Ruwido has developed a sensor technology that means a platform operator can identify who is in front of the television when they are holding a remote control. The Austrian vendor is tight-lipped about the patent-pending mechanics involved, but it falls broadly into the categories of haptics and biometrics – so could be based on how we touch or move the remote control, for example. The identification does not rely on voice or the analysis of user interface usage patterns.
Data from the remote control is sent to a server which, subject to the usual privacy rules, can determine the current television viewer. The ID should be available to the operator within a few seconds. What happens with this knowledge depends on a range of factors – operator policies and user opt-ins being the most obvious. Clearly there is potential for serving addressable advertising, given that the viewer can be identified at an individual level. Service personalisation is another obvious outcome.
As the company points out, “We are living in an era of recommendations, customised services and tailored content. In order to provide information that is valuable for a single person, the system must identify that user, either by having the user identify herself by entering a PIN code, using a fingerprint or using alternative means via connected devices.”
The new remote control technology is designed to eliminate tedious log-in procedures, working out automatically who currently controls the television. “Identification is performed the moment a person is holding the remote, before they start to interact with the system,” the company emphasises.
The new sensing technology is part of a generational remote control ‘upgrade’ that Ruwido has been demonstrating. Other key components in the upgrade can be seen in the new TICTACTILE. 7.0 product. This is the latest version of the TICTACTILE device that uses a 3×4 grid of finger-shaped hollows that allow you to navigate the remote control easily, with sensory ‘feedback’ in the sense that the edges of each ‘hollow’ tell you exactly where you are on the remote control ‘grid’. The general idea is that you should never have to look down at the remote control while navigating on a television set.
The TICTACTILE. 7.0 is designed to be more than a television/STB remote control. Ruwido has been demonstrating its ability to control smart home services (or ‘convenient home’ applications, as the company likes to call them). The services being controlled do not have to be offered by the operator – a key principle is that the remote control pairs with your smartphone and the smart home services contained on it, and effectively replicates some (simple) functionality from the smartphone apps.
In effect, the television remote control also becomes the remote control for smart home apps on a smartphone – and so can be used to dim lights or listen to music via a Sonos speaker, for example. One aesthetic advance on TICTACTILE. 7.0 is the addition of back-lit icons to represent the services. When you are watching TV, you see television functions on the remote. These switch to smart home functions as needed.
The pairing with the smartphone means the remote control is configured to the smart home services a consumer has. Ruwido is also using smartphone pairing to expand the entertainment role of the remote control, too. If you subscribe to Spotify, you can use the TV remote to access the service, including your personal playlists, for example.
“We are using smartphones as a hub – an access point to networks,” Ruwido confirms. “Appliances within the convenient home can be managed independently of the big screen, and in a consistent way, directly on the remote. This means that users no longer have to unlock the smart phone, search for an app and get a system started, as it can be directly displayed on the remote.”
Managing services independently of the big screen is a notable development – Ruwido is trying to place the remote control at the centre of our home life even when the television is turned off.
TICTACTILE. 7.0 therefore embodies two new future-facing remote control strategies: smartphone pairing as a way to integrate with adjacent services (like smart home applications) and non-operator entertainment (like Spotify); and use of the remote control when the television is off. The use of user identification as a gateway to greater personalisation is a third strategy that can be integrated with these others.
“We are rethinking the remote control,” the company stated recently. “Instead of a device with a button to turn on the TV, the future remote control is about access to added value, which makes daily life easy and more convenient.”
Ferdinand Maier, CEO at Ruwido, adds: “TICTACTILE. 7.0 is the result of the transformation process of the remote control, similar to the way we saw the feature phone evolve into the smartphone. With our TICTACTILE. 7.0 we manage the TV entertainment system as well as the ‘convenient home’ in a comfortable way.”