Home Analysis Putting TV Connect 2013 into context (Part 2)

Putting TV Connect 2013 into context (Part 2)

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Continuing his assessment of what he saw on the showfloor at this year’s TV Connect, Ben Schwarz highlights Qualcomm, Siemens, WizTivi, Espial and HTTV.

 

Qualcomm

Qualcomm, the San Diego based 27-year old company with over 15k employees around the world has been associated with the mobile and satellite telephony industries from the outset. Here in London during TV Connect, the company was promoting a new home network traffic management and prioritization approach that they want to sell as software to run on any home gateway.

“StreamBoost™” is the product marketing name. Mike Cubbage, director at Qualcomm Atheros – a subsidiary of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., told me that home gateways don’t currently know how to optimize traffic, which is a missed opportunity with limited BW coming into most homes. Most apps are too aggressive in that they invariably hog the maximum bandwidth that they might need, as opposed to just the bandwidth they actually need to get the job done.

Mike explained, “The idea is to first detect what types of stream we are dealing with. We use 15 separate attributes like Bandwidth or packet size to do this.” Qualcomm’s approach is then to optimize for both latency and bandwidth. High priority applications are allocated into “protected conduits” with sufficient bandwidth.

This approach to home QOS breaks a sacred Net Neutrality rule. But as this is in my home, just for me and under my control, I suppose it must be okay.
“StreamBoost” automatically classifies streams with embedded technology into:
1.    Real Time
2.    Streaming
3.    Best Effort
4.    Bulk
These actually go up in bandwidth consumption, which seems like a fortunate coincidence. It certainly simplifies things.

Users can manually prioritize their devices. So parent’s work computers can take precedence over kids streaming in their bedrooms.

The UI I saw didn’t give much freedom to users who cannot mix priorities i.e. enable bit-torrent to have priority over say 50% of resources. Mike told me this is further down on the roadmap. I didn’t get to manipulate the demo myself, but the UI gave me the impression of being way too geeky for most users. Most users will benefit from this without any personalisation. The system gets better over time with learning happening in the network based on anonymous data.
D-Link is launching the DGL5500 this Spring with StreamBoost on-board and marketing it as a gaming router.

StreamBoost isn’t a DPI solution but does use some processing power on device to deliver its core service and properly manage encrypted traffic. Mike pointed out to me that over the last ten years processing power in home gateways has been tripled 600 MHZ. With new dual core 1GHz+ processors coming, the next three years should see that power multiplied by another whopping factor of 10.

I don’t really see end-consumers being motivated to buy this kind of technology. Indeed in most markets gateways are provided via ISPs and in competitive markets, StreamBoost could be a differentiator.

Longer term, I can see operators that enable this kind of feature on their home gateways at the forefront of traffic management. Offloading mobile traffic to a router featuring StreamBoost would open a whole new world of possibilities for operator assured quality of experience, but that’s another blog entry on its own.
Siemens

Siemens threw their party at the same time as the awards presentation, which means I missed all that free beer this year as I was presenting an award. But I grabbed a demo at their booth anyway. They were in London to show their whole Service Delivery Platform for OTT services, but I only looked at their future UI this time.

They have a nifty new concept UI to replace their current, slightly cumbersome OTT front end visible on DittoTV, their flagship commercial launch with Zee TV (downloadable on AppStore or PlayStore). They’ve gone for a total mixture of on-demand and linear content in the main TV interface, with color-coding around the edge of images to differentiate their type eg. live TV has a yellow border and VoD a green one.

The overall level of integration was the most impressive thing about the whole experience, with omnipresent content recommendation. Siemens say any engine can be used under the hood to power these recommendations.

What I saw in London was just a mock-up demo so I’m eager to see if it feels as fluid and natural with live feeds and a real content catalogue. I was shown the demo on a tablet, but Siemens took the option of having different user profiles so this UI is also intended for the living room TV.

The Siemens “rate-wheel” UI concept is more fitted for the second screen

 

WizTivi

WizTivi is a French start-up that has always been in the TV app space. It’s taken them 7 years to finally be able to service international projects although most of their marketing material is still only in French. They had 5M€ turnover in 2012 and hope to be profitable in 2013. They often compete against Accedo Broadband.

They boast 7 specialist UI designers in their Studio out of 55 employees and now call themselves multiscreen development & integration platform. They have deployed 59 different services (e.g. Dailymotion the French YouTube) via over 200 different apps.

SFR has been one of their key clients and a majority shareholder. They also have live apps running for many French channels. As far as set makers go their main claim to fame is the master UI of Toshiba places, but they also deliver some smaller things to the likes of Samsung.

“Master UI” is their new mantra and can be either device or cloud based.WizTivi is recommendation engine agnostic and has integrated with 2 recommendation engines so far (Spideo & Cognik), again only French ones. They have implemented several advertising based solutions as well as a few payment/billing (but only in Europe).

A strong point of WizTivi is the number of demos they can show you from Toshiba places to DailyMotion, multiple platforms, offTV a VoD service that uses the hyperCast CDN, or a nifty CanalPlay demo that never has more than 3 to 4 items on screen. On a totally different front they showed me BNP’s EcoTV app, which accesses a Kit Digital backend.

Their usual business model is for a flat fee (NRE) to develop setup, then a monthly licence fee. WizTivi’s role can be extended in white-labelling setup.

 

Espial

I feel like I’ve known Robert Hopkins, the head of Espial’s European operations from the dawn of IPTV, when he was selling VoD servers to France Telecom in 2003. But I never stopped by his booth at a show, so this year I finally popped in to have a look at Espial’s Service Delivery Platform or SDP. The product is actually called ‘Espial MSP’ where the D is swapped out for an M, and yes you probably guessed, it’s a Media M. Espial’s Media Service Platform is complete, ranging from content ingest, metadata management, workflows, multi-screen content preparation, subtitling, packaging, all the way to multi-screen play-out.

Robert showed me Espial’s HTML client and Webkit based multiscreen apps. The HTML5 (CSS3D) UI demoed on a 60” screen was so fluid that I felt seasick.

A cool demo from Espial is also the YouTube certified browser for a lean back TV experience.

Espial’s embedded browser is one of the first to have been certified by YouTube on https://www.youtube.com/tv#/browse, which shows some of the key advantages service providers can realize using HTML5, namely a best-of-breed user experience and great performance delivered from the cloud. Take a look on the link — it’s pretty impressive.

 

HTTV

The field is moving so fast that it’s hard to properly qualify a company like HTTV, another TV technology supplier from France. I’d suggest that HTTV is an embedded broadcast software solutions software company that has fully embraced the connected TV space.

You see, it’s a bit complicated. The name is simple enough though; it stands for High Tech TV. The company started in 1999 and there are now 4 private shareholders and one financial Investor. HTTV has 60 staff and last turnover was of €5M (in just over a year). HTTV boasts over 100 iTV deployed solutions with the Nagraguide EPG on over 6M STBs being the largest to date. HTTV doesn’t supply Nagra any more.

Company headquarters are near the French Alps in Grenoble with offices in France’s TV capital Issy-les-Moulieaux. The 2011 acquisition of SindiTV means the company also has a strong presence in Singapore.

HTTV operates in two main domains: Head-End with data casting, EPG management and Apps and in STB middleware. Their value-add is being able to glue it all together quickly and cheaply. Although of a totally different scale, they end up often competing with NDS for business.

HTTV’s head-end products are all about transporting things around, i.e. getting the EPG to the right place at the right time. But they don’t get into its meaning so HTTV won’t be that white knight to fix the infuriating missing series link problem.

They sell to digital TV players throughout the DVB world and recognize that IP is getting more important. HTTV-Mosaic is live at UPC, KPN, Belgacom and a few other IP operators.

HTTV’s STB solution is an open Middleware on Linux, based on WebKit, DLNA QML and HTML5. PlayReady is already implemented and Marlin DRM is in the pipeline.

The STB demo I saw was based on a Small DVB-T retail device (Sigma 8670). The HbbTV navigation UI was relatively fluid and a simple “Appstore” was available. Some Dutch TV catch-up examples used HLS very effectively.

The other demo I saw was the HbbTV Starter Kit, a mini DVB-T platform that mixes AV streams and apps delivering portals where operators decide how to inject apps into a stream. It is destined to setup demos at tradeshows or to test during development. Once setup is complete, the httvStream product can be brought in to do the same for live production deployments.

HTTV has clearly gambled on HbbTV, believing the standard will go beyond its current FTA space and that its inherent openness guarantees its future.

You can read Part 1 of Ben’s TV Connect blog here.


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