Earlier this month ARRIS held its annual Video Leadership Forum at Barcelona’s ‘W’, the colossal sail-shaped hotel that billows above the skateboarders, cyclists, and roller skaters weaving continuously along the promenade below.
Inside the hotel, a selection of representatives from telcos, cable customers, ISPs and the press were busy reflecting on the present and the future of TV. For all the differences of opinions and perspectives, however, some common themes irrepressibly emerged. For one, TV was neither dead nor dying. Nor was it being cannibalised. If anything, despite the changes that had shaken the format over recent years, people were watching more than ever.
Yet, on the other hand, the imperative was firmly there for TV to innovate, to diversify, and to experiment. In one address, ARRIS’s own CTO Charles Cheevers drew our attention to the future of the big screen, a future which potentially saw the TV becoming even more central to family life, mainly through its increasing integration into the connected home.
“In times gone past having a cloud infrastructure was laughable on a network,” explained Cheevers, days later, on the phone to IP&TV News. “With speeds of one DOCSIS channel at 55Mbs to the user you can’t do much in the way of cloud architecture. But if you have a Gigabit network using emergent DOCSIS 3.1 or on fibre for example, then that changes the game because now you really can bring cloud applications into the equation… You can now synchronize activity between cloud and consumer eyeballs with the ability to deliver content to the user in seconds – that brings additional value. You can also now understand the customer in new ways than ever before – you can link him to cloud applications like ‘Remind me to put out the Garbage when I get home.’”
Cheevers explained how ARRIS customers will increasingly look to exploit the speed and size of the network by building applications that reside in the cloud but allow them to leverage the gateway and set top in the home. The examples are intriguing and logical – allowing the MVPD investment in home devices to be leveraged towards a more seamless digital home experience
“If you think of one simple example of home aging-in-place or home Medicare, the people who are being monitored for this tend to spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the TV, so you have already got the right kind of location and set up, and the right interface… the patient will be told each day to put a blood oxygen monitor on their finger or they will be told to take a blood pressure reading by wrapping a blood pressure gauge around their arm, or they’ll be told to step on the scales to weigh themselves, or to take pin pricks of blood for analysis… but at the moment it’s typically Bluetooth to a separate connection device that then sends it to a network, and then family and care-givers can see that event, and the doctor then can subscribe to that and take action…”
In the future, however, this entire system is one in which the feedback could come back to a TV or a multiscreen environment with tablets and smart phones, a change that introduces various benefits.
“Having a connection to your TV as your personalized home care channel seems to pass the scratch test for usability and fit for function – especially with a large portion of aging-in-place patients where you press a familiar remote control button and all your health information comes up, your Doctor’s comments arrive and all in sync too with your tablet. In the future maybe even a doctor could video conference you on it. But all of that stuff is buildable on this ecosystem, where you have a gateway that can connect to the TV. There could also be a home monitoring service for the elderly where you press just your TV remote control as a panic button where a message gets sent to a care giver who may also have not only their smartphone see the message but also synchronized to their TV and multiscreen devices in the home.”
Efficiency and cost-effectiveness (not to mention the popularisation of the smart home in general) can also be enhanced by applying the same thinking to security.
“If you have any input source from a device like a webcam, and a Zigbee controlled front door solution – imagine when if the door opens it triggers an event where the webcam can then stream the information from the door to the TV without any additional hardware. To send that information directly to the TV was never something that was doable without specific hardware as the operator ecosystem and the security system did not talk to each other, and you always used to have to have a security company come and install a box, but now the operator can decide that they can allow that service to be sent to the set top box. And you could sell that for a dollar or two including a self-installed set up – a couple of dollars revenue that could be for a front door monitoring service.”
The TV, it would seem, has a bright and interesting future – not only as a portal for video entertainment, but as a portal to a world of hosted home apps.
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