THE BUZZ IN THE AIR
IBC2014 was jam-packed with providers of TV solutions and equipment from the point-of-acquisition to the consumers' living rooms. They all seemed to be getting ready for the next generation of TV experience. With respect to the consumption, this included advanced OTT services, 4K support, new remote control devices, and some integrated home automation. While many vendors we met seemed to be confident about their approach to the ‘Television 2.0’ concept, the deployment of 4K by content and service providers seemed to be shrouded in uncertainty.
With more than 1500 exhibitors promoting different lines of products and solutions, buzzwords such as 4K, Personalization, Virtualization, Analytics, and Remote Controls were hard to ignore.
4K — to be or not to be
Posted on nearly every booth and mounted on all the walls, the term ‘4K’ was everywhere. From chip makers to TV manufacturers to set-top box hardware and software providers, they were all pitching 4K — sometimes without even providing any rational reason, but just for the sake of it. However, despite the interesting demos with dazzling video quality, I found the presentations to be more flashy than having any real substance. When asked about 4K deployment by content and service providers, many of them were not anticipating any real utilization of it until 2016/17, and that would only be for some major events such as the World Cup, the Olympics, or the Super Bowl.
I believe the reason for content and service providers’ reluctance to offer full, or even partial, 4K programming, has to do with the extensive cost of deployment. This may be reminiscent of the deployment of Full HD (1080p), which was introduced 20 years ago to the market and mass consumed at least 10 years ago, but even today SD and 720p are still widely in use by many providers. If 4K follows in HD’s footsteps, then it would suggest that the industry will take many years to reach a sensible level of broadcasting in UHD. It is even possible that the industry skips 4K altogether and wait for the next generation.
As a technology enthusiast who is constantly following trends, I have seen many waves rising with a great deal of hype, but then fade away rapidly. The last wave was the invasion of 3D TVs, which didn't even last a year. However, I do not see UHD to be all hype, even without the content. I believe, based on the 7 year life cycle of TVs, which is over in 2014/15 a new wave of mass TV screen purchases are on the horizon. To take advantage of this wave, TV manufacturers try to push the 4K smart TVs with a range of price tags suitable to middleclass families. This would cause a domino effect in the market, forcing box makers and service providers alike to consider the UHD solutions. However, in the case of service providers, it is my belief adoption would not be extensive, as they understand the magnitude of 4K deployment, but in the case of direct-to-consumer OTT boxes, 4K-capability would be in high demand.
Personalization — my TV knows me
TV must be personalized. It was exciting to see the industry coming to this realization. As personalization could be seen in various levels in the different products. Some examples I saw were just touch-ups on the UI level, while others were applied in deeper levels of the software. Although the efforts by Rovi, Wyplay, and Ericsson were noticeable, they all seemed to fall short of true system-wide personalized experience. Some were just technologies to recognize the user, whereas others would customize the search result. It was obvious that everyone in the industry understood the importance of having personalized TV, but many seemed to be rushed to market and were forced to play catch-up.
At mimik, we have positioned personalization in the core of our solution, and built everything else around it. This is what separates mimik.360™ from the rest, and uniquely position us for future expansion within the realm of personalization.
Analytics — big data at work
TV and content consumption data is the major factor in TV 2.0. This was clearly felt by all, and everyone we talked to mentioned it in one way or another. However, we have not seen any solution that deeply collects and analyses data in a personalized level and based on all content.
On the other side, services like Gracenote provide rich programming information that maximizes metadata relating to consumed content. A truly personalized system can take advantage of such data, allowing better analysis and content delivery.
Remote controls — no longer simple point and click devices
Regardless of which hall you entered, you would be greeted with a big Ruwido paper bag. Aside from the bag, Ruwido presented its next generation remote controls with voice controls and accelerometer to track users hand movements. This seemed to be the trend as we saw it in the Philips uWand as well. It is no secret that the traditional, and many of the new generation, RCs are not suitable for advanced actions such as purchase, registration, or log-in to services on the TV screen. This was the challenge all RC manufacturers we visited were trying to address. Among the top technologies utilized by RC manufacturers were integrated keyboards on the back, voice command, accelerometers, and infrared camera.
We believe to address the needs of the modern homes, paring mobile apps and integrated intelligent layers in the system is essential. In this case, the need for onscreen interaction decreases dramatically and RC would be needed for basic features as it can function the best.
Home automation — moving in
A few years ago at CES, when home automation was making noise, we had a meeting with some potential clients. The discussion was around where we collectively see the market in the second half of this decade. We were obviously in support of central control of everything. Back then, we were hashing out the details of our intelligent home solution (not just home automation), and we determined the utilization of new technology would subsequently flood the market with a tsunami of products and services, creating a chaos of fragmented solutions. As companies build different products and solutions based on their own criteria, it will leave consumers feeling confused and frustrated dealing with multiple systems, standards, and user interfaces. We believe there should be a central gateway at each residence that manages all connected devices and provides a single point of interaction for users. As a result, the user interface becomes seamless and the learning curve shortens.
We saw just a few home automation solutions this year at IBC, one was integrated into the STB. Seeing this at IBC and not the CES was thrilling.
Matt ArjMandi, Director of Marketing
Phone: +1-604-899-8843 ext. 107