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Cable gets the lead out

Fri, 05/11/2012 - 3:00pm
Brian Santo

The cable industry used to lumber wherever it was going, but a funny thing happened on the way to all-IP: IP-based Web technologies started becoming integral elements of the service set, and cable started accelerating toward the speed of the Web. CableLabs will have plenty of evidence of that transition at its 20th CableNext Showcase at The Cable Show in Boston, set for May 21-23.

Let’s not invoke cheetahs as a metaphor just yet, but references to sloths may have to be retired.

CableLabs' Paul LiaoCableLabs CEO Paul Liao knows fast, having spent much of his career in the consumer electronics segment.

“The cable industry has moved beyond cable technologies, per se, to embrace the technology of the Web and is moving at the pace and breadth of Web innovators to bring the same experience to cable subscribers,” he told CED. “People in cable are running like crazy. It enables high-speed innovation – the industry’s embraced that.”

On a conference call with seemingly every executive CableLabs has, references to technologies that cable is getting involved with flew fast and furious, including Android, Apple, augmented reality, “cloud to ground” delivery, wireless networking and more.

Of all of those, perhaps the least widely publicized is augmented reality. Through CableLabs’ new San Francisco office, the organization has been working with Metaio (“meta I/O” – get it?), which is developing all sorts of permutations of integrating “live” and stored imagery, typically on handhelds with cameras built in.

One example is superimposing animated characters in live video, which Metaio is testing with the retailer Macy’s.

Liao described a prototype of an application co-developed with Metaio that will be on display at CableNext, in which a cable subscriber shopping for furniture could select an image of a chair from a catalog, then have that chair superimposed over a camera image of his or her living room, enabling the subscriber to see what that chair might look like in place.

CableLabs is particularly hot on next-generation content interfaces that will enable quicker, more reliable connections with more systems and devices, including handhelds, gaming consoles, camcorders and hundreds of other devices in subscribers’ homes.

A few years ago, Liao privately acknowledged that it was a problem that the various segments of the industry – communications, computers, consumer electronics – hardly ever talked to each other. We get to mention that now only because Liao now thinks the situation has largely reversed itself.

Liao and his CableLabs colleagues noted that the electronics ecosystem has come to realize the mutual benefit of working together via organizations such as DLNA, UltraViolet (the so-called digital rights locker in the sky) and the IETF.

Liao noted that CableLabs has been working with DLNA on a new extension to that specification that will be particularly useful for cable. The Commercial Video Profile (CVP) is a set of guidelines from DLNA for the streaming of, or playback of, high-value, premium commercial content across home networks.

The organization also plans on featuring the Entertainment Identifier Registry (or EIDR, picking up the D in “identity” and pronounced like the duck species). EIDR is a means of tagging, identifying and retrieving video – sort of a UPC number for video instead of groceries.

CableLabs' Ralph BrownCableLabs is similarly jazzed about the quick results from its Energy Lab project to get a “light sleep” mode designed into new set-top boxes. The mode could save 20 percent on energy draw, compared with boxes that lack the feature, said CableLabs CTO Ralph Brown.

Participating companies and showcased solutions scheduled for the 2012 CableNet exhibit include:

  • Access Systems Americas: DLNA solution for multi-screen media sharing with OpenCable integration
  • Affinegy: Software for activation of secure home networks, device discovery and connection
  • Alticast: Digital interactive ecosystem for TV operators
  • Amdocs: Wholesale Wi-Fi offering enabling commercial customers to become virtual Wi-Fi network operators
  • Aurora Networks: Unified IP optical network access platform supporting EPON, point-to-point Ethernet and GPON; node QAM module enabling mix of services within the same QAM channel
  • BlackArrow: Dynamic placement and ad insertion decisioning across multiple screens
  • CableLabs: Multiple 3-D TV-capable set-top boxes and 3-D content; next-generation user interface technology; augmented reality/content-outcome modification; automated  presence detection using existing technology; alliance with Entertainment Identifier Registry
  • Ceton: Home entertainment gateway, media center extender and hospitality network solution
  • Cisco: Wi-Fi technology showcase
  • Civolution: Watermarking of content for anti-piracy and time-synchronized content
  • Dyyno: TV Everywhere and Android set-top box solution
  • Enseo: Scalable delivery of HD content to hospitality and health care market
  • Esri: Commercial and backhaul service location qualification
  • Front Porch: Mobile browser messaging in Wi-Fi networks for branding, discovery
  • Guavas: Analytics platform for supporting business decision-making
  • Humax USA: STC solutions from IP gateways, client set-top boxes and OTT platforms
  • IPgallery: HTML5/cloud-based voice, video and data application with social networking/content-sharing
  • Irdeto: Solutions for securely managing/distributing personal media content to connected devices
  • Jinni: Next-generation video navigation and personalized discovery
  • Minerva Networks: Migration path alternatives for IP-centric pay-TV platforms
  • Nagra-Kudelski: Gateway enabling IP devices access to broadcast services over existing network/home gateway infrastructure
  • Nagra-OpenTV: Dynamic addressable ad insertion in broadcast and PVR content
  • Neustar: Solution for enabling text messaging to network-connected devices other than mobile phones
  • S&T: Enterprise monitoring and analysis for OpenCable, EBIF and Common Download deployments
  • S3Group: Solutions for lifecycle management of digital TV receiver devices
  • Sandvine: Business intelligence for understanding traffic forces driving network consumption/peak capacity requirements
  • SiliconDust: OpenCable UniDirectional Receiver (OCUR) DLNA TV tuner with DTCP-IP
  • Tektronix: Video quality monitoring and error detection/diagnosis for H.264 video streams
  • ThinkAnalytics: Content recommendation and search platform providing personalization
  • Ubee Interactive: Interactive gateway enabling applications for multiple devices
  • UXP Systems: Multi-screen interaction platform unifying user experiences across services
  • Visible World: Web-based campaign management application for targeted TV advertising
  • Wipro: Pre-paid broadband service for reducing billing and support costs in lower-yield environments
  • Zodiac Interactive: HTML5 platform and social media suite with content recognition.
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