Aiming to kick-start the interactive television sector, Spyglass Integration officially opened its doors for business in October on a new 31,000-square-foot laboratory based in Lexington, Mass.
Coupled with financial backing from Motorola Inc. and OpenTV Corp., Spyglass Integration's call to arms is to hasten the deployment of cable- and satellite-based iTV services via "back office" tests and procedures designed to mirror real world market environments. Spyglass' target client base is comprised of cable and satellite operators, infrastructure developers and application providers, said company President and CEO Mark Huttemann.
Spyglass claims it can mimick mass-market conditions in a laboratory setting, primarily through software-driven simulation technology that can inject noise and other outside elements onto a replicated two-way, digital cable plant.
Although Spyglass Integration has been operational for only a few months, its overall history goes back a bit further in time. OpenTV Corp. broadened a deal with Motorola Broadband Communications Sector about a year ago, when it agreed to dole out $34 million in stock to acquire CableSoft Inc., a provider of interactive applications for advanced analog set-tops during the mid-1990s. As part of the CableSoft deal, Motorola and OpenTV agreed to collaborate on an iTV integration joint venture, which later became Spyglass Integration.
Also tethered to that was Motorola Broadband's purchase of remaining equity in Acadia from OpenTV. Acadia is a set-top software integration facility, also based in Lexington, that specializes in DCT-series digital boxes. The name Spyglass is also tied to OpenTV's acquisition of Spyglass Inc. in March 2000 for $2.5 billion, a deal that gave OpenTV its TV-centric "Device Mosaic" Web browser.
Huttemann said Spyglass essentially complements the work being done at Acadia, which strictly focuses on the Motorola platform.
Unlike an organization such as CableLabs, Spyglass isn't in the certification business.
"We're not slapping stickers, first of all," said Huttemann, a former executive for Acadia's Application Integration Center. He noted that Spyglass could document and execute a variety of test plans, customizing them for each client as a "master system integrator."
Since becoming operational in January, Spyglass has already signed on a large, undisclosed U.S. MSO for an interactive program guide integration project that kicked off this summer.
Spyglass has also signed on vendor clients such as Microsoft Corp., Motorola, OpenTV, Pioneer Electronics, Big Band Networks and Predictive Networks.
Cambridge, Mass.-based Predictive Networks, for example, is using Spyglass' lab under a one-year contract to test the scalability of its iTV software, which gathers anonymous viewer demographic information for targeting advertising and other targeted content.
"We couldn't possibly gather the headend, set-top and network components they [Spyglass] have over there," said Predictive Vice President of Engineering Richard Zimmerman. "The cost of us building out something like that would be phenomenal. It's beyond our means to set that up."
Because Spyglass is backed by companies that compete directly with others that may use the lab's facilities, establishing its independence will be a major challenge for the integration house.
To meet that challenge, Huttemann said Spyglass adheres to strict intellectual property guidelines through the use of secure networks and firewalls and facilities that require card-key access. Still, the motivation for a company like Liberate Technologies or Canal Plus, for example, would likely come from an MSO, Huttemann said.