UP Front - February 2012 - Latest Industry News and Insights
Numbers and letters: HTML5
While the cable industry has been establishing EBIF and tru2way as a common environment for writing and hosting applications, the Web-based HTML5 environment has the potential to be as useful, if not more so, based on expectations that it will eventually become almost ubiquitous.
The value of HTML5 is that it can provide a common element supporting applications that run on the Web, on mobile networks and in cable networks. MSOs with tru2way-based boxes will be able to host HTML5 applications that will run across PCs, set-tops and mobile devices.
ActiveVideo recently launched an updated version of its CloudTV platform that supports applications written in HTML5. It explains that HTML5 will “enable the fastest and most flexible delivery of unsurpassed user experiences to any set-top box.”
Using the platform, multichannel providers can offer rich, animated “iVOD” experiences that enhance VOD with intelligent search, discovery and personalization, creating engagement and driving revenues in a multi-screen environment.
“Until now, television apps have been limited by set-top box diversity and the need for complicated development tools – and programmers who know how to use them,” said Jeff Miller, president and CEO of ActiveVideo. “CloudTV H5 solves both by bringing the power of an HTML5 browser to any digital set-top box. It enables service providers to create navigation interfaces – or any apps – and to deploy them through any network or device within a fraction of the time that historically has been needed for new apps.”
Zodiac Interactive recently signed two more cable customers for its PowerUp HTML5 platform. The two operators were identified only as Tier 1 North American MSOs. The company previously announced that it has been working with Cablevision and Videotron.
PowerUp HTML5 has been developed as a service-based, layered architecture, providing either a thin- or full-client front end supported by a service layer that separates the presentation layer from the underlying business logic and middleware.
The company said it provides full browser control of all systems and subsystems for IPTV infrastructures – not only tru2way, but for other set-top box application platforms such as PowerTV, Linux and GITV, as well.
Meanwhile, at the CES show in Las Vegas, Cisco was demonstrating a prototype of how some of its new Videoscape components work in conjunction with Coincident TV. Using Cisco’s Conductor and an iPad, viewers can get more information about a TV show they’re watching. The UI is HTML5-based, and APIs can be used by third parties to develop additional apps.
And YouTube said during the IP&TV World Forum that it is working toward using HTML5.
Also in Vegas, Motorola Mobility showed off a new gateway in its 4Home series that is designed to integrate a wider range of broadbandbased services, including home automation and energy management. DreamGallery, the search and discovery tool for the new Connected Home Gateway, is cloud-based and designed in HTML5, which means it can be branded by each MSO and quickly reconfigured.
Finally, SeaChange recently announced new gateway software that it designed to support service providers’ transition from QAM-based video to IP-based video.
Numbers and letters: 3-D TV
The 3-D market may not be as sexy anymore, but it’s still there, and there were a few recent announcements of note.
CableLabs invited manufacturers of 3-D-capable cable set-top boxes, TV sets and test equipment to an event this month during which they’ll be able to evaluate how well their products interoperate.
Ultimately, CableLabs will provide certification for products that conform to its OpenCable 3-D TV specifications.
For more than two years, CableLabs has been working with various manufacturers to make sure that legacy set-tops will be able to support a basic form of 3-D and that new settops will be able to support more advanced, higher-resolution 3-D formats.
The interop event, scheduled for Feb. 13-17, will draw from expanded testing capabilities in the CableLabs 3-D TV research and demonstration lab, the organization said.
The CableLabs 3-D TV Lab, established in 2010, was set up to demonstrate prototype products and services and for testing conformance to standards and specifications that promote interoperability of 3-D TV technology and services on the cable network.
CableLabs said it is now equipped with a comprehensive suite of calibrated 3-D TV video test streams based on its OpenCable specifications. The tools are care of Allegro DVT. The test suite will be used in interoperability test events, the CableLabs Development Lab and the CableLabs Certification Program.
And last month, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable provided four rounds of coverage of the Sony Open in 3-D.
Both of the cable operators carried the Golf Channel’s 3-D telecast of the tournament, which was the first full-field tournament of the 2012 PGA Tour season. The 3-D coverage included two live rounds and two re-air rounds.
At the International CES show in Las Vegas, Cisco announced that its blended Videoscape TV platform is set to offer “video in the cloud” services.
Cisco rolled out a new gateway, the Cisco 9800 series, that features six tuners, which allows viewers to watch and record six video streams simultaneously. The gateway delivers live, recorded and on-demand content – including standard- and high-definition and 3-D TV – to multiple screens within the home via traditional QAM-based set-tops and pure IP set-tops.
Also at CES, Shawn Dubravac, head of research at the Consumer Electronics Association – which puts on the show – said that as TVs become increasingly complex, more buttons are popping up on remotes. But that’s a trend that can’t continue, he said.
TV-makers are now looking for alternatives. Last year, LG introduced a “Magic Wand” remote that’s motion-sensitive, much like a game console controller. This year, it’s taking another page from Microsoft’s Kinect game console and introducing a 3-D camera that perches on top of a TV and interprets viewers’ motions, letting them control the onscreen cursor with hand movements.
“I think 2012 will be the year of the interface,” Dubravac said.
And the renewed focus on smart TVs comes as TV-makers are scrambling for new features to interest buyers. U.S. TV sales are in decline after a rush to upgrade to highdefinition and flat panels abated.
Amid the slowdown, Asian TV makers tried to make 3-D a “must-have” feature, but that effort has fallen flat. Leichtman Research Group conducted a survey that found 80 percent of Americans have heard of 3-D TVs, but just 5 percent intend to buy one.
Finally, Amino introduced a hybrid media gateway based on Intel’s 32nm Atom chip for consumer electronics at CES. WebGL (Web-based graphics library) functionality will allow the creation of 3-D applications, user interfaces and electronic program guides, in addition to supporting online gaming.
Numbers and letters: RF4CE
The ZigBee RF4CE specification offers a solution for the control of a wide range of products, including home entertainment devices, garage door openers, keyless entry systems and more. GreenPeak Technologies recently launched its new GP570 chip, a highly integrated single SoC solution that will allow the development of low-cost, motionenabled remote controls.
The GP570 is GreenPeak’s single-chip RF4CE remote control SoC solution with integrated support for motion sense algorithms, which is based on combined accelerometer and gyroscope input for advanced gesture recognition and smooth and accurate movement control.
GreenPeak offers the GP570 with reference designs that allow for integration with minimal effort and a short time to market. The GP570 is part of the GreenPeak remote control RF4CE product line.
“Next-generation remote controls will help MSOs and cable providers excite existing subscribers and attract new ones,” says Rob Enderle, principle analyst with Enderle Group. “Adding motion sensing to RF4CE remote control features, like interactivity, whole-house coverage and outstanding battery life, will help bring the cable industry into the age defined by products like the Xbox Kinect and Wii.”
At the CES show in Las Vegas, GreenPeak announced that Comcast selected its controller chips, in conjunction with ZigBee RF4CE technology, for use in remote controls for its Xfinity TV service. The two are also in the process of standardizing an MSO profile protocol optimized for service operators’ needs that will be open for all operators and CE companies to adopt.
Also at CES, Dish Network introduced its new whole-home DVR “Hopper” platform. Hopper is the master HD DVR that has 2 terabytes of hard drive memory, while the “Joey” thin-client boxes are located around a home and connect to the Hopper drive via MoCA. There’s also Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity and a ZigBee RF4CE to help customers find those lost remote controls.
Finally, in a CED feature last year, Pascal Portelli, a senior vice president in Technicolor’s Digital Home Division, said: “On the remote control side, RF4CE has tailwind. We’re doing a lot of integration of RF4CE, and often we’re asked to include both IR and RF4CE.”
Also in the feature, Steve Reynolds, Comcast’s senior vice president of customer premises equipment, noted that Comcast’s demonstration of its Parker box at The Cable Show last year included the use of a remote control based on RF4CE.