In This Issue
Broadband Home Labs
Wireless Video -
Jonathan Christensen has been appointed CTO and VP of Products at FaceTime Communications. Jonathan was previously at Microsoft where he spearheaded Real-Time Communications (RTC) and was a founding member of the "Greenwich" project for enterprise IM. Aloha Jonathan! ( www.facetime.com )
Douglas Sabella was named COO of Terayon. Previously he was with Tumbleweed Communications and Lucent Technologies. ( www.terayon.com )
Paul Salzinger has become Worldwide VP Sales at Ensequence, an interactive TV software company. ( www.ensequence.com )
Bob Schack was named EVP of worldwide sales and business development at Ellacoya Networks. Schack was previously with Cisco Systems. ( www.ellacoya.com )
Mark Stalica joined Lemur Networks as VP, World Wide Sales. Stalica was previously with Terayon. Lemur also named Cathy Talmadge and Robert Christopher as Regional Sales Vice Presidents. ( www.lemurnetworks.com )
Michael Tribolet has been named EVP of operations at Vonage. He was previously with Dialpad Communications. ( www.vonage.com )
Bob Weatherford has joined Broadband Services, Inc. as VP, National Accounts, East. ( www.broadbandsvc.com )
Comdial has acquired most of Soundpipe's assets for 250,000 shares of Comdial common stock and cash. Comdial intends to integrate Soundpipe technology into its third generation IP Telephony products. ( www.comdial.com ) ( www.soundpipe.com )
WaveRider Communications Inc., a developer of non-line-of-sight wireless broadband technology announced a definitive agreement to acquire Avendo Wireless Inc. ( www.waverider.com ) ( www.avendowireless.com )
Bermai, Inc. closed a $12 million B round of financing to support delivery of the company's complete 802.11x chipset portfolio starting in the third quarter of 2003. ( www.bermai.com )
BigBand Networks has raised $15 million in its fourth round of venture capital financing. ( www.bigbandnet.com )
Orthogon Systems, a broadband wireless company, has obtained $7 million in new venture capital. ( www.orthogonsystems.com )
Bloomberg Television launched an interactive financial news channel in the UK on Sky. On the service, viewers can create a personal portfolio of shares which can be displayed as a personal ticker whenever they are watching Bloomberg Television. See an excellent demonstration video courtesy of Broadband Bananas. ( www.bloomberg.com )
CableLabs has issued the PacketCable Multimedia Specification and Technical Report, establishing a roadmap by which cable consumers may enjoy new advanced IP-based broadband services. The spec foresees a wide variety of graphically-rich services such as interactive games and streaming media delivered via cable’s IP-based network. ( www.cablelabs.com )
Centillium Communications Inc. has announced the Palladia 220, an ADSL 2/ADSL2plus-compatible chipset for CPE that delivers data rates up to 50 Mbps, extends the reach of ADSL up to 22,000 feet and supports a full suite of connectivity options including high-speed Wi-Fi. ( www.centillium.com )
Intel announced its intention to develop silicon product based on the IEEE 802.16a standard that will provide a broadband wireless access alternative to cable and DSL. Intel also announced it is partnering with Alvarion to develop IEEE 802.16/WiMAX-certified wireless broadband systems. Both Intel and Alvarion are active participants in the WiMAX Forum, whose members promote adoption of the IEEE 802.16a standard and certify the interoperability of compliant equipment. ( www.intel.com ) ( www.alvarion.com ) ( www.wimaxforum.org )
Listen.com announced that in June its Rhapsody subscribers streamed 11 million songs. This together with Apple's iTunes early success seems to show that legal music services are coming of age. It is not clear how much effect the RIAA crackdown on illegal file sharing has had on getting users to sign up for legitimate music services. ( www.listen.com ) ( www.apple.com/itunes )
Muse.Net is a new online service from Mediacode, which lets people with high-speed Internet connections transform their own music collection from physical songs stored on a machine into a set of titles that can be played wherever their owner wants to play them. Unlike file-sharing software, the Muse.Net service — which Mediacode sells for about $20 a year — allows just one person at a time to access songs in a collection. Mediacode principals Robert Lord and Ian Rogers are promoting the idea of location-independent media, making your media available at any Internet-connected PC, just the way your email is. ( www.muse.net ) ( www.mediacode.com )
Scientific-Atlanta has announced their SmartLAN Home Networking System, which uses existing in-home phone wiring for delivering high-speed data and voice services. The users' wall telephone jacks are replaced with SmartLAN outlets to deliver services around the home. This product looks very similar to one from SercoNet we wrote about in BBHR 4/16/2003. ( www.sciatl.com )
PCCW of Hong Kong, via their Poundradio entity, was the successful bidder for 13 of 15 regional fixed wireless licenses auctioned in the United Kingdom. The auction for the 3.4 GHz spectrum generated $12.4 million for the U.K. government. This means that PCCW is close to having a national license in the UK for broadband fixed wireless. The government's goal for the spectrum is to provide fixed wireless access broadband connections for areas unable to have access via other delivery methods such as ADSL and cable. ( www.pccw.com )
P-Cube Inc. announced the SmartStart–P2P Program, a structured program of products and services that enable broadband service providers to understand the impact of broadband applications, such as Peer-to-Peer P2P, on their networks. ( www.p-cube.com )
TiVo announced an agreement with AOL to allow AOL users to program their home TiVo television recording service remotely, via a section of AOL's Web site. The feature is free for AOL subscribers and is available to TiVo users with a Series 2 unit. The DVR must be connected to broadband. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. ( www.tivo.com ) ( aol.com )
UEI announced that its Nevo home control solution will come standard on all new HP iPAQ Pocket PC h2200 series devices. Nevo is an embedded solution that transforms an electronic display into a visual interface for home control of TVs, home theaters and other electronically managed appliances. ( www.uei.com )
The 2003 World Radiocommunication Conference, meeting recently in Geneva, Switzerland, reached agreement on global rules for license-free spectrum in the 5 GHz band. The key decision is to make an additional 255 MHz of spectrum in the 5.47-5.725 GHz band available under the same rules as the current 5.25-5.35 GHz "middle U-NII" band. This spectrum can be used either indoors for additional channels for 802.11a/Wi-Fi, or outdoors for 802.16a/WiMAX. An active FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks to develop the US rules for this band. ( www.itu.int/ITU-R/conferences/wrc/wrc-03/ ) ( www.fcc.gov )
Intel, Bell Canada and VIA Rail Canada announced plans to equip select VIA 1 train cars with wireless Internet access for passengers traveling between Montreal and Toronto. The four-month pilot gives business and personal travelers with Wi-Fi enabled laptops or PDA devices the ability to wirelessly access the Internet, check email and connect to corporate networks while traveling on the train. Similar trials have been established in Sweden on the Göteborg-København trains. ( www.intel.com ) ( www.bell.ca/accesszone ) ( www.viarail.ca )
U.S.- The Supreme Court has decided to review cases relating to Missouri, to decide if states can block local governments from offering local phone and Internet service (FCC v. Missouri Municipal League, 02-1386). A growing number of local jurisdictions and public utility companies have started providing telecom services to residents. Some other US states, such as Florida, Texas and Virginia, have restrictions similar to Missouri's. ( www.appanet.org/LegislativeRegulatory/broadband )
Verizon Avenue demonstrated a prototype phone at the National Apartment Association meeting--it acts as a cordless phone when you're at home and a mobile when you're away. The new Verizon ONE phone will be rolled out early next year, state-by-state, to residents of selected multi-family communities where Verizon Avenue offers bundled telecommunications services. Although this is not about broadband per se, Verizon's new bundle puts together local and mobile voice services with high speed Internet and Wi-Fi hotspots, thus upping the ante on what is in "the bundle". The service will include broadband access up to a maximum connection speed of 1.5Mbps; up to six free Wi-Fi hot spots in multi-family common areas; six e-mail addresses and 20Mb of storage. ( www.verizon.com/avenue ) ( www.naahq.org )
--Groups and Forums
The CE Linux Forum (CELF) has been founded by eight consumer electronics companies: Matsushita, Sony, Hitachi, NEC, Philips, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba Corp. The Forum intends to promote the use of the Linux platform for digital consumer electronics devices. The organization will discuss and formalize technical requirements for extensions to Linux for CE audio/visual products and cellular phones, publish those requirements and evaluate open source contributions. ( www.celinuxforum.org )
The Digital Home Working Group (DHWG) has been formed by seventeen leading consumer electronics, computer, and mobile companies. The organization is dedicated to the simplified sharing of digital content, such as digital music, photos and video, among networked consumer electronics, mobile devices and PCs. The group consists of industry leaders including Fujitsu, Gateway, HP, Intel, IBM, Kenwood, Lenovo, Matsushita Electric (Panasonic), Microsoft, NEC CustomTechnica, Nokia, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, STMicroelectronics and Thomson. ( www.dhwg.org )
Note from the Editors: The following is the fifth in a series of guest articles by experts from across the broadband ecosystem. Eric Dishman, Manager, Proactive Health Research at Intel, has been leading innovative field research and driving collaboration with other stakeholders to focus on information technologies that can help everyday people be more proactive about their health and that of their loved ones.
Eric is the Chair of the Center for Aging Services Technologies, a cross-industry R&D partnership sponsored by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. He was previously at Interval Research. Eric has a Master of Science from Southern Illinois University, and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Utah.
Also see the unabridged version of this article including the full text, footnotes and acknowledgements.
Revolutionary Needs for Broadband
“I hate to tell you this, but we really don’t need another technology to help us watch more television. What we really need is something to help us look in on my mother-in-law who lives alone in upstate New York. She has early stage Alzheimer’s, and the closest person who can help her is Tom’s sister who lives five hours away. Surely we’re not the only ones needing help helping our parents!”
In 1999, “Sheila” was part of a digital entertainment study of early broadband adopters done by Intel’s social science team, People and Practices Research. We were using concept prototypes to help the participants imagine future technologies. As we completed showcasing a wireless digital music jukebox, a portable movie player, and a PVR with remote audio chat, Sheila, who had given up her career to care for her ailing mother, held forth. And almost every participant chimed in with their personal health-related story.
In the sleepless nights that followed, I began reviewing my ten years of interviews with more than a thousand American and European households. Stories of health, wellness, and caregiving needs emerged from almost every discussion, even though we had never set out to study such topics. Women, who tend to be the primary caregivers, were the most vocal. They yearned for systems to help with security & health monitoring, maintaining independence, and fostering social & intellectual engagement for their aging parents. They saw a different purpose—and future—for the broadband home.
A Worldwide Caregiving Crisis
Sheila is not the only person who needs help helping her parents. Older people already comprise one fifth of the total population of much of Western Europe and Japan, and many countries will at least double their elderly populations by the middle of the century. Modern technologies have extended human life-spans into the 80s and 90s, and most countries will soon face an enormous and disruptive caregiving crisis.
About 35 million people—one out of every eight—in the United States is over the age of 65 and by 2030 the number will double, to 20% of the U.S. population. The 76 million American “baby boomers” waiting in the retirement wings already face the double challenge of caring for their parents and their own emerging health problems.
Home is Where the Health Is
The worldwide age wave presents technology companies with both huge business challenges and new market opportunities. Companies face decreases in worker productivity and enormous increases in the cost of employee health insurance. The $1.4 trillion annual U.S healthcare budget is likely to skyrocket as the boomers move into retirement. The good news, especially for broadband and home networking companies, is that home care offers the best hope for the healthcare crisis.
The next generation of elders will demand technologies to help keep them fit, functioning, and having fun from wherever they choose to live. At the same time, healthcare payers and providers have no choice but to look for ways to prevent disease, detect illnesses early, drive consumer adherence to care plans and therapies, and support informal caregiving. An always-on, high-speed, safe-and-secure network is a prerequisite for almost any home health intervention/invention.
Proactive Health at Intel
Given the needs of Sheila and the millions like her, Intel Research funded a strategic research program called Proactive Health. Our mission is to catalyze a research ecosystem around information technologies that can help people be more proactive about their health. Our focus is on future elders—that disruptive demography of “baby boomers”—who are dealing particularly with cognitive decline, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. These three conditions account for more than half a trillion dollars of the annual U.S. healthcare budget.
Given the significance of Alzheimer’s, a disease costing U.S. businesses more than $61 billion in 2002, we began our studies by examining cognitive decline. Using methods borrowed from anthropological and other social sciences, we observed and interviewed fifty U.S. households with conditions ranging from “normal” memory decline to extreme cases of advanced Alzheimer’s. We sought to understand what needs, problems, and aspirations our home health inventions should address. Using those findings, we have prototyped numerous “smart home” systems to help address the needs we saw. We are refining these systems for trials in early 2004, moving from the lab back to the lives of real elders with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and their informal caregivers.
Prototyping a Smarter “Smart Home”
The lives of “Betty” and “Jim,” participants in our field studies, show the need for a home health assistance network that can intelligently adapt to the day-to-day variability of Betty’s decline as well as to Jim’s increasing needs as her primary caregiver. Betty was forced to retire early since, like most with moderate stage dementia, she now forgets how to do everyday tasks, such as getting dressed or making a cup of tea. Jim still works full time but it is all he can do to help her remember to eat, drink, and take her medications. He is quick to point out “that a good day for Betty is when she is able to make tea for herself—this disease has completely changed our priorities.”
Inspired by the story of Betty and Jim, we built a prototype system in our lab to prompt and assist someone to fix a cup of tea and to monitor her or his progress of that activity over time. Using “mote” technology—-a small plug-and-play processor and wireless transmitter from our Intel Research Berkeley lab—-we have plugged in five kinds of sensors: 1) motion sensors for activity detection; 2) pressure sensors in chairs to know whether someone is sitting; 3) switches to know when drawers, cabinets, or objects in the kitchen have been moved; 4) RFID antennas situated between the family room and the kitchen to identify small tags placed in peoples’ shoes; and 5) an IR-tracking camera that detects whether a badge-wearing “patient” has fallen. All the real-time data travels through the motes’ wireless network back into a host PC for processing, prioritization, and communication.
To help address the problem of dehydration—at this stage of the illness people often forget to drink enough—our system infers that no one has been in the kitchen or opened the cabinets where the mugs are kept. If it reaches a certain threshold of concern, the assistant software locates and prompts her first with a commercial for tea and then with an explicit textual prompt on a nearby television. Patients may get distracted as they move towards the kitchen, so we use classic “smart home” technologies like X-10 control of the lights and other sound sources such as the stereo to try to keep them on task and offer instructions via nearby TVs or other consumer devices.
Our current prototype is primitive in its inference and assistance abilities. Nonetheless, our ultimate goals for the system are not only to successfully help people like Betty with kitchen activities, but also to longitudinally track how much help was needed, how often, and which steps were most difficult for the user so that we might detect further cognitive decline.
Unfortunately, Betty’s condition is likely to worsen to the point that she may need full-time caregiving from Jim. The home health network then needs to assist Jim in this task. We observed many advanced Alzheimer’s patients sitting most of their daylight hours in the same chair, but the caregivers’ fears of their loved one falling demanded constant vigil and co-presence. Systems such as the chair sensor and fall detector help caregivers monitor the safety of their loved one, thus freeing them to work or rest in other parts of the house. Our current prototype system alerts Jim that “Betty has gotten up” on whatever home device is closest to him, followed by a more urgent alert of “Betty may have fallen” if the system senses from the infrared cameras that she is at floor level.
These prototypes are very preliminary, and the systems engineering challenges to make these technologies work for real elders are enormous. Nonetheless, as digital convergence and the wireless revolution continue to make new home functionalities possible, these systems become much more plausible. As we aim for real home trials, the key technical capabilities we are working towards include:
Conclusion: Evidenced-Based Collaborative Research
Just as pharmaceutical companies develop new drug therapies using an “evidenced-based” approach, home health and wellness technologies must prove their worth in cost savings, disease reduction, or improved quality of care through carefully designed technology trials. We cannot achieve these goals on a large enough scale or quickly enough to meet the needs of the worldwide age wave without the cooperation and collaboration from many sectors. We need large-scale “collaboratories” to:
Over the past year, Intel has worked with the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging to launch one such initiative called “Center for Aging Services Technology” or CAST. It is a volunteer-driven collaboration amongst people in technology companies, university labs, government agencies, and elder care providers across the United States to spark more research and development of technologies that will support the health and wellness needs of the imminent age wave.
Technology companies need to understand that there is much more to life than “efficiency” and “entertainment,” which monopolizes most of our industry’s imagination and investment dollars today. In a recent interview in Fortune, Andy Grove warned: “We’re going to have a schism. Keep in mind, revolutions have been waged over taxation and over dividing the economic pie. But this is life and death—some people will get access to this ‘health-care mainframe,’ and everybody else dies”.
The caregiving crisis presents us with both enormous opportunities and obstacles as our planet ages. If companies as well as people are to remain healthy in the midst of these demographic disruptions, then we would all do well to have the healthcare epiphany, to answer Sheila’s call for “help helping our aging parents,” and to notice the caregiving needs that are inexorably and inevitably becoming part of our own everyday lives.
[Eric Dishman: Many of the concepts in this essay come from work done with my Intel colleagues Jay Lundell, Margaret Morris, and Brad Needham. Also, much thanks goes to Ashley Armstrong for her excellent editorial input.]
For the full text, more pictures, footnotes and acknowledgements, see the unabridged version of this article.
During the three plus years we've been writing this report, we've run occasional pieces about our belief that the broadband industry needs to keep the user front and center in its plans. We first talked about it in May 2000, when we wrote "New technology is great. That is, it's great when it's working and doing what we want. The rest of the time, it causes us to say unprintable things about the people and companies that have wrought grief and frustration on us."
At the time, we were reporting enthusiastically on the work of the Broadband Innovation Group at MediaOne Labs. Its role was to help their company to understand how real people actually live, and how they think about and use new products and services based on broadband technologies. Their early work on PVRs, Web tablets (like our Smart Display) and how people's behavior changed when they had broadband, were "right on".
We've also written about other products and applications we wish MediaOne had studied but didn't. For example, see Computerized Complexity: Frustrations of Everyday Life about Sandy's frustration with her new car radio.
Although that group and company no longer exist, some of the people and approaches they championed are being supported in other places. We were led to Eric Dishman's work on Proactive Health at Intel through Ken Anderson, who had been part of the MediaOne team. Intel's People and Practices Research Team explores the relationship between human behavior and technology so that hopefully their products will satisfy people's real-world needs. We applaud their efforts and would love to hear from our readers about other examples of companies that are investing in such work.
As an industry, we've done well at making broadband more mainstream and creating products like TiVo that simplify and change how we watch TV. As we watch people who are not in the business, their complaints and frustrations remind us we still have a long way to go in our quest for products that adapt to how people behave, rather than the other way around.
( www.intel.com )
We have been testing two of the new ViewSonic wireless networking devices based on Microsoft's "Windows-powered Smart Display" technology. The smaller airPanel V110 has a 10" LCD touchscreen; the larger V150 has a 15" screen. Both work through our Wi-Fi network to extend the screens of our Windows XP Pro PCs.
The V150 is equipped with a pre-release version of Universal Electronics Nevo for Smart Displays product, which turns a Smart Display into a universal remote control for consumer electronics devices.
Our first report on testing a V110 said we "have been very impressed with it. It has done nearly everything we expected and some things we didn't think it could do." While we've encountered some problems, we continue to be impressed. These SD devices were easy to install, work just about everywhere inside and near our house, and do what they claim to do. Add-on applications like Nevo extend their value and make the current high price more bearable. The biggest single problem is that you can't use the SD and the primary display at the same time, and switching back and forth--while fast--is inconvenient. We're sure that as Microsoft addresses this problem, prices come down and more add-on applications become available, more and more people--including us--will buy SDs.
WebPADs, "Mira" and Smart Displays
We have been enthusiastic about wireless touchscreen devices since we first saw a WebPAD four years ago and we're certain they will play a major role in the "broadband home." In writing about broadband products from Taiwan in the very first issue of this report we said "Our personal favorite ... was the line of wireless WebPAD tablets from Tatung. Their small, lightweight WebPAD sits on a keyboard base and moves wirelessly from kitchen to bedroom to patio, making unconstrained access to content and services a part of everyday life."
But the industry has had a very hard time figuring out the right combination of technologies, form factors and human interaction. The original "WebPAD" devices were positioned as competitors to PCs - an Internet appliance that would "replace" the PC. Several companies introduced these products, with little success. The problem with this approach is that providing all the processing power and memory of a modern PC in a hand-held touchscreen device would result in a very high-cost device with a short battery life.
In his keynote address at the January 2002 Consumer Electronics Show, Bill Gates described an initiative called "Mira" which we saw as a much better approach. In our report "The Power of the PC and Microsoft" on Gates' speech we wrote:
We thought the most interesting part of his talk was the announcement of two new technologies -- code-named "Freestyle" and "Mira" -- that will be added to Windows XP. ... "Mira" is designed "to extend Windows XP experiences" to smart displays "anywhere in the home." One demonstration of Mira showed the user undocking the LCD monitor and then carrying it to the living room couch and using it as a touch-screen to continue running applications.
A year and a half later, we have been testing two "Mira" wireless touchscreen displays. The ViewSonic V150 is a good example of the "primary monitor" format Gates described; with a 15" display and 1024x768 resolution, it's comparable to many desktop LCD displays. The V110 is an example of the "small format" secondary display with a 10" screen and 800x600 resolution. Both are based on a 400MHz Intel XScale processor and include 32MB ROM and 64MB RAM. They include built-in 802.11b (Wi-Fi) wireless networking and are shipped with an 802.11b USB wireless adapter for those users who don't have operational wireless networks.
We've used the V110 for several months, and the V150 for about a month. While they run a version of the Windows CE. NET operating system, they do not include the usual PocketPC applications (scaled-down versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.). Instead--as Gates promised at CES--they leverage the "horsepower" and applications stored on the primary PC. They require Windows XP Professional, and are shipped with an upgrade to XPPro.
Optional docking stations provide a convenient place to store and charge the SD when it's not in use, and include connections for a USB keyboard and mouse to use the SD like a conventional LCD display.
We've also been testing Nevo for Smart Displays on the V150. Nevo is an add-on application and hardware from Universal Electronics that turns a Smart Display into a universal remote control for consumer electronics devices.
Installation and Operation Smart Displays are based on a Windows feature called "Remote Desktop" available only with Windows XP Professional. Since that version of XP is not installed in many homes, Smart Displays typically are packaged with an upgrade to XP Pro.
We already have a working wireless network, so we used our own network rather than the wireless USB adapter shipped with the V110. We did not run into any problem setting it up this way. We were conducting our Wi-Fi tests at the same time, and kept changing between four different wireless access points; we were delighted to see that the SD had no trouble transparently changing from one to another (a very different experience than with our Win 98SE portable).
We encountered some problems using the V110, and after a few phone calls found that there was an updated software release. Since the SD is a programmed device, it was fairly straight-forward to upgrade the V110 to the latest software--just a matter of downloading the new firmware to our PC, attaching the SD to the PC with a USB cable, and starting the "new firmware" process. The only problem was a confusing message on the SD at the start of the process, which required a phone call to support.
Smart displays can support multiple users running on multiple PCs, and we decided to test this feature. So we initially set up the V110 to support each of us at our desktop PCs, both already running XP Pro. We found that we could set up the V110 to "remember" our passwords, making login fast (it's slower entering the password from the on-screen keyboard).
This may sound a little complex, but it took us only about an hour to set up the V110, plus about another hour one month later to upgrade the software. Since we were already running XP Pro on both desktop PCs, we did not have to install the XP Pro upgrade--which probably would have doubled the installation time.
The V150 arrived a month later. It came pre-loaded with the latest software, and SD support was already installed on both desktop PCs, so it took only a few minutes to set up the V150 with login accounts for our desktop PCs and start using it. Since we were also using Nevo on the V150, we had to set it up. We downloaded the newest Nevo software release from UEI and installed it on Dave's notebook PC (also already running XP Pro) and the V150. Then we added a third account (Dave on his notebook PC) to the V150.
With the software installed and the SD set up with user accounts and passwords, it's very fast--perhaps 30 seconds--to switch over to either SD from the primary display. What you see on the SD is exactly what you see on your PC screen--with windows resized if the SD has a smaller screen resolution than the primary display.
You use a plastic stylus or a set of "mouse-like" controls to select icons on the touchscreen, and an on-screen "soft keyboard" and handwriting recognition software to enter data. (You can also connect a regular keyboard and mouse, but that rather defeats the purpose of a portable display.)
Switching back to the primary display is also fast, but it's a little inconvenient to get the windows back to the proper size if they were resized. Since our primary displays are both 1024x768, and the V110 is 800x600, we had to resize some windows every time we went back to the primary display. And there's an annoying software bug that resets the "Num Lock" key each time you switch back.
SD Applications -- How We Used Them
We've used the two Smart Displays for lots of things--both business and pleasure--over the past two months:
Availability and Price
ViewSonic has recently upgraded its SD line; the current models are the V110p and V150p. These appear identical to the older models and we assume they will perform the same as the ones we tested. The street prices for the current models range from about $750-850 for the V110p and about $930-1050 for the V150p; many online retailers report that they are "in stock." These models do not include a wireless USB adapter but do include a full-size wired keyboard. The dock adds about $150 for the V110 and $200 for the V150.
We like these Smart Displays a lot, and think they will play a major role in the future. But we did run into several issues that get in the way.
Since it takes a lot of bytes to transfer the screen image to the SD, network speed is a major factor in SD performance. The current Smart Displays are based on the 802.11b "flavor" of Wi-Fi, which operates realistically at about 4.5 Mbps and can be much slower when far from an access point--see our test results on 802.11b and .11g.
We sat out on our deck--location 17 on our Test Locations page--using an SD to look at the photos from our Spain trip, and we certainly noticed the significant delay between selecting the next picture and seeing it paint on the screen. Several times we pushed the "next" button twice thinking it had been ignored.
Then we tried to get the weather outlook using the weather.com Weekly Planner. This didn't work at all--it's a streaming video application and the video was very broken up while the audio was inaudible.
Our measurements show that we'd get more than twice the speed from 802.11g than from 11b, and we assume that future SDs will work with 11g. We also assume that Microsoft will figure out how to make video work better.
Windows XP allows only one user to be logged on at a time, so moving back and forth between the primary display and the SD implies logging off the primary display (done automatically) and vice versa. Not only does this take a little time, but it can cause a lot of problems if you inadvertently "steal" the PC from someone else who's using it. This happened to us when we tried to use an SD to show a web page to Dave's brother, and our nephew came charging up the stairs wondering what had happened to the online video game he was playing on Dave's PC.
Allowing both displays to be used simultaneously will require Microsoft to implement a Windows feature they call "concurrency". While Microsoft has acknowledged that users want this very badly, they have not said when it will be available. Based on Web information, we reported earlier that "Microsoft has just announced that they will be addressing this problem in the fall with a new Windows XP mechanism permitting two users to be logged on simultaneously." Microsoft denies this report and says that they haven't set a date for "concurrent sessions".
XP Pro Requirement
Smart Displays require Windows XP Pro; that version of XP is not installed in many homes. It would be nice if Microsoft could enable the "Remote Desktop" feature in XP Home as well.
Size and Weight
The current ViewSonic SDs represent a compromise between size, weight and battery life. The V110 weighs 3 pounds while the V150 is about twice as heavy. With its higher resolution, the V150 has the more readable screen and doesn't have the "resizing" problem that the V110 has when used with a 1024x768 primary display. But the V150 feels pretty "clunky" on a person's lap, while the V110 is quite pleasant.
We'd love to see a smart display with the resolution and battery life of the V150, with the weight of the V110.
At around $900 for the smaller unit and $1200 for the larger one (both including the docking station), these cost more than many PCs. It's nice to carry one around and use it anywhere in or near the house--as far as your wireless network can reach. But another PC would let another person operate at the same time.
Nevo for Smart Displays
We installed and used Nevo for Smart Displays on the V150 and found it a nice way to control our audio and video equipment. It adds a card with an infrared (IR) transmitter/receiver, plugged into the available PCMCIA slot on these ViewSonic SDs. You control a device by pointing the upper side of the SD at it and selecting control icons with the stylus on the touchscreen. Nevo operates two ways - as a stand-alone application on the SD, and as a PC application coordinated with the SD touchscreen.
To set Nevo up, you select the devices in each room by category (TV, VCR, cable box, PVR, etc) and then a specific brand within the category. Then you choose the remote control "codes" that work right for your device. If your device isn't pre-programmed, you can go online to the "MyNevo" website and find and download more devices. You can also download additional codes for pre-programmed devices. While this process is pretty straight-forward, it takes a while if you have a lot of devices, and especially if some of them aren't pre-programmed.
Every so often, you use the stylus to select the "Synchronize" button, which saves the entire setup on the PC. If you re-boot the SD (when changing the battery, for example), the entire setup is reloaded into the SD from the PC backup.
Nevo is a nice addition to the SDs and would certainly let us put away many if not most of our remote controls. We found that several of our networked A/V devices--the AudioTron and PRISMIQ--were neither built into the Nevo nor on the online list. We could have used the "learn" feature to set up the device codes manually, but decided not to try since we weren't going to keep it long enough to be worth the effort.
Some of the most attractive features of Nevo integrate TV watching with Web browsing. You can set up favorite channels in the "Favorites" screen, and assign channels and Web URLs to each favorite. These channels show up in the "Teleweb" screen, where you can click on an icon to watch the channel and navigate to the web page at the same time.
We encountered a few problems with Nevo. After using the V150 with Nevo, the PC often seemed to be in a funny state--icons were missing and applications weren't working right--and we found that we had to reboot the PC each time we switched back. We did not see this problem unless we used the Nevo application from the PC desktop, so we think it comes from the pre-release status of the Nevo software we were using.
Until recently, ViewSonic had been offering Nevo PCMCIA cards and software as a free add-on application for SDs. This offer ended on June 30 and the add-on cards have been shipped to users. At press time, we were unable to find out when Nevo will again be available and whether it will again be free.
Using a Smart Display requires a change in behavior--instead of walking to a PC, you need to pick up and use the SD. We found that it wasn't second nature to think of using the SD--we would start for the PC first. In a way, this is like the early days of the Web (and online services before that): we'd always go look for a paper catalog or try to call on the telephone, rather than looking online. We've now learned that every useful catalog is online, but it took many years.
This is very different from our reaction to PVRs and the AudioTron, where a month's use showed that we could watch TV or listen to music very differently from the way we had before, and we decided it was worthwhile to keep them permanently. We haven't yet reached that conclusion with the SDs.
And there are some applications that don't work well on an SD--at least when you're carrying it around the way it's meant to be used. It's great for being alerted to and reading urgent email--but it's painful to enter the text for a reply. It would be nice to be able to enter handwritten notes while on the phone, but that application isn't provided even though these SDs appear to be based on the same version of CE .NET that's found in Windows Mobile.
It would certainly be nice to be able to use the SD and the PC without having to log on each time. This gets in the way, even with a single user. The time it takes to log on can just as easily be spent walking to the primary PC.
We're very impressed with Smart Displays, and think that they are "over the bar" (something we haven't said about lots of other new devices). But we're not ready to run out to buy one for ourselves.
Here are some things that might change our mind:
During 2002 and 2003, the idea of obtaining music and distributing it around your home has gone from something for the high-end audiophile or ultra-geek to something that's coming into reach for the masses. First Linksys and its competitors made Wi-Fi home networking an inexpensive and easily available option. Now they are about to do the same for audio distribution to your analog devices.
Linksys has announced its new Wireless-B Media Adapter, a wireless multimedia product that allows users to enjoy digital music and pictures stored on their PC by viewing and playing it on their TVs and stereos. The product bridges the analog and digital worlds using 802.11b wireless networking to deliver digital content to conventional TVs and home stereos. They are working to include playlist support from popular music services such as Rhapsody and MusicMatch. And they have announced this as "the first in a line of new Wireless Home products from Linksys."
Although educating people on the application and making it easy to buy and install are still in process, the next big leap is doing something similar with video. Content ownership rights and business models are still huge issues, but we're watching as progress is being made on the nuts and bolts of the enabling technologies. TiVo and ReplayTV have made some steps with multi-room PVR technology, but the fundamental question of how to transport high-quality video around the home is a major thrust for consumer electronics companies.
We're hearing that CES 2004 should give us some clues as to which home networking technologies--especially wireless ones--the consumer electronics industry will incorporate in their networked video devices. As we've written previously, Wi-Fi (both the 11b and 11g flavors) lack QoS and sufficient speed, especially for running multiple SD channels or HDTV. Companies we have written about previously, such as ViXS and Bermai, are each betting that they have the winning solution.
The consumer electronics industry vision of what the customer will want is getting clearer. Examples include:
At CES in January, we interviewed Sally Daub, CEO of ViXS, and saw a demo of their "XCode" chip carrying multiple HD video streams over 802.11a. This chip dynamically adjusts the bit-rates, resolutions and formats of multiple MPEG video streams, in real time, adapting each stream to changing network bandwidth. In April, ViXS announced that XCode had been integrated with the new Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. reference design, targeted at media center/home entertainment gateway applications. In June they announced that ViXS is combining its Matrix chipset with Intersil’s PRISM Indigo RF front-end components to offer OEMs a video-optimized WLAN chipset. We spoke again with Sally last week, following their announcement of a strategic relationship with Nissho Electronics. Nissho is a leading distributor in the consumer electronics market, providing technologies to Japanese companies like Sony, NEC, Panasonic and JVC, so this is another step toward getting ViXS technology into CE and PC products that wirelessly distribute high-quality digital video.
Sally was about to leave for a big wireless show in Tokyo, where 802.11a seems to be on a faster path to rollout than in the US. We're hoping that by the time January, 2004 rolls around, some of the products incorporating networked video that are already becoming available in Japan will start making their way to the US and more broadly around the world.
Meanwhile Bermai, another company we've written about, is getting closer to availability of its 802.11a chip and access point based on it. In a recent discussion, Steve Timmerman, VP of Marketing and Business Development, talked about their approach based on a technology they call "twin receiver diversity". Their approach is focused on upping the distance effectively covered by 802.11a and on ultra-integration to keep the external component count (and therefore the BOM cost) low. They have also created an extension, based on the draft spec of IEEE 812.11e, to address the QoS requirements inherent in video transmission. Although Bermai's approach is quite different from that of ViXS, they both agree that 802.11a has some distinctive qualities--operating in a cleaner spectrum band and having much more capacity than 802.11b/g--which make it a particularly attractive choice for networking video.
We're really looking forward to CES in January!
( www.linksys.com ) ( www.listen.com ) ( www.musicmatch.com ) ( www.tivo.com ) ( www.replaytv.com ) ( www.vixs.com ) ( www.bermai.com ) ( www.tais.toshiba.com ) ( www.intersil.com ) ( www.nissho-ele.co.jp )
Its always fun to hear different perspectives on broadband, so Sandy was delighted when Nancy Goguen invited her to participate in a session Nancy is chairing at Broadband World Forum 2003, September 8-11, in London. The session, called "Broadband Home Network Architectures: The Digital Home" also includes Jay Fausch of Alcatel and Ofer Vilenski of Jungo. Sandy will be speaking on the topic "The Broadband Home: It's Hard To Make It Easy".
We have not attended this event before, but understand that the program is directed toward executives in carrier and supplier companies. Its goal is to help incumbent and emerging network operators meet the challenges of deploying broadband services.
We will be covering the event to report on some of the interesting things we hear during the other sessions. If you're coming to the event, please do stop us and say hi--we love to meet our readers! You can recognize us from our pictures.
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