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The bhaalu story

An interview with founder Bart Van Coppenolle

Why did you start bhaalu?

Bart Van Coppenolle: After selling my previous company Metris, I suddenly had a lot more free-time to relax and be entertained. However, I wasn't able to find that outlet through television, which is exactly the experience it was designed for. I wondered, how is that possible?

With the advances in digital media, with the abundance of content now available, how is it that television today, is far less of a relaxed and entertaining experience than in the past, back in the analogue days? How did it turn into a rather boring and mundane experience?

I spent most of my time clicking through channels, hundreds of channels, yet nothing worthwhile to watch. Some programs caught my attention, but I had already missed half of it, or the critical beginning. Why do I need to schedule my time according to a scheduled television program? It's an absurd notion.

That is when I came across the idea for bhaalu. People should be able to watch what they want, whenever they want, from wherever and on whatever platform they choose.

Who would be most interested in bhaalu?

Bart Van Coppenolle: Everyone. Some people today will say they don't like TV, or don't have enough time for it, but the fact is, everyone likes a relaxing entertaining experience. The problem is that TV today fails to deliver it. Bhaalu is for everyone.

People today have very little free-time, so naturally, they are highly selective about how they choose to spend it. People are no longer willing to watch forced-choice content, or shows already mid-way through, or spend their time flipping through channels. They want to choose when, where and how to relax and be entertained, and that is precisely what bhaalu offers.

Over the past few decades, the television experience has grown to become more like work. Far too much time is spent sifting through a poorly designed user interface trying to find something of interest, and not enough time is spent actually becoming immersed in an entertaining program or engaged in an educational program, both of which induce states of relaxation and enjoyment.

I am an entrepreneur, and want to improve the world for people as an entrepreneur. So I decided to do something by restoring the TV experience back to the relaxed the enriching experience it was meant to be. There is a better way to experience TV, and that is what bhaalu will deliver.

Bhaalu is reminiscent of the bear from the jungle book. Is that right?

Bart Van Coppenolle: Bhaalu means "bear" in Hindi. We found it more than a cool name. Kipling gave that name to the character of the lazy and relaxed bear, who is only concerned with what's important in life: to be happy, together. Bhaalu is the perfect metaphor for the viewer who wants to enjoy TV in a relaxed way, the way TV was meant to be.

In the jungle book, the bear helps Mowgli find his way through the Jungle?

Bart Van Coppenolle: And so does bhaalu too. Bhaalu helps the TV viewer navigate his or her way through the jungle, which is scheduled TV. His way back With bhaalu you get the viewer back to the freedom to choose when, where and how to watch TV. Nothing more, nothing less. Relax, man!

With bhaalu, do all TV programs continuously and automatically record?

Bart Van Coppenolle: With bhaalu, you can automatically and continuously record all of the TV programs you are entitled to through your TV subscription. These programs are also made viewable to you, wherever you want them, and for more than sixty days back in time.

Just think of bhaalu as a proprietary video recording time-travel device, where you can freely surf and zap forward or backward through time. You will never again miss out even on bit portions of a program because you needed to put the children to bed.

Once you begin using this new device, you will experience a whole different world of television, you will discover a lot more television, you will be able to focus on only the programs or series that you enjoy, and you will be immersed in the TV experience like never before. And throughout this new TV paradigm, you will experience a sense of freedom and laid-back relaxation, which you will immediately recognize as the way watching TV should have been all along.

The zapping in time is possible for all channels in your subscription. And you do it without paying extra. A bhaalu box is priced nearly the same as the VCR or DVR set-top box it replaces. Once you connect it with your TV and Internet, you can start watching and time-shifting your TV time line.

You can also choose where to watch your programs; on the big screen television at home, or on your iPad, or later, on other mobile devices. You can also bring your bhaalu box on international travels to watch your homeland TV from the hotel's TV.

Can users record programs and look back at them in time? Is bhaalu legal?

Bart Van Coppenolle: Yes, bhaalu is perfectly legal. As a consumer, you have the option to consume your television content where, when and how you choose. If you are legally authorized to view the content, if it is free-to-air TV in your region for which you reside, or it is subscription TV that you subscribe to, then you have the right to choose where, when and how you wish to consume it.

This question has already been legally settled in Singapore, the USA, Europe, Australia and Belgium, and more countries are in the process of ruling on it at a Supreme Court level. Previously you were allowed to record and playback on your VCR. Then it also became legal to do so on your own private hard disk, but the problem was that you were limited by storage capacity.

Today we have the Internet,and the technology required to make this possible. It's time for you as a consumer to control your TV without allowing it to control you. Bhaalu provides you the software to make use of your right to view your TV how, where and when you wish.

Can I completely skip advertising with bhaalu?

Bart Van Coppenolle: It would not be fair to build a device that allowed users to skip advertising, so the quick answer is "no". Bhaalu does not offer a quick, easy automated way of skipping through advertisements. After all, it is the advertising revenue that allows commercial TV makers to develop and generate the content you watch on your TV.

Without getting into detail, we have built the system to allow users to time-shift forward and backward through their programmed channel content, but we don't allow this to be done in such a way that it is merely being used to skip ads.

Where are all those programs stored?

Bart Van Coppenolle: Bhaalu is a collaborative cloud DVR, a shared cloud VCR so to speak. That means that bhaalu boxes are tied together into a giant network and that is partially based in the cloud. The storing of information is distributed, which means it can be stored sometimes on your bhaalu box, sometimes on that of your neighbors' box, and sometimes in the cloud.

But it is important to mention that the information stored in each of these discrete locations, are just fragments, or bits of data, containing no meaning. Think of it as if you put each of the puzzle pieces of a jigsaw puzzle through a shredder; that is how granular the data chunks are broken down. The purpose is to make for the most secure and most efficient structure possible.

If bhaalu is "cloud" based with social community "neighbors", what about my privacy?

Bart Van Coppenolle: Regarding the social community, your "neighbors" do NOT have access to see the programs you have viewed or are viewing. Each user has total control over deciding whether or not to share information concerning the programs they have watched, and if so, to whom with.

Bhaalu only stores your information to enhance your own personal TV experience by making it smarter. We will never make this data available to neighbors of the community, and will not sell it to third parties or advertisers. The software works entirely for you, our customer, and not for us, or other companies.

Second, about it being "cloud", Bhaalu runs on the most secure cloud platform in the world, Type II SAS certified.

We protect and serve our customers just as bhaalu the bear did for Mowgli.

Just like bhaalu the bear in the Jungle Story?

Bart Van Coppenolle: Bhaalu the bear is lazy, but at the same time, strong and powerful, and protects Mowgli. As consumers, if we stand together, we then also become really strong. Together we are bhaalu the community. Collaborative technologies are just emerging, and as a result, consumerism is going through dramatic distruptive change. Believe me, consumers are finally coming back together and uniting as a common central force.