November 27 - 30, 2001

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uReach Technologies adds iTV access to unified communications

HOLMDEL, N.J.-uReach Technologies Inc. has announced interactive TV access to its Unified Communications service framework for broadband service providers. Broadband service providers will now be able to deliver Unified Communications solutions to their subscribers over any cable access device (for example, cable modem/PC, set-top box, cable telephony), as well as wireless devices, according to the company. 

uReach solutions offer broadband subscribers the ability to use iTV to access their e-mail, voice mail, faxes and SMS messages. In addition, it positions iTV as a platform for important message notifications and the display of visual caller ID on TV screens. Subscribers have the option to answer incoming calls, send them to voice mail, reroute the call to other numbers or just hang up. All this is done while protecting TV viewers from unwanted messaging and interruptions.

uReach Technologies is demonstrating its solution at the CableNET exhibit at the Western Show.

iSurfTV will show IPG systems

SUNNYVALE, Calif.-iSurfTV, which recently entered into a strategic partnership with Motorola, is demonstrating its Interactive Program Guide at the Western Show. The company provides IPG solutions that allow network operators to have full control over their IPG, including design, functionality, branding and revenue opportunities.

Motorola enhances TV

ANAHEIM, Calif.-Motorola Inc. Broadband Communications Sector has launched the EVr-8401 Enhanced TV Viewer, a wireless, touchscreen, handheld device that helps enrich the TV viewing experience, according to the company. The viewer wirelessly connects to either a Motorola DCT-5000 family advanced interactive digital set-top terminal's cable modem, or a standalone cable modem for an "always-on" high-speed connection.

When connected to a high-speed data cable service, the unit offers users a second screen for accessing Internet content relating to the TV programming they are watching. Users are able to casually view content from the Internet on the EVr-8401, while they and those in the room continue watching the TV programming-uninterrupted and in full-screen video.

The EVr-8401's interactive programming, Internet, e-mail, chat and instant messaging applications are accessible through a remote IR keyboard, touch-screen keyboard or on-screen handwriting recognition. In addition, users can play MP3 audio from the Web, link simultaneously to the Web site of the television program being watched, and tune channels-via the remote control function-on a Motorola DCT-2000 or DCT-5000 family digital set-top terminal, or other consumer electronics product such as a TV or VCR. The EVr-8401 can also be used as a portable device to access the Internet, e-mail and other online services from anywhere in and around the home.

Concero helps operators assess iTV services

LOS ANGELES-Baffled about how to deploy interactive TV? Concero Inc. has introduced Entertainment-On-Demand services, which assist cable operators and cable programmers with the assessment, design, development and deployment of new interactive services that improve merchandising and sale of on-demand assets (movies, TV programming, music and games).

Concero assists network operators in selecting the appropriate hardware and software components, as well as integrating these components with other applications such as electronic programming guides and billing systems to deliver a complete solution. The company also provides verification testing of these solutions to ensure successful integration and interoperability in the planned deployment environment.

Concero's integration labs feature five separate headends, including Harmonic, Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta.

PrediWave debuts television text and image on-demand services

ANAHEIM, Calif.-PrediWave has introduced a text and image on-demand (TOD) service which enables cable operators to transmit up to 100,000 pages of static text over one analog channel. As a component of the recently introduced PrediWave Digital Broadcast Delivery System, the application enhances traditional data broadcasting by providing consumers with access to text and graphics via their television sets for digital viewing at any time. This interactive function allows users to view information from a variety of resources, including newspapers, books, magazines and Web sites, along with the ability to conduct paid transactions in real-time.

With a PrediWave set-top box, users can gain instant access to all types of content. Each individual program or channel can offer a distinct type of content. Additional possibilities are newsletters, government documents or information, travel and airline data, weather, news, Yellow pages and a digitized library. With two-way interactivity, capabilities also include shopping, stock market transactions, third-party billing, creation of a personal telephone book and Web surfing. TOD channels can be self-operated by a cable system or licensed to other content providers, and each may carry embedded paid advertising or promotional messages. The PrediWave TOD capability does not require a set-top box with a hard drive to deliver content, but may be included as a means to provide storage for text, video-on-demand movies or other time-shifted television content.

Time Warner picks Concurrent VOD for Houston

ATLANTA, Ga.-Time Warner Cable has chosen Concurrent Computer Corp. to launch video-on-demand services for its Houston division, the company's fourth largest division. The project represents the first system-wide VOD deployment for Time Warner on the Motorola digital platform. 

For the launch, Concurrent has shipped 36 servers to Houston, with a total streaming capacity of more than 11,520 streams and an initial storage capacity of more than 200 titles. The Houston division serves more than 650,000 basic subscribers and more than 220,000 digital subscribers. The division uses Motorola DCT-2000 set-top boxes.

Concurrent's MediaHawk system has been commercially deployed in Time Warner's Honolulu, Hawaii system. And in April of 2000, Concurrent and Time Warner Cable reached an agreement for Concurrent to provide equipment to support Time Warner's digital roll-out of VOD in 2001 and 2002.

Digital subs to get interactive sports application

ANAHEIM, Calif.-Live sports events meet interactive television in a new application announced by InformTV. The company's InformTV Sports 1.0 application delivers interactive live sports content, like scores and game details, to subscribers of digital cable television. InformTV also announced that Blue Ridge Communications will conduct the first consumer trial of the application by the end of the year.

More than 5,000 Blue Ridge subscribers will get live scores, statistics and game information from every NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB game through Scientific-Atlanta and Pioneer digital set-top boxes deployed in Blue Ridge's network. The program allows for users to have complete control of the InformTV Sports application through a standard remote control, allowing them to "pull" sports content where and when they want it.ality features, while Incanta developed the technology to power the toolbar.

Easy navigation the goal of Armchair Media, Incanta Partnership

ATLANTA-Two interactive content players have joined forces to create an embedded service navigator that can organize all of an MSO's broadband offerings in a simple user interface. Atlanta-based Incanta and Armchair Media are working to provide MSOs with a "toolbar" that will simplify a user's navigation of an MSO's broadband content: 

Offerings like music, games, e-learning and video and cable programming that operators are increasingly offering to their subscribers. The navigator's embedded nature means that the MSO could have a customized, permanent visual presence within the Web browser, where subscribers would be constantly exposed to the operator's services and branding.

Armchair crafted the toolbar's look and user functionality features, while Incanta developed the technology to power the toolbar.

Operator HDTV taking shape

ANAHEIM, Calif.-One of the advanced technologies MSOs (and consumers, for that matter) are anxious to get rolled out is HDTV, and new technologies are emerging to help operators get closer to feeding HDTV. BigBand Networks, a company that provides broadband multimedia routing systems, has unveiled a video bit rate adaptation module for the HDTV format called RateShaping.

In the early transition to premium HDTV programming, bandwidth efficiency is crucial as HDTV incoming bit rates can reach as high as 19 Mbps, or the equivalent of six standard definition program feeds. Today, operators are currently deploying the Broadband Multimedia-Service Router (BMR) to groom SDTV programs, as well as multiplex up to two HDTV streams in one 256 QAM. With the new software enhancement, operators will be able to add the new HDTV RateShaping module to BMRs already deployed in the field, and transmit more HDTV feeds on the same QAM.

VertigoXmedia demos TechTV iTV

ANAHEIM, Calif.-At Microsoft's booth at the Western Show, VertigoXmedia is demonstrating the interactive television solution it developed for TechTV.

VertigoXmedia provided a complete control and automation system, Vertigo's Producer On Air, for the launch of TechTV's Tech Live production. It provides a system for creating, controlling, and delivering iTV content in parallel with the television broadcast. The system provides the capability for broadcasters and operators to share and utilize the same content over a variety of media platforms simultaneously.

OpenTV, TVN to deliver iTV content and services

ANAHEIM, Calif.-OpenTV announced it has reached an agreement with TVN Entertainment to deliver interactive TV (iTV) content and services to North American cable operators.

Currently, TVN's satellite-based distribution network delivers movies, sports and advertising content to more than 60 million cable subscribers. OpenTV will provide TVN's network with a suite of iTV services including the PlayJam games channel, as well as a "starter kit" of iTV services that includes real-time news, local weather, stock quotes and entertainment services.

S-A offers pumped up network software

ATLANTA-Scientific-Atlanta is giving a boost to interactive and on-demand services like video-on-demand (VOD) and subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) with the release of an upgraded version of its Digital Network Control System (DNCS) software.

The software improvements center on expanded network capacity and scalability, crucial factors for operators aiming to offer large-scale, high-bandwidth VOD and SVOD services. Primary functions of S-A's DNCS software include set-top provisioning, session management, network flow control and bandwidth optimization. And as consumers clamor for more and more on-demand programming, network software will be further taxed to provide coordinated communication among all of the elements within an operator's network.

So far, Time Warner Cable has deployed the new upgrade in Columbia, S.C. and Cincinnati, where VOD and SVOD service is being tested.

HDTV-without wires

SAN DIEGO, Calif.-In an invitation-only event, Magis Networks Inc. is conducting a demonstration of a wireless 5 GHz network transmitting HDTV. The company develops chipsets that enable wireless communications of TCP/IP data, high-quality video, and audio throughout the home and office.

Sun unveils open server platform

ANAHEIM, Calif.-Saying the fledgling interactive TV industry needs to literally "open" up, Sun Microsystems Inc. has pulled the wrapper off a new appliance platform for server systems based on open interfaces.

Sun has gathered a group of interactive TV players-including Kasenna, Alticast, Interactive TV/Visionik Interactive TV and N2 Broadband-to back its Sun Media Appliance Platform for control server systems. The platform, based on Sun systems and iForce business applications products, uses open formats such as Interactive Services Architecture (ISA) DVB-ASI, DVB-MHP and MPEG to deliver a gamut of interactive services ranging from video-on-demand to Internet TV applications.

Still in its infancy, interactive TV has been dominated by proprietary systems-such as that of Sun's archrival, Microsoft Corp. But observers say the industry is looking for a more open-standards approach to drive down hardware cost and increase choice.

The platform will allow content providers and network equipment providers to create interactive TV and VOD products based on one uniform server architecture. 

Interoperability is also the aim for CableLabs Inc.'s PacketCable initiative. But PacketCable focuses on interoperability protocols for how different clients communicate, while Sun's platform targets the controlling server systems.

Artel unveils transport family

MARLBOROUGH, Mass.-Artel Video Systems is premiering its DigiLink 2700 family of ASI transport solutions, designed specifically for the video-on-demand market, at the Western Show. The family offers cable television operators a solution for centralized VOD transport networks by enabling the transport of digital video programming from centralized video servers out to regional hub locations over existing fiber optic links. 

The DigiLink 2701 is a fiber optic transmission system designed to transport a single channel of industry standard Digital Video Broadcast-Asyn-chronous Serial Interface or uncompressed SDI over metropolitan area distances. The system uses dark fiber constant delay transmission and is able to transport up to 55 digital TV programs per ASI transport stream. To further bandwidth conservation, the DigiLink 2701 incorporates dense wavelength division multiplexing capabilities for up to 32 ASI streams to be multiplexed onto a single fiber when the DigiLink 2701 is combined with Artel's MegaWave DWDM multiplexer.