The Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg features articles, reviews and news of interest to lawyers and other legal professionals. This blog is published by Ted Brooks, a Trial Presentation and Legal Technology Consultant, Author and Speaker. Ted's trial experience includes the Los Angeles Dodgers divorce trial, People v. Robert Blake murder trial, and a hundreds of high profile, high value and complex civil matters.

All materials © Ted Brooks, unless otherwise indicated.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Another Top 10 List Dominated by iPad Apps for Lawyers

This week, I’ll share links to the most popular articles found here on the Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg. Interestingly, my first full review on iPad apps for attorneys, which covered TrialPad and Evidence, holds the #1 all-time spot, while the #2 spot is taken by an article about that article. 4 of the top 5 all-time most popular articles cover iPad apps, showing that those in the legal professions are looking hard at alternatives to the computer. So, without any further ado, here they are:




Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Court Reporters, Legal Videographers a Thing Of the Past?

With a budgetary crisis looming, the courts have been looking for ways to save money, and court reporters are on the hit list. While digital recording systems, such as the “FTR,” by ForTheRecord, are being used by many courts, the resulting audio file is of little value to an attorney needing to quickly locate where something was said – assuming you can get a copy in a timely manner. In order to be of any real value, you’d still have to have it transcribed, and without the benefits of getting a read-back, or of someone intervening when things get out of hand, such as attorneys and witnesses speaking over each other. There may be a better alternative now, first released at an Expo on 5/25/2011, presented by Jim McCranie, President of Visionary Legal Technologies.

Visionary has been around since the late ‘90’s, and was actually the first company to develop transcript-sync-to-video software, according to McCranie. They offer a large suite of applications, and are probably best known for their trial presentation software (currently Visionary 8). The two new applications covered at the Expo were VDR (Visionary Digital Recorder) and VST (Visionary Speech Transcript).

Disclosure: I occasionally receive copies of various software and apps for review, and in this case, my travel expenses to attend were covered by Visionary.

I will share a brief overview of the technology, followed by my opinion as to how this might affect Court Reporters, Legal Videographers, Lawyers, and the rest of the free world. I’ll also include a statement from SueLynn Morgan (Past President of the National Court Reporters Association), who was also in attendance.

VDR is essentially a sophisticated method of capturing the audio, and a “draft” copy of a video. In addition to the software required to manage this, they also offer a hardware kit that has everything you’d need to get started – even down to the laptop, camera, audio mixer and power strip. While they offer the kit as a convenience, they expect that many will simply duplicate the pieces needed – especially if firms are purchasing more than one kit.

VDR does not produce a transcript – it is only a digital recording solution package. Is it a threat to professional Legal Videographers? It could be, in some instances. However, since the camera is only an HD “web-cam,” there are some serious limitations with respect to the quality and control of the video recording process. While this video file may or may not be suitable for courtroom playback of depositions, it could certainly add the video element in low-budget cases or other non-legal events.

Instead of using the “draft” video as the final product, users are encouraged to supply the draft video as – well – a rough draft of the depo. In cases which have the budget for a professional videographer, one should still be used. The web-cam is not going to match the quality of a “real” camera, and it won’t be able to easily zoom in, shift focus to another subject, etc.

One of the big features that I saw with this is the fact that if four microphones are used, rather than merging all of them into one audio track, it actually creates a 4-track audio recording. For example, if you needed to hear what the deponent said as an attorney was shouting, “Objection,” you could easily isolate the desired track.

VST does indeed create a form of rough transcript, which is created “live,” as the deponent or attorney is speaking. There is also a viewer available, which allows an attorney to watch the scrolling text, in a similar fashion as with real-time transcription, and allows notes and “quick-marks,” a generic mark on a transcript which flags the transcript for later review, similar to other real-time transcript viewing software.

The accuracy of the transcript was incredibly high. Voice recognition has really come a long way in the last couple of years. In any event, it’s not a garbled mess by any stretch – the resulting “rough copy” of the transcript is a very accurate rendition of the depo. If there is a down-side, it is that it will not assign page and line numbers which will correspond with the final transcribed version (if that happens). So, any notes taken, or comments flagged, will need to be located via text search, rather than by page:line designations. There is a comparative sample set available on the Visionary site.

The operator can also (and is encouraged to) take copious notes during the depo, especially in any instances that might later present a problem, possibly due to a word which might be taken out of context (like “soul” instead of “sole”). The operator can also provide a “play-back,” as opposed to a “read-back” of a portion of testimony. Microphone levels are adjusted for each person, and channel numbers are assigned, so as to help in isolating each speaker.

Software Intelligence
Now, the most interesting part of this (at least in my geeky mind) is the fact that the software “learns” both text patterns and associated audible speech patterns. These are referred to as “profiles,” and they can improve with each deposition volume of a deponent. VST comes pre-loaded with several profiles, which are specific to certain types of cases or individuals. For example, if you are working on an asbestos case, you can load the asbestos profile, which will help the software in its word selection process. The resulting transcript may then be added to your own “asbestos profile,” helping the program to “learn” more about the vocabulary in cases you’re handling. Also if a second videotaped depo of the same person is used, the speech patterns joined with the synced transcript of the first volume, identified as a profile, will also help increase the accuracy of that particular deponent.

VST incorporates the Nuance speech engine, but the way they use it is unique. Over a period of time, the software will become more and more accurate with respect to vocabulary, and as additional cases are offered into the public domain, the base profiles will also improve.

So, Visionary is not limited to a specific proprietary vocabulary, such as that of Nuance’s Dragon, but rather has imported relevant text from transcripts, websites, and other sources. This is indeed a unique approach, and it can be far more useful than just a digital recording, which you’d have to play like a cassette tape, in order to locate something. I’ve had that happen in trial, when we’ve asked for a daily transcript. Not a great solution. Our only options at the time were either hire a Court Reporter to come in and provide real-time feed, have a transcriptionist create a transcript from the recording (which would take too long in this case), or just deal with it.

A Comment From NCRA Past-President SueLynn Morgan
“We know that realtime stenographic reporting is the gold standard and it’s no secret that there are alternative technologies for making the record. Visionary’s product using speech recognition could potentially be an opportunity for the deposition market and freelance firm owners to expand services they offer to attorneys. I’ll continue to watch the rollout of the product with great interest.”

Will VDR and VST replace the Court Reporter? In cases where budget and/or Court Reporter availability are an issue and a rough copy of the transcript will suffice, the answer is probably yes. In other cases, a Court Reporter or Transcriptionist will still be needed to create a final and/or Certified Transcript.

Will VDR and VST replace the Legal Videographer? Once again, in matters that wouldn’t otherwise warrant hiring a professional videographer, this can provide a cost-effective alternative. If you want to make sure to catch everything, varying the image occasionally, or perhaps zoom in on an exhibit, you’ll still need a Videographer.

Since the software is sold as an item, and not a service, while it’s not cheap, it could result in lower costs to the law firm, and at the same time, higher profit margins for the Court Reporting Agency. In the proper setting, this may indeed be a cost-effective alternative to a Court Reporter and Legal Videographer – at least for a rough draft.


Visionary Digital Recorder (VDR) $2500
VDR Hardware Package $2500
Visionary Speech Transcript (VST) $10,000

Ted Brooks
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco

Trial Consulting Network

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reading About iPad and iPhone on Windows and Macintosh

I enjoyed seeing the cross-section of readers shared today on Jeff Richardson’s iPhone JD Blog, Increase in iPad visitors over the past year,  and Josh Barrett’s Tablet Legal, iPad Web Traffic Share at TabletLegal – 1 Year Later.

iPhone JD covers a variety of topics, primarily centered around the iPhone and iPad, and features some of the best lists and reviews available. When I recently purchased a stylus, I went straight to iPhone JD to get the scoop (purchased the Kensington).

Tablet Legal is a also a great source of iPad app reviews and in-depth how-to articles. I’ve learned some great tips and tricks for the iPad here. Barrett generally allows comments, which have in themselves, been “entertaining” at times.

Richardson and Barrett also joined forces at the 2011 ABA Techshow, to present ABA Techshow: 60 Apps in 60 Minutes.

Although I’ve reviewed a number of iPad apps here on the Court Technology and Trial Presentation blog, the info found here is more generically related to law and technology, as opposed to having a specific focus on the iPhone or iPad. I didn’t participate in this comparison previously, since I wrote my first iPad app review late last year, Apples to Apples: Two iPad Apps for Trial Presentation - TrialPad v. Evidence (which holds the #1 all-time most popular article position on this blog).

I will compare the last 30 days of all three sites here. Windows users are solidly at the top of all three blogs, followed by the Mac OS. The next few rows are also interesting, showing the iPad and iPhone viewers, faithfully aligned with the most likely blog.

iPhone JD
Tablet Legal
Court Technology
Windows  52.98 %
Windows  45.61%
Windows  73%
Macintosh  21.80 %
Macintosh  25.48%
Macintosh  13%
iPhone  14.98 %
iPad  23.73%
iPad  7%
iPad  7.82 %
iPhone  3.59%
Other Unix  2%
Android  0.84 %
Everything Else  1.59%
iPhone 1%
Linux  0.57 %

Everything Else  4%
iPod  0.43 %

Sunday, May 22, 2011

LegalTech and a Few Cool iPad Apps

LegalTech West Coast 2011 was a lot busier than the past couple of years, according to several people I spoke with – I did not attend last year. I did notice the Exhibit Hall seemed both busy and noisy. Although I had a full pass, I was able to only catch both Keynotes, and Tuesday’s Plenary Session.

Tuesday’s Keynote featured David Pashman, Legal Team Leader from Meetup, Inc. Meetup is sort of an extension to all of this social networking we do, allowing people with similar interests to meet (in person) at various events and places. He shared quite a bit about the legal issues and risks associated with social media. We had a real-life demonstration later that evening, at a fun event sponsored by Rocket Lawyer’s Social Lawyer Blog.

Wednesday’s Keynote was presented by Manny Medrano, an attorney, and popular legal analyst. This guy knows how to work a crowd. He shared some great stories on how the media handles legal stories, and how to give media interviews.

The Plenary Session on Wednesday was a great opportunity to hear what judges think about technology, sanctions for messing with e-Discovery, and other issues. U.S Magistrate Judges Suzanne H. Segal and Jay C. Gandhi shared their from-the-bench perspective on how things should be done.

A key takeaway for attorneys here was that you should bring in an expert when you’re dealing with things you aren’t familiar with. I suppose this applies to more than just eDiscovery.

A few of my favorite apps:

SignMyPad – The name pretty much says it. With a stylus or your finger, you can easily “sign” your name on a PDF document, add check boxes and radio buttons, and type in text. It is similar to having some of the functionality of Acrobat Pro. If you don’t need the added features of NoteTaker HD, this is a good choice. $3.99

NoteTaker HD – This app is the best thing since the legal pad. Seriously. You can use a stylus or your finger to take notes, and they appear as a thin (adjustable) pen line, rather than the width of your fingertip. You can also type blocks of text, and it features a full set of graphics tools, including a lot of basic shapes. You can do these markups on a notepad, or directly onto a PDF - it's great for filling out and signing forms. I would highly recommend this app, as there are a lot of uses for it. $4.99

Evernote – This free app is worth looking into. There is also a version for your computer, and anything you save in here is shared everywhere you have it installed. You can take notes, add documents, etc. Everything can also be accessed via their website.

Dropbox – Another free app, which also can be installed on your computer. Dropbox will sync your documents (up to 2 GB free) on any machine, and also includes web access. This is very convenient if you use several different devices, and want to have access to your documents. A version is available for most platforms, including iPad and Android.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Samsung Nexus S: BlackBerry Replacement or iPhone Alternative?

The Samsung Nexus S, the Google Phone running Android version 2.3 (Gingerbread) from Sprint, may well be the perfect device for BlackBerry refugees and others who have resisted the iPhone craze -- some iPhone owners might even give it a try.
Reprinted with permission from the May 17, 2011 issue of Law Technology News. ©2011 ALM Media Properties, LLC.
Since the Nexus was designed to serve as a developer's device, it doesn't have all of the extra carrier-specific proprietary apps installed. In this way, the phone is more like the BlackBerry than the iPhone. The Nexus has no pre-installed NASCAR racing or NFL highlights, and Google handles the navigation (Google Maps with Navigation in Beta) rather than Sprint.

With the Nexus, you no longer a need to carry another device with you to access the internet. The phone's built in Wi-Fi hotspot can support up to six devices and direct USB tethering -- the USB interconnect also serves as a battery charger. While other phones from Sprint require an additional service fee for the wireless hub, the Nexus connection comes ready for action at no extra charge (although I'm not sure if this will continue). I have been very happy with my Sierra OverDrive Mobile Hotspot (5 ports, also by Sprint), but now I can always have internet access without carrying around yet another device and charger.

BlackBerry has been losing market-share in a big way recently, and I suspect I am a classic defector. Although I've been a BlackBerry user for nearly 15 years, I am weary of screen-envy, and since the next version of BlackBerry OS for the latest BlackBerry device won't support my current device, I'm done with it. There's not a chance I'll be interested in their PlayBook tablet device either. If your PlayBook is separated from your BlackBerry phone, you won't be able to access your e-mail on the tablet. It seems like Research In Motion is seriously missing the boat.
While I'm on the topic of e-mail, Android and iOS do not require special server software, such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Without BES, the best you'll get from your Microsoft Exchange Server on the BlackBerry is e-mail, and you are forced to sync directly via USB or Bluetooth to your desktop Outlook to update your calendar and contacts. BES is another expense that can be avoided by ditching the BlackBerry. With the Nexus, you can push your Outlook updates, which means instant and constant updates. Or, if you wish to conserve battery power, you may choose to have it check for updates periodically, with options ranging from 5 minutes to one hour to not at all. I have mine set to push, so I don't have delays in receiving e-mail messages. That doesn't really seem to cause a major battery draw.
The voice commands on the Nexus are far more reliable than with the BlackBerry. I would frequently get several wrong choices when trying to call one of my contacts. The Nexus accuracy has been spot-on, which brings me to an even more interesting point: dictating an e-mail is astoundingly accurate. In a recent e-mail I drafted, only one word was interpreted incorrectly -- it entered "soul" instead of "sole." Hardly a serious issue, but you'd certainly want to proof before sending. You can enable Personal Recognition, which will "learn" your speech characteristics and improve accuracy. I also found that the Google Speech Recognition attempts to determine a word, based on context. When I spoke the words, "This e-mail message is for the sole use of the intended recipient," the recognition program applied the word "soul." When I spoke "I am the sole owner," the recognition program got it right.
One thing that kept me hooked on the BlackBerry for years was the keypad. The tactile feel of the QWERTY board is what differentiated it from the average phone. Although converting to the Nexus keyboard will take you a bit of time to get used to (it took me about three days), once you get the hang of it, the Nexus Android screen keypad is really nice. Once you begin to type, a type-ahead word list immediately forms at the top of the keypad, which narrows the available options as you type each letter. So, instead of typing all the characters, I typed in two or three letters and selected the appropriate word. Again, this takes a little getting used to (from a former BlackBerry user's perspective), but once you try it, you will wonder why you waited so long.
If you are converting from a BlackBerry, I would recommend changing devices on a day when you have the time to get used to it. Although things came pretty naturally to me, I initially had some issues getting connected with our Exchange server. It was a configuration issue with our server, not the phone, but I couldn't get e-mail for several hours -- until this was resolved by our IT staff. This could spell disaster if you are heading out of town or in trial. While iPhone or other Android device users will likely feel at home with the Nexus, it's still a good idea to make sure the phone does what you need it to do before you really need to do it.
As an iPad user, I gave some serious thought to the iPhone, which would mean that many of my apps would also work on the iPhone. Although I have to start over with a new Android app collection, I don't think that I will use my phone like an iPad or other tablet no matter which one I chose. But I wanted a phone that would relieve my screen envy of other phones. And the Nexus's four-inch 480 x 800 pixel Super AMOLED display would certainly do.

I also considered purchasing the HTC Evo, but the low battery life kept me from it. And after trying the HTC Evo, the Nexus feels far more comfortable in the hand: It is lighter, thinner, and slightly curved for a more ergonomic fit. In addition the Nexus has dedicated, touch-sensitive keys to return to a previous screen, draw the main menu, search, and return to the home screen. There is also a proximity and sensor, a digital compass, and integrated Assisted GPS.

I have found the best overall results with the Sprint network. I've tried others, and especially with their 4G speeds (which they've had for about a year now, in some markets), which I often use for remote internet access in court. After getting accustomed to the long battery life of the BlackBerry, four to six hours of power without a recharge is unacceptable. When I'm in trial or on the road, I cannot afford to miss a call or e-mail message (well, maybe not a call in court). Although I'm not sure how long the Nexus battery will hold up in all possible conditions, I've heard that the phone "learns" your usage habits and can improve over time. I found that to be true, but there are several tricks to improve battery life such as disabling services you don't regularly use, e.g., Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The Nexus includes an advanced power widget that gives you quick access to a few of the phone's services with the highest power usage, including wireless access, Bluetooth, and screen brightness. Turning things off when you're not using them can have a significant effect on battery life.
After my first full day with the Nexus S, I checked my power widget drain sources and saw that the display accounted for over 70 percent of power use. I had opted for the second brightest setting, and that may have been a factor in getting around 3.5 hours of battery use before getting a warning that I was below 20 percent battery life -- perhaps my Angry Birds adventures should be left on the iPad. New toy -- what can I say. I now have the display setting on "auto," in hopes that this will be one step in reducing power consumption.
The next day I used the Nexus more like I used my BlackBerry, for phone calls and e-mails, but also did some note-taking with EverNote and used the Wi-Fi hotspot for my laptop. The auto setting for screen brightness reduced screen power use to just 41 percent. The next highest power draw came from voice calls: 25 percent. This time, after 6 hours of use, I still had 42 percent of battery life remaining, which is more in line with the BlackBerry and certainly an improvement over my first day of approximately four hours of battery use.
The iPhone battery reportedly lasts under 6 hours with "normal" use, which is better than the HTC Evo, but not great. As a mobile professional, you don't always have time to plug a phone into your car or an electrical outlet. So when you are out of the office all day, you may want to try to keep use to a minimum. Granted, that's hard to do, especially when you have so many cool apps and things to mess with. You could carry an extra battery or two, but that's not an ideal solution.
On my third day with the Nexus, I made a few calls (34 minutes total) and experimented with a QR code app, but used the phone less than previous days (I was at my computer all day, so didn't have to check and send e-mail). After 10.5 hours, I still had 52 percent battery life remaining. I was surprised, to say the least. Voice calls accounted for 36 percent power use and power requirements for the display dropped to only 24 percent. The phone is indeed "learning" my habits, but I am also learning how to better use the phone. So if you're going to be out of the office for a while, use the Nexus more like a phone and less like a tablet or netbook (read: not playing Angry Birds). You will get battery life comparable to the BlackBerry.
NOTE: The following is a bit more info on usage and battery life of the Nexus S, not included in the original article.
While waiting in the airport to travel from San Francisco to LegalTech in Los Angeles, I had some time to work, so I used the Wi-Fi hotspot to provide internet access for my laptop. Although it worked great, it used enough power to cause the phone to warm up in my pocket. Not that it got hot, but it was noticeably warm to the touch. This day was different in usage, since I had some phone time (with Bluetooth) and also using the Wi-Fi hotspot to feed my laptop. One thing is for sure – I really like not having to look for local wireless networks, compromising security, having to see/hear ads from “free” internet providers before I get access, etc. I also like not having to make sure my Sierra OverDrive is charged and ready to go, power it up, etc.
I intentionally didn’t connect the phone to my laptop, in order to drain it and see how it works under pressure. The phone was on for 9 hours, with 22% remaining, which displays a yellow battery icon. After 10 hours, I was in the red zone, with just 12% remaining. Had I actually been working with it properly, I would have tethered and charged the phone, rather than running the Wi-Fi hotspot.
Another brief note about purchasing at your local Sprint Store: Although after reading my in-depth review, you may feel completely at-ease ordering your Nexus S over the internet, I didn’t have the luxury of any reviews – I actually got my phone a couple of days before the “official” release (hope I didn’t just get anyone in trouble), and thus, no real-life reviews were available. James, the Store Manager, and his crew (during their grand opening) allowed me to try several phones, and the new Galaxy tablet. Being an iPad user, I didn’t care for the smaller size of the Galaxy, but maybe that’s another review for another day.
Here is a chart, showing battery life of the Nexus S, beginning with the very first day I used it.

Total Time (hours)
Percentage Remaining
Estimated Battery Life

Would I recommend purchasing a Nexus S? Yes. I bought mine at the Sprint Store in Alameda, Calif. I like the opportunity to hold, test, and compare the phone, rather than order online and hope for the best.


Product: Nexus S 4G
Manufacturer: Samsung
Price: $199 with two-year Sprint contract, $549 without contract
Operating system: Android 2.3 Gingerbread
Processor: 1GHz Samsung Hummingbird
Memory: Integrated 16GB flash drive (no expansion card slot)
Connectivity: 1xEV-DO CDMA and WiMAX 4G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Display: 4 inch 480×800 pixels Super AMOLED
Camera: 5 megapixel with LED flash (rear); VGA front facing camera
Battery: 1500 mAh lithium-ion battery
Dimensions: 4.88 x 2.48 x 0.44 inches
Weight: 4.62 ounces
Ted Brooks is a trial presentation consultant, author, and speaker, with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. E-mail: Blog: Court Technology and Trial Presentation blog.

Ted Brooks
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco

Trial Consulting Network

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

2011 San Francisco Trial Lawyer of the Year

I am pleased to congratulate the recipients of the 2011 San Francisco Trial Lawyer of the Year, Doug Saeltzer and Rich Schoenberger, of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger. This is the second year in a row the firm has won this award.
The case responsible for this award was Liou v. State of California (Caltrans), a difficult case in which a young lady was struck while crossing a busy road, inside a crosswalk. For additional details on the case, see my article, Effective Use of Exhibits in Closing Argument Helps Win $12.2 Million Verdict. I am happy to have been a part of this trial team, and look forward to many more. We will be presenting a CLE for the SFTLA today.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Judiciary Opinions on Technology in Trial

A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News (Courtrooms now aglow with high-tech methods for telling better visual tale) shared the “non-legal” perspective of courtroom technology, referencing a number of high-profile matters, including the Robert Blake murder trial, Los Angeles Dodgers divorce trial, the San Francisco Zoo tiger mauling case, and the DeAnza baseball team gang rape case. The article demonstrates the importance and impact of adding visual persuasion to your trial presentation, and that jurors and judges alike find it compelling.

Image: Litigation Media Group

Rather than attempting to convince or explain why an attorney should want to bother with the added expense and work involved to incorporate trial technology into their practice, and/or why you probably shouldn’t attempt to handle the technology yourself while trying your case (which I’ve already done in Trial Presentation in Large and Complex Cases), I will share a few comments from the Judiciary.

“I was trying cases when you got your felt pen out or wrote on a blackboard. And now, of course, technology exists, and I’ve tried some cases with a lot of in-courtroom technology being used and it’s very good, if well done. But! It can be screwed up. If it collapses on you, now you’ve a problem. Or if you can’t run it right, you have a problem. But, if done right, you have a great thing because juries are used to video presentations, bits and pieces of information being sent at them. So I think it works well, if done right.” – Hon. Joseph Huber, Santa Clara County Superior Court

Juries seem to love visuals, even if it’s just jury instructions. I see it more and more.” -- Hon. Jerome E. Brock, Santa Clara County Superior Court.
"I want you to know that you have had an opportunity by being jurors on this case to participate in one of the most well-prepared, if not the most well-prepared, cases that I have seen, that you have been on the cutting edge as far as technology in the courtroom, that you have had an opportunity to see a case presented by people who clearly know what they're doing and how to do it. We have some technology that I have not used in my courtroom before. And we all had some concern about how is that going to work, and it worked very, very well." – Hon. Bonnie Sabraw (ret.), Alameda County Superior Court

If you’re a litigator, you don’t have to learn technology or change the style in which you try your cases, just as your clients don’t need to go to law school in order for you to represent them. If your case and client warrant calling in a trial presentation expert, it’s an easy decision.

Ted Brooks
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco

Trial Consulting Network