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OSGi Alliance on the digital home: “We are at a pivotal stage”

Susan Schwarze,  Board Member & VP Marketing,  OSGi Alliance

Susan Schwarze,
Board Member & VP Marketing,
OSGi Alliance

A fascinating final edition to our series of interviews looking at the place of connected entertainment in the digital home. Today, IP&TV News asks Susan Schwarze, Board Member & VP Marketing, OSGi Alliance, about all the recent and future developments in this fast-evolving ecosystem.

IP&TV News: Hi Susan. We were interested in better understanding the interaction between the digital home and connected entertainment. How will they influence and intersect with one another in the coming years?

Susan Schwarze: Connected entertainment is a part of the digital home and is usually the first exposure consumers have to the digital home. Connected entertainment, including Smart TV, gaming, video-on-demand and the ability to view content on multiple devices, has introduced consumers to connected services. Its success is now helping to drive the market for other connected home services.

From an industry perspective the difference between the digital home and connected entertainment is visible and includes related technical standards and a plethora of devices. However, for the consumer the underlying technology doesn’t play a role at best – it just works. A consumer wants a personalized set of functions and solutions available, regardless of any differences and underlying technology.

In addition to connected entertainment solutions, digital home providers have begun to offer solutions that focus on home automation and comfort (security, thermostat, doors, lights, small appliances) as well as home security, healthcare and energy efficiencies/savings. These solutions can now be connected to the offerings of connected entertainment via APIs. To further enrich the connected home experience and make it easier for consumers and service providers to integrate new devices and services, we need an integral approach, which is offered by the OSGi Alliance (www.osgi.org) in coordination with other standardization organizations (SDOs).

IP&TV News: Do you think we are in a pivotal phase in the development of the connected home? What can be achieved at present?

Yes, we certainly are in a pivotal phase. With a brief legacy and incredible opportunities, we can choose to build a connected home architecture with a modular approach that future–proofs our investments, reduces development cycles and assures rapid and cost-effective remote delivery of new services.  The pace of mobile service adoption on smartphones demonstrates how quickly consumers adopt useful and easy-to-use services, and we need to prepare accordingly.

Based on the standardization activities between the OSGi Alliance, HGI, BBF, and UPnP Forum for customer premise equipment (CPE) like routers or gateways, we now see the first broad consumer offerings from telecom operators such as QIVICON and AT&T Digital Life. There are many more solutions built on this coordinated standard effort that range from system-on-chip vendors (SoC) such as STM Smart Home to Amdocs’ product offering for service providers.  Currently, we are working on extending the scope with coordinated efforts around device abstraction and cloud.

IP&TV News: What are the main challenges that will have to overcome?

The fragmented market with a plethora of competing standards and isolated solution offerings confuses the consumer as well as the B2B market. Coordinated standardization is the best solution to move ahead with the goal to create a larger addressable market overall, including opportunities for companies to differentiate their offerings within the standardized environment.

The more the industry recognizes that coordinated standardization activities can be used to overcome hurdles to reduce device costs and to offer flexible and extendable consumer solutions, the faster the industry will benefit from the outcome and modular add-on offerings. The consumer doesn’t want lock-ins; but if the industry is just driven by the isolated offerings of a few companies, the consumer will be convinced that there is no flexible solution from which the entire market can benefit.

IP&TV News: Where does OSGi fit into this? Can you give us an overview of its place in the ecosystem?

The OSGi Alliance standard provides a cornerstone for a standards-based end-to-end solution: it offers a standardized component-oriented execution environment to dynamically maintain, manage, bill, and enhance networked devices and their applications remotely and also provides a programming model for applications and services.

In 1999 the OSGi Alliance started its specification process with the focus on the smart home. The specification included the dynamic execution environment and first APIs to integrate multiple devices despite their different communication protocols, hardware and resources.

Over the years, the specification has been adopted and enhanced by various industries, now also offering a programming model for applications so that they are built in components which can dynamically interact, thus offering the re-use of software components and dynamic updates. New communication protocol APIs, device abstraction, cloud-focused and other activities are part of the currently developed specifications.

Nowadays, the OSGi Alliance enables standardized solutions for various markets, under the umbrella of the Internet of Things.  Several years ago the OSGi Alliance began reaching out to other SDOs and coordinating its standardization activities for the benefit of its members and beyond in order to overcome the fragmented market and offer open, flexible, end-to-end solutions. The growing ecosystem proves that these coordinated efforts are a successful route.

IP&TV News: What will the future broadband router look like?

It depends on which functionalities such a broadband router will have. If it’s developed into a service gateway, it will have a lot of local functionality. If the solution is based on the cloud, the local “box” will be very thin and just offer a bridge into the household.

In any case, the local “box” needs to be able to dynamically enhance the device and application network, taking into account the further development of new communication protocols, additional smart devices and new applications. “Future-proof” and “usability” become more than buzz words, they will be a measurement for customer attraction and maintenance as well as for development cycles.

IP&TV News:  Can you give five examples of digital home technologies you think will become more or less ubiquitous in the next five years?

With cloud services enabling more and more video and gaming offerings, we anticipate entertainment-based technologies like smart TV and video-on-demand, including set-top boxes, will continue to grab consumer mindshare and purchasing choices. However, growing machine-to-machine capabilities will likely propel convenient and cost-saving technologies like lighting control, climate control and home monitoring, even if their adoption won’t capture as many headlines. The EU mandate for smart grid sets up opportunities for service providers to offer many of the cost-saving technologies, and our increasingly digital lifestyle paves the way for interconnected lights and doors. “Finding” our trending energy use will likely become as commonplace as “finding a friend” or using location services.

In general, Internet device connectivity and cloud offerings are the two most important advancements in the digital home market with less boundaries to adjacent markets such as e-health or smart energy. The consumer asks for consumer-centric solutions, from which he or she can pick as they wish – at any point in time. The solutions need to be secure, easy-to-use, safe and future-proof.  So let’s join forces.

IP&TV News: How important is an event like the Digital Home World Summit at this point and why? 

We are at a pivotal phase and Digital Home World Summit provides a very good opportunity to share perspectives and exchange information with industry stakeholders and colleagues in order to launch new cooperative relationships that support and further our individual goals. I look forward to participating in the event, sharing my perspective and receiving further input.

Susan Schwarze will be appearing at the Digital Home World Summit (3-4 June). For booking and more information go here

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