The cable industry took another step toward a standardized advertising structure with another set of interoperability tests of several of the component systems necessary to insert ads in on-demand video.

The tests demonstrated the new ability to interject interactive applications in the midst of on-demand content. Programmers have been looking for a way to insert interactive ads in the middle of VOD streams.

Eleven suppliers participated in the interop held May 23-27 at CableLabs to demonstrate the SCTE 130 and SaFI 2.1 advanced advertising specifications. The participants were: Ad-ID, Arris, Avail-TVN, Canoe Ventures, Ericsson, Harris Corp., The Nielsen Co., Sigma Systems, S&T, This Technology and Unisoft.

Among them, the vendors represented two VOD servers and several ad management servers (ADMs) and ad decision servers (ADSs).

Additionally, the participants brought other SCTE 130 components, such as subscriber information services (SIS) or placement opportunity information services (POIS), and had the opportunity to validate how their interfaces interacted with the other SCTE 130 implementations.

CableLabs provided its Document Profile Architecture (DPA) Toolset, which helps the industry formalize interoperability criteria. Canoe Ventures contributed its latest ADS software update.

One of the major accomplishments of this interop, CableLabs said, was demonstrating the ability to run interactive applications within VOD content by following the latest version of the proposed Stewardship and Fulfillment Interface (SaFI) 2.1 specification. One of the technical details was the inclusion of a VOD server playing an advertisement with a pre-bound interactive RFI (request for information) application. The RFI data was processed in an aggregator, at which point the data may be accessed by the appropriate cable operator.

"The interop's results are valuable to cable operators, programmers and advertisers," said Don Dulchinos, senior vice president of advanced platforms and services at CableLabs. "Providing a national footprint where advertisers can dynamically place ads on cable VOD assets has been a goal for a number of years. With the introduction of dynamic advertising into cable operators' VOD libraries, consumers will ultimately benefit through an expanded choice of VOD titles."

Bruce Dilger, vice president of advanced advertising architecture at Canoe Ventures, said: "There's no substitute for this level of hands-on teamwork within the technology community. Moving forward from this event, we have deployed our latest ADS software revision at the CableLabs facility to continue integration with vendors through CableLabs' Ad Lab and the Canoe Innovation Program."

Also during this interop, the participants integrated the Advertising Digital Identification (Ad-ID) advertising asset identifier and metadata within the broader SCTE 130 architecture.

"By tagging each advertising asset, the most appropriate ad is selected from available inventory, and our metadata ensures shared identification of the advertising asset across multiple cable operators," stated Harold Geller, managing director of Ad-ID.

This interop test followed an earlier CableLabs-hosted test of user agents that included Comcast Legacy, Comcast OCAP, Time Warner Cable ODN, Cox Tahoe, FourthWall Media's Sara, MOT i-Guide, Passport (Cisco) and OCAP agents, Zodiac Interactive's Sara and OCAP agents, and Ignite Solutions.

Future interops may include utilizing the DPA toolset to create a virtual interoperability lab. A virtual environment would benefit participants by providing a continuous development environment on a 24x7 basis.