Companion screen applications have the potential to open up a pay TV service to revenue security threats including intrusion by rivals to poach subscribers. This is leading to new solutions that aim to give operators full control of second screens such as tablets while they are being used in companion screen mode, with one of the first examples being Blue Bridge launched by French pay TV security technology vendor Neotion at IBC.
“The real question for second screens is how to control the audience,” says Bruno Berthier, Neotion’s VP innovation and strategy, and one of the architects of Blue Bridge. “Operators want to ensure that when subscribers connect to the Internet, some other actor doesn’t send an advertisement for its service.” Exposure to rival services is seen as a greater concern for operators at present than conventional security threats such as viruses, which are more in the domain of the broadband service and device operating system.
The ability to enable secure two way communications between the TV and smart phones or tablets in the home is the basis of Blue Bridge, and Neotion has kicked off with a version for TVs equipped with a CI Plus slot. This first version transmits data over Bluetooth but Wi-Fi support will be added, as well as a version for set top boxes on a USB stick. However Neotion is pitching Blue Bridge particularly at legacy TVs with CI Plus slots, which can then access the Internet via the mobile device without the need for an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi router at all.
The company has identified three application categories for Blue Bridge, irrespective of the form or method of communication. The first exploits information sent from the TV to the mobile device, which could be used to play hybrid TV content on a tablet, or to access a VOD catalogue. “This could be very attractive for a cable operator,” says Berthier. “The user could send a request from the tablet and the operator could send content over the broadcast network to the TV and on to the device. This has several advantages, for example if watching with a family, you can access your own information. Secondly it’s a neutral browser, independent of the TV. So we can push the HbbTV hybrid concept, but on the tablet not the TV. Also it means all the 110 million CI Plus TVs in the world could be compatible with HbbTV even though they don’t have a browser inside.”
The second use case involves two way information transfer between TV and mobile device, which could be applied for advertising or commerce. This could be to input a coupon onto the main TV screen, to advertise a product or offer a discount in a shop. Users could then press the button and could store the coupon in the CI Plus module or set top box. “When shopping, you transfer the coupon from the TV to smartphone. You can display the coupon in the shop and link to a loyalty code, via a barcode on screen. This is a good way to keep viewers in front of the screen and monetize the interactive service,” says Berthier.
The third use case is where the TV interacts with the Internet via the tablet or smartphone. This could support e-voting, so long as the tablet or smartphone, or for that matter a PC, is synchronised with the TV. This exploits the web browser of the mobile device, which enables the instant voting, with the potential for example to generate a tweet automatically signalling a like or dislike, or more subtle distinctions.
All three use cases exploit the browser of the mobile device, which has the advantage according to Berthier that applications are much easier to develop and update to run under the standard web environment of the mobile device than to execute directly on a TV.