|Issue:||Europe I 2008|
|Topic:||Connected homes – global communities|
|Organisation:||Amino Technologies plc|
Bob Giddy is the CEO of Amino Technologies, a global supplier of IPTV customer premises equipment. Prior to joining Amino, Mr Giddy worked for National Semiconductor, where he ran the Northern Europe sales and marketing operation for the telecommunications market. He later joined NEC Electronics, first as a director and then as general manager of the Northern Europe business. During this time, Mr Giddy established the NEC multimedia design centre in Milton Keynes, UK and oversaw the development of the first single-chip MPEG-2 video decoder. After leaving NEC, Mr Giddy established the European sales and marketing operation for inSilicon, a silicon IP vendor. Bob Giddy is an electronics engineer with over 30 years’ experience in manufacturing and design with systems and semiconductor companies.
The Internet, email and social networking all bring people closer together. Internet Protocol TV, IPTV, is providing sports fans, small or migrant ethnic communities and other niche audiences with content they would not otherwise be able to access. IPTV is also becoming a communications medium for the future. Within a decade, our homes will be fully connected to everything via IP and TV sets with set-top boxes will provide personal video communications in addition to entertainment.
Communication is a powerful tool, a way to bring the world together. At the heart of every cliché about the global village and the shrinking world is the fact that people can now more easily communicate without borders across continents and overseas. While the focus of global communications development is often upon the corporate world, it’s easy to underestimate the impact of improved communications on the wider population. The Internet, email and social networking all play a part in bringing people closer together, but more traditional media, such as television, can have a greater impact on making the global local and the local global. The traditional view of TV in the home is changing and TV is fast becoming not just the entertainment provider, but also the communications medium for the future. The convergence of TV with the Internet is radically changing a technology that has essentially remained the same since its invention – a TV signal broadcast to a screen whether TV, PC monitor or mobile phone. Now television is about to get personal and the level of interactivity with the user will be unparalleled with interactive content available on-demand. The connected home, with television at its heart, will play a major role in making this vision of a connected world a reality; the connected home is already within our reach. An increasing number of households worldwide are adopting IP technology. Service providers tell us that each household has an average of 2.7 standard definition set-top boxes (STBs) and 1.6 STBs that support high definition (HD). IPTV, delivered by broadband to TV via an STB, is the next step in technology; it can provide high-quality, multi-channel television in a streamed and downloadable video format using the Web’s IP protocols. IPTV, the next step in television services, brings the traditional TV into the centre of the connected home and lets content be shared by different devices. It can provide either live TV or stored video, and gives people more choice and control over the programming they can access. Information and communication technologies (ICT), like IPTV, are changing how we work and live both in the office and in the home. ICT is breaking down traditional barriers between our working environment and home lives. With social media sites like Facebook and Linked In, our social and business contacts and networks are already starting to combine. The eventual accessibility of information through new mediums such as IPTV will be used to connect and identify people, information and devices anywhere in the world. Within a decade we can predict that our homes will be fully connected with everything via IP. From the armchair or sofa, each person will be able to reach out and touch the world – to influence and be influenced by a multitude of cultures. We are already seeing a proliferation of the niche content available through IPTV. This niche content caters to specialist sports fans, small or migrant ethnic communities and fragmented audiences untargeted or ignored by the mainstream media. Workers from other European Union countries living in London still want to access television from their home region – they want to keep up with the news and current events at home and, perhaps, follow their favourite local soap opera. Programming in multiple languages outside of the mainstream, such as Hindi and Bollywood films or South American telenovelas, is also immensely popular within these groups. Croatians living in the US can watch their team’s World Cup qualifier matches and Sudanese living in France can track political events via Sudan TV. Content providers, like Comcast Networks, Fox Cable Networks and NBC Universal, have identified this as a growth area, and as global populations become increasingly migratory, the demands of these diasporas will grow and diversify. A look at the lists of the ‘most viewed’ or ‘most discussed’ videos on YouTube quickly reveals the popularity of such niche subjects, but restricted to video-sharing sites this reaches only a limited audience. IPTV, though, is spreading this multicultural content from the depths of YouTube to the television in the living room, reaching out to families and communities. Access to such content not only satisfies the needs of dispersed populations, but also provides an educational resource for others to learn about different cultures. This two-way exchange need not stop there. Newer IPTV STBs offer video over IP, so not only can families keep up with the news back home, they can also discuss it with family, old friends or neighbours. This goes beyond the traditional telephone call, and allows the sort of interaction that means you might see your friend in China more often than your neighbour from across the street, and potentially develop a closer relationship with them as a result. Using domestic videoconferencing through the television, rather than via a videophone or PC, means that the entire family can get together in the living room. The potential for domestic video-conferencing is vast and the benefits go beyond the obvious feel-good factor of uniting families and friends. Other pluses include reducing the harmful effect of travel on the environment, and easing communications for home and part-time workers. So what is standing in the way of this interconnected Utopia? If we recognise that communications are key, what’s holding us back from making every living room into a window onto the world? In this case, although technology can help us create this way forward, it’s also holding us back. The capabilities described above are not yet universally available, although the widespread implementation of the connected home technology and IPTV is not far over the horizon. The UK is, in many areas, restricted by its ageing copper wire infrastructure, which cannot provide the bandwidth necessary to carry the data needed for IPTV services. As copper is replaced by networks that provide higher bit-rates, the availability of content and services increase. Many nations, which are only now beginning to develop their telecommunications infrastructure, such as Slovenia or Russia, are leaping ahead of countries such as the UK in offering these services. It may well be that these and other developing nations will lead the way in drawing the rest of the world closer to using television to connect the world. In the Television 2.0 world, entertainment becomes personal. Not only are programmes and commercials different for neighbours in the same street; viewing is different for members of the same household. With IP-centric STBs, demographic targeting is already possible and is starting to connect the world.