There are a lot of different scenarios for what the TV of tomorrow may look like, but a panel session at CES did drive home the point that collecting customer data can play a key role.

The “Inventing TV 3.0 – Defining the set-top-connected TV, streaming media adapter, downloadable consumer experience” session featured six panelists and one moderator discussing a wide range of topics, but collecting consumer data was highlighted by two panelists.

Jason Forbes, senior vice president of strategy, new products and marketing for Time Warner Cable sales, said Time Warner Cable is collecting anonymous customer data through set-top boxes and its use of switched digital video in 13 markets. The data collection occurs on a macro level, so Time Warner Cable can tell an advertiser what programs a family is watching without crossing privacy boundaries.

The set-top box data collection markets include New York, Dallas and Los Angeles. Time Warner Cable has enabled interactivity across 10 million homes with EBIF.

“Our advertisers are looking to find that right audience, looking to engage that audience, and they’re looking to measure that audience,” Forbes said. “We’ve listened to their needs, and now we can bring a portfolio of capabilities that allows the inventory we represent across 30,000 advertisers to do exactly what they are looking for. It’s really an exciting time for us, not just in what we we’re doing, but also, like our colleagues on the panel, we’re looking to find new ways to further reach that end consumer experience to the advertisers we serve.”

As an example, Forbes said last year Time Warner Cable couldn’t tell advertisers how many subscribers were watching Monday Night Football in New York City, but now it can tell them how many were watching the game in Manhattan.

Flingo CEO and co-founder Ashwin Navin said his software company chose smart TVs as its focus because it was a new field without any established players, rules or paradigms, “and we wanted to kind of define those.”

Flingo is an open-source project that allows users to find video content anywhere on a phone, tablet or on the Web and then pass that content along to a smart TV. The content can be placed in a queue on a set-top box, smart TV or any other device that renders the user interface.

“In doing so, we also figured out the business model for TV is very strong,” Navin said. “The content is generating record levels of revenue through the operations in cable, satellite and other delivery mechanisms. We wanted smart TVs to build on top of that business model. We developed a technology for smart TVs that uses algorithms to figure out what is on a TV and then enable an experience that synchronizes with the linear programming. We call that Sync Apps.

“We think that’s going to be the most important thing you can run on a smart TV. It will generate some interesting insights about the programming, what people care about, and hopefully improve the user experience for television over time.”

Navin said in the past that he developed applications for the likes of Samsung, Yahoo and Google, but there was a fundamental mistake in the approach that Google and Apple took with their TV ambitions.

“Their big error was that they treated TV as an app, but broadcast TV is the platform,” he said. “The business model is good, and users don’t want a lot of change. Build on that experience to be successful with over-the-top.”