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Vendors with client software in the home eye new role as data gatherers and hosts

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An explanation of what ACCESS Twine enables, including the cloud-based data gathering and analytics service

There is a growing emphasis on data analytics as a business tool, whether our viewing information is being used to inform more relevant content recommendations, work out which customers are most likely to churn or start targeting advertising more effectively. And with the Internet of Things emerging we can only expect more data to flow out of our homes. It is now becoming clear how television industry vendors who have client software in the home, from content protection companies to multiscreen software providers, could make a play to become the conduit for essential data gathering and ultimately its interrogation.

We reported previously  how Verimatrix has outlined its ambition to host a global headend that connects into Pay TV operator headends to provide not only content security services but to enable them to take advantage of the secure data gathering infrastructure that its content security client software (found in various devices including set-top boxes) provides. With the permission of the platform operators, third-party services will then be able to provide data analysis, whether it is network monitoring, audience analysis or content recommendation, as examples. 

ACCESS is another company with client software that is found in devices inside Pay TV homes, thanks to its DLNA-based content sharing technology. Until recently the company had a consistent pitch to the television industry: the importance of secure and convenient content sharing for premium services around the home. The company’s Twine multiscreen management platform provides advanced control of media sharing and was introduced last August with the ambition to “solve the fragmentation issues caused by the requirement to support a multitude of device types, browsers and OS, screen sizes, interaction methods, CA/DRM and more.”

This spring the company revealed a wider ambition, to harness its client software expertise and its presence within devices to also become a data gatherer, providing the infrastructure needed to securely move different kinds of data back to the cloud where it can be securely hosted and made available for analysis by third-party partners chosen by the Pay TV operators. Does this mark a new kind of service and a nascent competitive marketplace for vendors with embedded device software?

ACCESS revealed its data gathering capabilities with a joint solution where KILA Systems provides the real-time predictive analytics solutions that can be applied to the data. This is a non-exclusive partnership: ACCESS is building an open platform where a Pay TV operator can select their analytics partner. 

ACCESS will bring back the data operators ask them to, in encrypted form, and this can be hosted on a server by ACCESS and made available for analysis to permitted partners via APIs. The company expects that some data will be kept within the operator environment and some handed to the cloud, in a hybrid model. There would be a monthly rental fees model for the backoffice service, variable according to factors like how much bandwidth is consumed, how much storage is used and the data processing required, etc.

The ACCESS Twine solution for multiscreen TV (regardless of whether it is used for this data gathering service) can be deployed on operator premises or used in an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IAAS) model. It is available as a client for home gateways, set-top boxes, mobiles and tablets. 

The new data gathering service marks the first time that ACCESS has provided a backend service to platform operators. The company has emphasized that its role is to retrieve data in a usable form rather than provide the analytics itself. The data is made available to someone else to use, whether that is for content recommendations or targeted ad serving, etc. 

ACCESS views this new offering as an extension of its in-home content sharing vision. The kind of first party data that can be collected at scale, using this service, includrd geolocation, age, devices registered to the service and consumption habits. “It also provides comprehensive user insights combined with accurate and immediately actionable predictions,” the company promised in a joint press release with KILA Systems when they announced the offer in April. 

Dr Neale Foster, COO and VP Global Sales for ACCESS Europe declared then: “The multiplicity of devices upon which consumers watch content has enabled operators to offer multiscreen services on all connected devices. However, the complexity of this environment has also led to overwhelming amounts of data that have become impossible to process easily.

“Working with KILA Systems enables us to combine our multiscreen expertise with advanced analytics to allow our operator customers to automatically leverage the data they receive from their subscribers without further human intervention. That is an industry first.”

The main purpose of the partnership is to help operators predict consumer habits and therefore personalize multiscreen services more effectively. All kinds of data can be harnessed, like whether someone has browsed a content catalogue, if they played a video and if they watched a movie to the end. The goal is to give operators the tools to keep subscribers engaged more deeply and for longer, predict churn and facilitate upsells, and ultimately increase ARPU.

ACCESS says the Twine/KILA data solution complements existing middleware – this is not an attempt to compete with middleware providers. But there is obviously a new role emerging in Pay TV – and potentially for the Internet of Things – to be the data gatherer and data host for services that run in the home. ACCESS and Verimatrix are companies with very different functions today (content sharing and content protection respectively) that are both targeting this role. We should probably expect others with embedded device software to do the same.

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