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Predicting the future is hard, and not for the faint of heart. But since CED is celebrating its 40th year, a number of friends graciously consented to help us out with our prognostications this year. Their contributions are below.

Sometime back in 1969 I recall reading a story in which all the characters had computers on their desks.

It seemed far-fetched. On the other hand, I’d just seen a man walk on the moon.

It then occurred me that I’d actually be alive in the impossibly futuristic year 2000, and I set to figuring out how old I’d be. Being that old was harder to imagine than having a computer on my desk.

Last year in this space I said retransmission consent regulations might be reformed, and oddly enough, Congress did pass some legislation that will help a little. I said a la carte would not happen in 2014, and it didn’t, but HBO, ESPN, and CBS/Showtime announced in 2014 their plans to go direct over-the-top this year. Channel bundling is far from dead, but alternative approaches are on their way.

I said people would make a decision between Wi-Fi and small cells, and Wi- Fi won. 4K was going to remain a curiosity relegated largely to event programming, and for the most part that’s still so.

I’m not going to remind you what my sports picks last year were, but I will acknowledge my record has deteriorated to something like 3-32. Bank on this though: the next set of champs will include the Canadians, the Clippers, the Tigers, and the Colts.

And now let’s hear from our guests:

Phil McKinney

“Innovation guru,” and president & CEO of CableLabs

It’s official, robots are taking over the planet.

This year at CES, I had an interview scheduled with a top-tier media outlet and ended up getting bumped for an interview with a robot. And I heard I wasn’t the only one this happened to.

This year we’ll see IoT scaling at a rapid pace. The evolution from a pipe dream to actual devices hitting the marketplace looks like it’s finally here.

Laundry updates sent to your smartphone, an app to alert you when your coffee is ready so you don’t have to get out of bed into the morning cold until your morning beverage is hot. How about a smart plant pot that waters itself when needed?

Since the market players in the IoT space have exploded right before our eyes, the cost of IoT devices will become more affordable in 2015, and thus the connected home becomes more connected.

This also means consumers can expect to see more sensors on new products. Anything that can be sensed will be sensed and connected to the network.

In the near future, we’ll see DOCSIS 3.1 deployed in multiple networks enabling multi-Gbps services over HFC.

Expect mobile and Wi-Fi networks to continue to improve delivered performance as 5G technologies develop, leading to convergence in network features. Wi-Fi will carry the majority of Internet traffic, including outside the home environment, and will become the default network as connectivity becomes seamless.

With displays, we’ve lived through the 3-D phase and now are moving into 4K and 8K. What I’m excited about are the totally new “Volumetric and Holographic Displays.”

These displays create a visually full representation of an object in three physical dimensions, as opposed to the traditional screens that simulate 3-D through visual tricks.

With these kinds of displays, you can not only move around the objects (just as you can do with a full holograph) but also interact and move objects represented. First application will be for commercial purposes but think of the possibilities – computer gaming will never be the same.

Another area I've been tracking is bioaccoustic sensing, a technique that allows the skin to be used as a finger input surface. When a finger taps on the skin, the impact creates acoustic signals, which can be captured by a bioacoustic sensing device. This will turn your entire body into a touch surface that can be used to control devices such as answering your phone by touching your ear, your TV by touching your eyes, or thermostat by a touch of the arm.

Just remember soon enough when you need to get away from your screen, the smart insoles in your shoes will start vibrating to remind you to go for a run. Don’t be shocked when it happens, I warned you about sensors and robots taking over.

 

John Cioffi

Founder of Assia, “Father of DSL”

Hot in 2015: Consumers will be empowered increasingly to measure, control, and optimize their internet access as regulator initiatives attempt to ensure competition in better broadband.

Further down the line: the world will finally acknowledge that ultra-fast broadband is possible without running a fiber to everyone's wrist watch.

 

Shimie Hortig

President, Broadband, Cable & Satellite Business, Amdocs

Prediction #1: 2015 will be the year that we’ll finally get a reliable Wi-Fi connection at the airport. Next year should see the maturing of Wi-Fi networks and offerings: cable operators will amp up growing competition with mobile network operators by providing a reliable, perhaps superior, mobile data experience – enabling them to start monetizing Wi-Fi.

Prediction #2: The New York Knicks will win the 2015 NBA Championship. (Hey – ya gotta believe).

Stewart Schley

Cable maven, CED columnist

Hot in 2015: Unintended consequences: the ripple effect caused by prominent programmers chasing broadband-only homes with online video packages, only to see these very same online video packages convince more consumers to join the ranks of broadband only homes. A companion resurgence of interest in over-the-air TV reception. And a flurry of investment activity as mainstream media companies seek out positions in the emerging world of original Multichannel Video Networks that draw big audiences on YouTube and elsewhere.

Further down the line: Sophisticated and nearly foolproof ways to prevent password sharing for online video access; the disappearance of fringe “cable” channels that were (mostly) the product of force-fed programmer bundles; an increasingly ambient/everpresent Internet that can be accessed from screens embedded into everyday objects; and a migration away from content-embedded advertising and toward invited/permission based marketing.

And elsewhere: Auto image-detection technologies that do away with the need for live NFL referees, rarely make mistakes, and upon further review, will re-qualify Dez Bryant’s breathtaking 2015 non-catch as, actually, a catch. And self-cooling popsicles.

Yvette Kanouff

SVP and GM, Cisco Service Provider Video Software and Solutions Group

Hot in 2015: Cloud, SDN Further down the line: More hands-off operations.

Self configuration, self managing networks and application services; More privacy and security focus due to shared infrastructures.

And elsewhere: A cure for cancer; healthcare technology innovation.

Walt Ciciora

Co-founder of Symbol Shifters, CED columnist

The most certain projection for 2015 would be continued erosion of prices for video displays and television receivers. Buy now and discipline your emotions because a better version will be available next year at a lower price – and it will always be that way.

Cable needs to supply the bandwidth to support 4K and, believe it or not, even 8K displays. The appetite for bandwidth is insatiable.

In two to five years, somebody will actually figure out what my toaster has to say to my refrigerator as the Internet of Things expands. IoT will also increase the demand for bandwidth.

Security will become even more important as cameras and listening devices are added to homes for the purpose of security while we are away. But forgetful humans will leave them on from time to time even when home.

Two to five years will see even more pervasive and less expensive 3-D printing. Of special interest to me is the use of 3-D scanners to digitize objects and even people so that 3-D replicas can easily be made with printers.

It’s an enhanced kind of selfie.

Lockheed Martin has a “Skunkworks” project to develop a compact nuclear fusion reactor with a target date of a decade from now.

Compact nuclear fusion would be a monumental contribution to pollution-free energy.

The big challenge 15- to 20 years from now will be good middle-class jobs.

Computerization, automation, and robotization are increasing productivity so much that very few employees can produce more and more. Eventually, we will only need someone to operate the “on/off ” switch. So how will the average person be able to afford broadband and cable service?

Denise MacDonell

VP of product management, This Technology

"Programmatic,” a frontrunner for 2015’s most popular new buzzword, will have an identified role in television advertising. The market will understand that not all TV advertising inventory should or will be sold programmatically, and will also better understand the value of data sets that can be leveraged to drive programmatic ad buys. New products and technologies for managing, monetizing and ultimately protecting this data will emerge as key drivers of this new opportunity.

Cyrille Morelle

CEO, VeEX

From an MSO standpoint, besides more consolidation, DOCSIS 3.1 is definitely the key topic in my book. We should see real field trials and possibly early deployment; this is probably the major technology leap in the MSO field.

In the coming years we foresee more developments in wireless technology. This differs from one specific technology, such as cellular, to full blown Wi-Fi networks competing with mobile providers and advanced on LTE towards 5G networks.

Something I hope to see? Robotic technicians or drones for automatic installation.

Stephane Bourque

CEO, Incognito Software Systems

The digital universe is expanding at an astonishing rate. Research from Intel estimates that by 2020 the number of data-connected objects will grow to 200 billion. As data snacking – frequently using small bits of data on the go – continues to trend upwards, service providers are forced to converge their fixed networks with broadband wireless access technology. Flexible embedded systems, multi-layered cloud service provisioning, and network function virtualization (NFV) will continue to bring us into the future of this new data era, and network performance quality will be at the center of it all.

http://global.hisense.com/news/cone/201209/W020130424632742887557.jpgThe Internet of Things will be a hot topic.

IoT will be even more than thermostats: from refrigerators that make your shopping lists and bathroom mirrors that give you news and weather updates while you brush your teeth, to GPS sensors that adjust your heating system when your phone is within range, or even automatic notifications that tell you when you’ve got a leaky pipe in your basement.

A recent Technavio report projects a 25-percent compound annual growth rate for streaming media players from 2013 through 2018. And with heavy OTT streaming comes heavy bandwidth consumption. Excessive bandwidth usage can put immense strain on a network, slowing speeds and sometimes dropping subscriber services. Bandwidth congestion management is certain to be a hot issue for many operators moving forward, and they’ll be looking for the best solution to help them mitigate this problem.

Julia McGrath

SVP & Chief Strategy Officer, Lightpath

The need to support Internet of Things implementations will emerge as a key opportunity for commercial services providers as rollouts across key verticals ramp up. Overall, businesses increasingly want solutions that give them better visibility into all aspects of their operations and providers like Lightpath are well-positioned to help serve this need with dense, flexible and scalable fiber networks.

David Helfrick

Partner, IBB Consulting

In 2015, IBB Consulting sees targeted and dynamic advertising insertion rollouts increasing and extending to additional platforms, such as nDVR. We’ll see trials of UHD/4K in the form of select live events or for VOD content. An entire linear channel may even launch in the format to showcase capabilities and gauge subscriber interest. As operators move ever-closer to all IP video delivery, we’ll see more trials, which will extend all the way to the home gateway and all-IP set top boxes.

  

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