into a PlayerLync folder on their desktop. Next, the software coverts the content into a file format that will be accepted by tablets and then compresses the file. Documents are converted into PDFs and the software supports a variety of file extensions, including 30 video formats, said Paulsen. Finally, employees are selected to receive the content, which is automatically pushed out to their tablets. By not streaming the video and storing content on the tablet, people can access this information when they're not connected to the Web, said Paulsen. PlayerLync also allows managers to remove content that is dated or no longer appropriate to a person's job.

Employees access the content via an application on their tablet that is customized to the customer's brand. A message notification system in the application, among other features, alerts employees when they have content to view. Managers can also use PlayerLync to text employees when new content is available.

Some PlayerLync customers are using the software's APIs (application programming interfaces) to integrate the application with their existing human resources and training software, said Paulsen. These are the systems that are most commonly used to track employees, especially in industries with high turnover rates like retail and fast food. Integrated with a human resources system, PlayerLync could allow content for a new employee to automatically load, for example. However, that feature isn't available to all users yet.

"We've made this thing so secure enterprises are asking us to open it up a little bit more," said Paulsen.

Instead of having employees try to stream or download content over a weak network, a situation that "doesn't work so well for video and it takes a lot of time," the tablets are automatically synched when the devices are asleep using a technology the company calls "sleep mode synchronization." Companies can determine what type of content can be streamed over certain networks. For example, companies can allow tablets to receive documents and messages over a wireless broadband network, but limit video downloads to only Wi-Fi networks.

PlayerLync offers a cloud-based version of the enterprise software, but customers prefer to upload the software to their own servers, Paulsen said.

"Our customers already have some level of video content they host somewhere. Instead of having to move all that content to another cloud provider if we were hosting it, they'd rather put our software next to their content so the transfer happens much more quickly," Paulsen said.

PlayerLync is available for tablets running Apple's iOS and Windows Phone 8.1. Businesses told PlayerLync they need the software to fit in with their existing software environments, which favor Apple and Windows systems over Android, said Paulsen.

Other PlayerLync features include allowing users to capture and share video from the tablet, add audio and written comments to a video, include links in the tablet application to websites pertinent to an employees' job and permitting managers to see who viewed users. The software costs between US$1.00 to $30 per user, per month.

Business that are using PlayerLync include fast food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill and television network Starz.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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