In cable, the cable modem and the television converter loom large as signatures of technological advancement. But industry historians point to a far less notorious device as the innovation that propelled the industry from its tenuous origins to an echelon reserved for the truly game-changing. It was a signal meter.
Patents are still very much in the news. I discussed a broad review of patents in my last column. This month, I will drill down a bit. I hope you went to Google Patents and downloaded one or more just to see what they look like. Only utility patents will be discussed.
In the “Star Wars” saga, the legendary Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi describes the “Force” as an energy field that “surrounds us; it penetrates us and binds the galaxy together.” In a similar fashion, the move to “open-source” software binds together the many moving parts of the ever-expanding galaxy of software and electronics devices.
The race is on to develop the next-generation access signaling schemes for cable operators to keep up with Nielsen’s Law growth in network capacities and speeds delivered to customers. CableLabs and the SCTE have partnered in new and deeper ways to accelerate the deployment of DOCSIS 3.1.
The FCC has a plan to induce broadcasters to give up some of their frequency spectrum assignments so that more spectrum becomes available for mobile communications. But the FCC plan might also bump the radio astronomy scientists out of off-air TV Channel 37.
With IP-based video technology maturing, there is a growing number of smaller companies able to provide subscribers in their typically exurban-to-rural areas with services and features that include larger packages of top-ranked channels (with more of those channels in HD), multi-room DVR, TV Everywhere-type services and hybrid features like Caller ID on TV.
Cable operators, telecom carriers, satellite providers and other service providers are racing to build the infrastructure necessary for delivering any program, on-demand or live, to any device at any time and over any access network. Being first to market with that ability could be a tremendous advantage.
Cable operators may have a golden opportunity in the business services market. Old-style PBXs in the enterprise equipment market are gradually being updated to IP PBXs. On the one hand, some new IP-based services are possible with these new systems. On the other hand, however, TDM trunking of those IP PBXs is still the predominant method of interconnection.
The ultimate product in the TV business is not content. It is the presumed attention of the viewers of that content, sold in aggregate to advertisers. Advertising has been the cornerstone of the TV business since back when the only screens available were the dials on radios.
Whether the delivery agent is Coca-Cola, coffee or chocolate, a solid jolt of caffeine has fueled the creation of many a technology breakthrough. So it’s only fitting that the first known demonstration of an Internet-delivered photo stream involved the popular stimulant.
Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power to establish patent and copyright laws. Because it’s a constitutional issue, patent cases are tried in federal court and can be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. A patent is the right to exclude someone from making, selling or using a patented invention.
While not every operator has rolled out a complete multi-screen TV Everywhere service offering, there is certainly sufficient activity worldwide for us to say that TV Everywhere is truly here. In fact, forward-thinking operators are already planning “what’s next” when it comes to TV Everywhere.
Dean Kamen is keynoting SCTE Cable-Tec Expo. There’s no way to say that without it sounding like a promotional announcement, but maybe that’s what it should be. Because no matter how innovative we are – and, trust me, my hat is off to the cable community when it comes to new approaches – no one exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation like Kamen.
As those of us who participate in industry standards development are continually reminded, since standards have strategic and competitive importance, they must be developed using fair methods by committees that allow wide participation and consider all proposals.
In the family of customer premises equipment (CPE), digital transport adapters (DTAs) may lack cachet when compared with the latest set-top boxes, digital video recorders (DVRs) and gateways, but DTAs are playing an increasingly important role in cable operator deployments.