Cable Show: Tech forums get smart about devices, consumers, Wi-FI
More devices, more choices and more broadband translate to more intelligence in our home networks, and intelligent gateways will lead the way. That was the key takeaway from the first of Tuesday’s Spring Technical Forums: “Human Touch: The Intersection of Intelligent Devices and Intelligent Consumers.”
“The home network is full of gadgets that are connected. Using a smart gateway can walk consumers through the process of setting up devices and choosing the best options for better connectivity and use of broadband,” said Carol Ansley, senior director of IP engineering for Arris.
As customers get more comfortable with new devices and interfaces, they are looking for a new paradigm with their user interfaces, according to a study by Buckeye Cable.
“We looked at three different set-top box groups and two guide types and found a higher number of users with the advanced user interface. Customers are expecting more of our products, so a lot depends on the user interface,” said Jim Brown, vice president of engineering at Buckeye.
Those same customers are also trying to make some sense of all the devices, noted Peter Docherty, founder and CTO of ThinkAnalytics.
“We’ve found that creating a profile of viewing behavior, including on other devices, is helpful. But we must understand content and the consumer and analyze viewer behavior across all devices. There really is no magic tool,” Docherty said.
Configuring a home network to handle the proliferation of devices is a top of mind issue as well. “Not everything is over Wi-Fi, so gateways are required. Today, there could be two or three routers in the home. It’s not simple anymore,” said Chris Grundemann, architect, IP Networks, CableLabs.
His recommendation is to incorporate HIPnet, a self-configuring multi-router home IP network, “because home networks will become more complex and home users won’t.”
Predicting what products will be popular is also high on the home network radar screen, and recommendation engines are extremely helpful. “We are looking at all available information sources; Facebook activity, Twitter, etc. then extracting statistics for a model to predict product popularity. Now, we can predict 70 percent of the popular shows using only social media, and when combined with Nielsen data, more than 80 percent,” explained Jan Neumann, lead researcher for Comcast Cable.
Just how to manage all of this in-home Quality of Experience, and Wi-Fi’s role were the two issues for panelists during the second Spring Technical session: “Air Quality Control: Approaches for Improving Wireless Broadband User Experience.”
“Wi-Fi should be fast, easy and reliable, and spectrum is the key. Clean spectrum will enable progress,” said Rob Alderfer, senior strategic analyst at CableLabs.
Passpoint, Alderfer noted, is one solution. “It automatically ensures that customers get access they pay for. But we need to work together and get the technology into the hands of consumers for Wi-Fi to reach its potential.”
Sharing IP addresses is another issue that needs to be addressed, said Rajiv Asati, distinguished engineer at Cisco Systems.
“We’re sharing IP addresses with strangers,” he said. “That shouldn’t happen. There’s a huge cost associated with it, including the negative impact on user experience, capital and operational expenses.”
Asati’s solution is a more aggressive move to IPv6. “IPv6 is for real and getting traction. There’s a lot of implementation out there.”
There are also a lot of Wi-Fi devices in the home, which raises another set of issues, according to Sandra Howe, senior vice president for strategic market development for Arris.
“If not installed and managed properly, Wi-Fi can disrupt the customer experience,” Howe said. “We’re seeing more problems with high-speed data installation and throughput loss as well when there is a mix of devices.”
A solution could be with a fleet of cable “Geek Squads” and self-installs. “Customers can use smart phones to move through the installation process and develop birth certificates,” Howe noted.
At the end of the session, there was widespread agreement that Wi-Fi is broadband and it must be easy, secure, reliable and well managed.