The complexities of digital home networks can overwhelm end users and prove costly to cable operators with truck rolls and calls to customer service reps, but the cable industry can counter those issues by harnessing the power of in-home apps.

During the SCTE Digital Home Symposium, Brady Volpe, CTO and founder of The Volpe Firm, said that applications can be created for use on iPads, iPhones and Android devices that help home users troubleshoot problems on their home networks.

“Troubleshooting can be become a burden for cable operators,” Volpe said, and one solution is to “empower subscribers” by not only giving them apps that perform cable modem, Wi-Fi and other home diagnostics, but also educating them on troubleshooting the problems.

In Volpe’s scenario, customers could click on a button on their apps and get a green light if everything is functioning correctly, or a red light if there’s a problem. The red light could also provide additional information by saying what part of the home network, such as Wi-Fi, isn’t working correctly.

While customers may not be too keen on troubleshooting their problems, Volpe suggested they could be incentivized with promotional offers, such as a free VOD movie in exchange for watching a basic Web seminar on cable troubleshooting.

Another benefit of using the apps is that they could be collecting data, such as error messages or MER (modulation error ratio) on cable modems, in real time that could be accessed by customer service reps – as long as the broadband service is up and running – to solve service-related problems more quickly.

In order to build troubleshooting apps, the cable industry and its vendors need to align themselves with standards, such as the emerging TR-069. With home networks becoming more complex, tools need to be developed to provide remote status and diagnostics, as well as provide field forces and customer service reps with the information to efficiently diagnose and repair issues.

“There needs to be a standards body to pull it all together,” Volpe said, and the “smart” apps need to be integrated into equipment and devices.