IN THIS ISSUE:
I Can Listen To Your Phone Calls
IPTV Update -
News about People and Companies Influencing The Broadband Home
Jay Bradbury has become Director of Wireless Regulatory Operations Support at Cox Communications. He was previously with Duke Power. ( www.cox.com )
John Callahan has joined ActiveVideo Networks as Chief Technology Officer. Callahan was previously with Time Warner Cable where he became an expert on interactive applications. ActiveVideo Networks also added two other senior executives, Jason Harvey as VP and GM of Programming Strategy and Operations and Edgar Villalpando, as Senior VP of Marketing. Harvey was previously focused on new media in Latin America with Google; Villalpando has held executive positions with HBO and DIRECTV, and was most recently at THUMP.( www.avnetworks.com )
Robert F Cruickshank III has been named VP Customer Service Operations Center at Cablevision Systems. Bob was previously VP Ops & Business at ARRIS Group. ( www.cablevision.com )
Brian Deutsch has joined Aperto Networks as President and CEO. He was previously at BSQUARE. ( www.apertonet.com )
Kurt Jonckheer is now Senior Product Manager EMEA at 2Wire and liaison with Alcatel-Lucent. ( www.2wire.com )
Arthur Orduna has joined Canoe Ventures as CTO. Previously he was with Advance/Newhouse.
Ilan Shamir has joined BitTorrent as VP of engineering. He was previously with Check Point Software Technologies. ( www.bittorrent.com )
BitTorrent has raised $17 million in a third round of funding. ( www.bittorrent.com )
Scopus Video Networks is acquiring the digital video and streaming business assets of Optibase in a stock-based buyout. Optibase will own about 46 percent of Scopus' outstanding ordinary shares. ( www.scopus.net ) ( www.optibase.com )
The Platform, Comcast's media management and publishing arm, has acquired assets from Chirp Interactive, a social media applications provider. Financial terms were not disclosed. ( www.theplatform.com )
Aicent, a wireless roaming technology company, has received $3 million in funding from Intel Capital. ( www.aicent.net )
Altair Semiconductor has raised $22 million for cell phone WiMax and other 4G processors. ( altair-semi.com )
Conviva, an interactive video over the Internet start-up, has raised $20 million in a second round of funding. ( www.conviva.com )
DigiMeld, provider of a technology for making high-definition videos play more smoothly over the web, has received $2 Million in a first round of funding. ( www.digimeld.com )
Entone, an IPTV home connectivity solutions provider, has raised $14.5 million in their Series B round. ( www.entone.com )
Envivio, a provider of IP video convergence encoding solutions from mobile to HD, has closed $25 million in new venture capital funding. ( www.envivio.com )
Miniweb, an interactive service provider that is enabling targeted, web-style advertising and interactivity on TV, has announced US$32 million of venture capital investment.( www.miniweb.tv )
Move Networks, a provider of Internet video streaming services, has received a strategic investment from Microsoft. Previous participants in company funding include Cisco, Comcast Interactive Capital and Televisa. ( www.movenetworks.com )
RadioFrame Networks (RFN) received an additional $28 million in equity and debt financing. The company's second generation OmniRadio processor will support femtocells for both LTE and WiMAX networks. ( www.radioframenetworks.com )
Soma Networks, a mobile WiMAX provider, has closed a $51 million Series E round from several new and returning backers. ( somanetworks.com )
Verimatrix closed its Series C round of funding, totaling over $20 million. ( www.verimatrix.com )
WildBlue Communications, a provider of high-speed Internet over satellite, has completed a $50 million equity financing. Participants include Liberty Media, Intelsat, and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC). ( www.wildblue.com )
ADB showed its 4820C set-back box at IBC. The unit is designed to operate with flat panel TVs and can be operated with the TVís remote control. ( www.adbholdings.com )
AT&T introduced AT&T HomeManager for integrating and managing IP services. It consists of 3 pieces: Frame, Handset, and Base. The Frame is a portable, seven-inch color touch screen phone combining Internet access, home phone service, visual voice mail, e-mail access and more. The Base connects the Frame and Handset to the residential gateway. ( www.att.com )
AT&T has announced that it will be dropping Dish as its satellite TV partner and adopting DirecTV instead. After Jan. 31, 2009 AT&T will offer DirecTV satellite TV in markets where they do not offer their own U-verse video service. ( www.att.com ) ( www.dishnetwork.com ) ( www.directv.com )
Broadcom announced a new digital-to-analog system-on-a-chip (SoC) which enables cable set-top box OEMs to provide affordable devices for transitioning analog cable customers to digital broadcasting. The chip is being used in Comcast's DTA converter boxes. ( www.broadcom.com )
Comcast launched its Fancast Store, which offers downloads of TV shows and movies for rent or purchase. It is a complement to their free, ad-supported content. ( www.comcast.com ) ( store.fancast.com )
Intel announced its x86-based chip and a software framework, developed with Yahoo!, for delivering Internet services on a TV via software widgets. Comcast, Motorola and others have agreed to participate in defining the software environment for the so-called Widget Channel. ( www.intel.com ) ( www.yahoo.com ) ( www.comcast.com ) ( www.motorola.com )
The HomePNA Alliance announced that more leading North American telcos are deploying its technology and that HomePNA was installed in more North American homes in the last quarter than any other coax home networking solution. The Alliance also announced that TELUS has chosen HomePNA 3.1 technology for its TELUS TV service. ( www.homepna.org )
Microsoft introduced the Mediaroom Advertising Platform, an integrated platform aimed at IPTV service providers. ( www.microsoft.com )
Motorola unveiled its first WiMAX USB adapter, the USBw 100. It is available in three versions to connect to WiMAX networks approved for use around the world -- 2.3, 2.5 and 3.5 GHz. It is expected to be available later this year. ( www.motorola.com )
TiVo and DirecTV announced that they will jointly develop and launch a TiVo-powered HD DVR. DirecTV had abandoned TiVo-made set-top boxes in 2005 in favor of its own DVRs. ( www.tivo.com ) ( www.directv.com )
Standards and Consortia
The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a consortium of media companies including Sony, Toshiba, Microsoft and Cisco, announced plans to create a digital-standards framework so people can store their digital content virtually and retrieve it anywhere.
The Femto Forum has adopted the Broadband Forum's TR-069 CPE wide area network management protocol for remote management. TR-069 has been deployed in approximately 30 million devices, and will now be the de facto standard for femtocells as well as for DSL gateways. ( www.femtoforum.org ) ( www.broadband-forum.org )
Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations you might have missed. This month's briefs focus on Wi-Fi in your car, TiVo's product purchase feature, and more.
No Refuge--Wi-Fi In Your Car
The word "incommunicado" may soon be obsolete. All those last safe bastions are crumbling as communications and Internet access worm their ways into places like airplanes, boats, railroads, and buses.
In the latest indication of this unstoppable trend,Mopar, US automaker Chrysler's parts division, has started enabling Internet capability in cars. The Mopar car cellular/Wi-Fi hot spot is compatible with 2009 Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge vehicles as well as earlier models. The $499 hot spot, called UConnect Web, creates an EV-DO cellular connection that is then converted to Wi-Fi so that many passengers in the car can get secure Web access on their laptops, video game devices and other equipment. ( www.mopar.com )
TiVo, the Advertiser's Friend?
TiVo has introduced a "product purchase" feature, in partnership with Amazon.com. During TV shows, users will see links in TiVo's onscreen menus, allowing purchase of products that guests are promoting on shows like ďOprah Winfrey". If a viewer chooses to buy an advertised item during a broadcast, TiVo records the rest of the program so the viewer can return to it. They will also be able to save intended purchases in their Amazon account and complete the transaction later. ( www.tivo.com )
In this report we have previously covered powerline communications as an alternate mechanism for broadband access. In North America, the most substantive impact of PLC will be on "smart meter" and "smart grid" applications--smart meters in people's homes communicate with the utility, and could also provide consumers with information about power consumption and enable them to control it. The US Senate and House have passed measures as part of their energy reform bills to provide for accelerated depreciation of investments in these technologies. While the use of PLC as a broadband alternative has faded, it is still playing a role in US rural areas and in many countries outside the US.
Cybermanor was winner of this year's Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest, which features creative installations that leverage Windows Media Center technologies.( www.cybermanor.com )
Broadband In Asia
Broadband subscribers in Asia are expected to grow by more than 31 percent, reaching 171M by end of 2008, according to Frost&Sullivan. ( www.frost.com )
Note from the Editors: Security often takes a back seat to features. Companies often seem to pay attention only when their mistakes hit the headlines. We invited Jeremy Bennett, a long-time Silicon Valley security expert, to write a guest article on broadband security.
Jeremy Bennett has over 12 years of experience with computer and network security software development at companies including Hewlett-Packard and Symantec. He is currently a Software Architect at Aruba Networks where he leads the development of key projects including the award-winning RFprotect Wireless IPS. At Symantec, he led the design and architecture for the companyís intrusion detection and prevention products including Symantec Network IPS and Symantec Deception Server; his solutions were included in gateways, firewalls, and the entire suite of Norton security products. He earned a degree in computer science, with honors, from the University of Michigan.
I distinctly remember my first security vulnerability discovery. I was eight. Early in the year a friend's family had gotten a TV with--of all things--a remote control. Later in that year a different friend's family purchased the same model. We soon discovered that the remote control from one could control the other. For almost a week the game was to sneak into the back yard while someone was watching TV and change the channel and then hide. Juvenile? Yes, we were eight. I've since grown up. Sadly, IR remotes have not.
In the broadband home, your backyard is the Internet. This always-on connection provides a window into your home and, if you're not careful, can give the juvenile and the malicious alike the ability to not only change the channel on your TV but also rent videos with your account, make long distance phone calls on your bill, steal your address book, or even steal your identity.
Your Broadband is My Broadband
The most talked-about security issue for the broadband home is the very nature of broadband--the pairing of faster speeds with always-on technology. An Internet connection that is "always on" means faster access to online services, new services that push information into the home--and a discoverable target for vandals, thieves, and organized crime.
In the world of dial-up Internet, a single device would use the phone line to form a connection to the network. In addition to being slow, this connection prevented other incoming and outgoing calls; most users would therefore connect only when needed and disconnect when done. From a threat standpoint, this meant that the computer was open to attack only for the duration of the dial-up connection. The next connection was given a new IP address and would need to be discovered all over again. If an attacker gained control of the device, they would need to keep the dialup connection active, or redial, to keep that control.
A broadband user, by contrast, does not need to disconnect because no other services are disrupted during the connection. More and more homes now use the Internet connection to actually make those same phone calls. Devices connected by broadband may keep the same addresses for days, weeks, or months. Attackers have plenty of opportunities to probe and attack these devices; once they have gained control they can silently use that same Internet connection for their own purposes.
Once a device has been compromised, the device and its Internet connection become another tool in the attacker's arsenal. They can collect information and steal money and identities by installing software to watch the valid owner's behavior (SpyWare) and capture their passwords (keyloggers). In addition, compromised devices often become members of massive collections of machines controlled by these attackers (botnets). Vandals use botnets to flood commercial web sites with traffic and prevent other users from accessing them. Thieves use them to attack other homes and steal bank accounts and credit card numbers. Finally, highly-organized Internet crime groups use them to blackmail web site owners, attack government systems, and hide and distribute illegal files.
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Wireless
Wireless technologies like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Wireless USB and others promise to free us from pulling and connecting wires. They promise we can put our devices anywhere and stay connected. They also remove the guarantee of privacy offered by a cable.
Unlike a cable, which can only move data between the devices connected to its ends, a wireless "connection" uses radios to broadcast data from one device and receive it on another. Like FM radio towers, these broadcasts can be received by any radio in range. How far it can go is a function of the transmit power of the original radio and the sensitivity of the receiving antenna. Many examples exist of researchers greatly extending the distance at which a, supposedly, short range transmission can be received. In one experiment ( trifinite.org/trifinite_stuff_lds.html ), researchers were able to attack a Bluetooth phone from more than a mile away.
Though many of the faults of 802.11 (Wi-Fi) have been publicized, many home networks still run unencrypted or use WEP. These networks are open to trivial exploitation by anyone with a laptop and a Pringles can ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantenna ). Unfortunately, even the knowledgeable and careful who are using WPA2-PSK are not immune ( www.willhackforsushi.com/Cowpatty.html )--an attacker can listen to a WPA2-PSK protected network and then derive the network password by using a dictionary, some basic rules, and a fast computer.
Attacking Wi-Fi networks is interesting, but once on the network the attacker must then attack the computers--and that can be hard. Bluetooth, on the other hand, allows attackers to use fast and powerful computers to attack slower and more constrained personal devices, like phones. Because most Bluetooth devices have only a few buttons--three in the typical Bluetooth headset--they're easier to attack. Bluetooth security hinges on the passcode used in pairing devices, so if an attacker can guess the passcode then they can connect. Any device that uses a fixed pairing code that cannot be changed (many use 0000, 1234, etc.) may as well have no passcode at all. Once connected the attacker can steal contacts, forge SMS messages, see photos, or even listen in on phone calls ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=1c-jzYAH2gw ).
Emerging standards like Zigbee and UWB (the foundation of wireless USB) will face similar challenges to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. How will we configure security on a light switch? Security in these emerging technologies is a constant struggle between the inconvenience of configuring security and the insecurity of predictable defaults.
The Network Effect
Yesterday's "network" included the computers on our desks, the switches, routers, and servers in the data center, and the wires that connected them. Today's "network" is made up of the devices in our pockets, on our ears, hanging on our walls, and floating in our fishponds.
This new network is linked together wirelessly. Pieces are constantly being added, subtracted and moved.
If we don't pay attention, we may find that someone else has decided to turn off the heat and use our phone to call our bank to change our ATM PIN number.
A friend commented recently "So what if someone can do these things, it's not like they are stealing my money." Here's some food for thought:
If I can use your Cable/DVR I can:
If I can use your home VoIP phone I can:
If I can access your cell phone I can:
Advice to Vendors
Vendors must make an effort to think of security before the attackers do. This is a tall order as the market has not, to date, encouraged this. In Securing Java ( www.securingjava.com ) (John Wiley & Sons, 1999), Gary McGraw and Edward Felten observed that "Given the choice between dancing pigs and security, users will pick dancing pigs every time". That is, being first to market with a new technology has often outpaced securing that technology. Historically, vendors of consumer equipment have not given strong thought to security until after an embarrassing vulnerability has been found.
Specifically, vendors should:
Advice to Consumers
Consumers drive the market. When a product is shipped prematurely and is discovered to have flaws, there is an outcry from product owners. Unfortunately, those same product owners often continue to buy hardware and software from the very same vendor that had the huge security flaw only days before. Until there are market penalties for poor security, vendors will not follow any of the advice above.
Specifically, consumers should:
IPTV is maturing. Our last major IPTV article ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0707_4.html ) provided an update on US Telco TV deployments, and touched on the lack of IPTV standards. It also reported on the emergence of several vendors offering systems for isolating quality-of-service problems and measuring perceptual quality as experienced by end-users
At IPTV World Forum North America in July, we had an opportunity to catch up on the progress of these and other items.
According to Point Topic, IPTV has been growing rapidly, reaching 15.4 million subscribers worldwide at the end of March--more than doubling in a year. Europe led in terms of total subscribers, with Asia second and North America in third place.
In the US, AT&T reported 549,000 U-verse TV customers at the end of 2Q08 and reaffirmed their expectation of reaching 1 million by year end. The other big US player, Verizon, had nearly 1.4 million subscribers for FiOS TV at the end of 2Q08. (Most analysts count Verizon subscribers in IPTV rankings, even though, aside from on-demand content, their FiOS TV service is currently carried by traditional RF.)
The biggest player in European IPTV is France, which collectively represents over half the European IPTV subscribers. Key providers are Free, Orange-France Telecom and Neuf Cegetal. With IPTV so prevalent in France, we were not surprised that Witbe, one of the interesting new companies in the measurement of IPTV quality, is based in France.
TV Quality Monitoring and Fault Isolation
At IPTV World Forum North America, we met with several companies offering tools for TV quality monitoring and fault isolation. Several of these, such as Ineoquest, we had met and written about ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0610_5.html#link5b ) before. Several others were new to us, and some were just starting to enter the North American market.
We thought the most interesting was Witbe, a company headquartered in Paris, France, that provides user quality-measurement systems for broadband service providers delivering video, voice and data. Unlike most other measurement systems--which connect to the input side of the set top box, Witbe connects to the output side of the box. It controls the box through the remote control interface, and measures the quality of the video and audio in a way that it claims models how a person would assess it.
Arman Aygen, Witbe's Business Development Manager, gave an interesting talk at the show. One of his slides (shown below) illustrated how two images of a face with the same quantitative blockiness (near the bottom in the left image, and through the middle on the right) would be appraised by a human (and by Witbe's system) as very different in quality.
After his talk, Sandy interviewed Arman. They discussed the importance of user-centric quality measures for interactive video services, and why network performance measures are necessary but not sufficient to create a satisfactory customer experience. Visit our IPTV World Forum Video Interviews page ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/videos-IPTV_WF_NA_08.html ) to see the interview.
Our last article on IPTV ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0707_4.html#link4d ) commented on the "numerous overlaps and gaps" between the many organizations working in parallel to set IPTV standards. At IPTV World Forum, we heard a talk by Helmut Schink, Head of Multimedia Standards at Nokia Siemens Networks, on the standards work being done by the Open IPTV Forum, where he serves as Vice-Chairman of the Steering Group.
The Open IPTV Forum (OIPTVF)--which was not even mentioned in the conference session described in our earlier article--is working to establish end-to-end interoperable standards for IPTV. Mr. Schink said OIPTVF is not trying to create new standards, but rather to select appropriate existing standards for each requirement and then define interoperability testing. He said its initial set of specifications has been finalized and will be published in November. It is now developing specifications to test interoperability.
The OIPTVF architecture embraces IPTV delivered over both managed networks (such as those most telcos are deploying today) and IPTV delivered over the open Internet. In his talk, Mr. Schink described how an IPTV service provider could offer video content both to its existing customers over its managed network, and to a much wider audience using the open Internet.
The members of OIPTVF include most Tier 1 European telcos, most of the long-established telco vendors, and leaders in consumer electronics. We are looking forward to reading the OIPTVF specifications when they are published. It will be interesting to see how quickly products based on the OIPTVF specifications come to market, and which telcos adopt them.
Update on MTS
MTS--now known as MTS Allstream--is a pioneer of IPTV in North America, and we have been tracking their progress ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0405_9.html ) for more than six years. MTS began in May 2002 with a 200 participant trial in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which led to a commercial launch of TV services. MTS provides an all-digital television service, offering three streams of video run over the telephone line through a single set-top box, using early VDSL technology from Next Level Communications (now Motorola).
At IPTV World Forum, we got an update from Kelvin Shepherd, President, Consumer Markets. In his talk, he said that MTS has had great success, gaining over one third of the TV market from the incumbent cable provider. A key element of their success has been innovative packaging that allows the user tremendous flexibility in what they buy and pay for.
Since Motorola has discontinued the Next Level line of IPTV equipment, MTS felt it needed to develop a different path for moving forward as the market matures and converged services become the next battleground for service providers. Kelvin said that MTS has chosen Microsoft Mediaroom for future deployments, because of their belief in its ability to provide robust converged services.
We discussed this and other aspects of IPTV--such as TV quality and fault isolation--with Shepherd in a video interview at the show. You can see the interview by visiting our IPTV World Forum Video Interviews page ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/videos-IPTV_WF_NA_08.html ).
In our very first newsletter (April 2000!) we shared some perceptions ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0004.html#link4 ) about a few of the interesting companies in Silicon Valley. We've done periodic updates and thought it was time for another.
We visited the Valley again in July, and report on our visits with Ozmo Devices, 4Home, Actiontec and TiVo.
Ozmo Devices -- Wi-Fi PANs
In the beginning, Wi-Fi was about LANs--and of course that's still true. But an interesting thing happened as Wi-Fi matured. As the chips got cheaper, people started exploring how to expand the boundaries of Wi-Fi. Metro Wi-Fi was born, and services like FON leveraged Wi-Fi's capabilities and pervasiveness beyond its original target.
Ozmo Devices is taking Wi-Fi in a different direction, extending it into the PAN domain. They are doing this via a 2-part solution: a driver that coexists with the host platformís (e.g., a notebook computer's) Wi-Fi device; and an ultra-low-power component embedded in the wireless peripheral.
We had interviewed Ozmo by phone, and enjoyed the opportunity to see their technology in action when we visited with Roel Peeters, Ozmo's VP of Marketing/Business Development. Roel told us that the concept was developed by Ozmo's Chief Technical Officer Katelijn Vleugels, previously an RF designer at Atheros. The key concept was to leverage the existing Wi-Fi capability already present in many platforms. Special software in the host device "virtualizes" the Wi-Fi radio, sharing it between standard Wi-Fi WLAN devices and new WPAN devices equipped with Ozmo's single chip IC. The existing host Wi-Fi radio plays both roles simultaneously, eliminating the need for an additional radio or a dongle.
Ozmo's target market includes the huge number of mice and keyboards which currently use proprietary protocols (about 90% of the market, according to Roel). Other targets are wireless headsets and the rapidly expanding world of personal media players (PMPs) which require quality not provided by Bluetooth.
Ozmo started in December 2004 with angel investing, and has subsequently garnered significant support from Intel, both financial and in coordinated development. Ozmo has been working with Intel on their "Cliffside" program which was first described at the Intel Developer's Conference ( blogs.intel.com/research/2008/04/gary_martz_on_cliffside_wirele.php ) (IDF) in April. Cliffside allows a single Wi-Fi adapter to maintain two separate connections (one in LAN mode and one in PAN mode).
At IDF in August, Ozmo announced a Wi-Fi optical mouse reference design with Avago Technologies and a wireless audio reference design with Wolfson Microelectronics. It will be interesting to see whether Ozmo gains traction, since the market for PANs also has Bluetooth at the slow end and wireless USB for high speed connections.
Home Monitoring and Control -- 4Home and Actiontec
In our report on CES 2008, we wrote about several vendors ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0801_8.html ) using Z-Wave for wireless home control. During our California visit we followed up with 4Home and Actiontec.
4Home -- Software Platform for Home Monitoring and Control
We visited 4Home (previously 4HomeMedia) to catch up with what their primary focus is these days. The company has developed an advanced XML-based software and services platform that OEM hardware vendors and service providers can use to deliver applications and services including residential energy, media, monitoring and health. In our visit, it appeared that their key focus in on home monitoring, including control of lights and alarms.
4Home thinks service providers should offer remote video monitoring as a value-added service, and have developed a remote monitoring platform designed for this application. They showed us a customer-installed kit for video monitoring being developed with a major Asian supplier, and said they are embarking on a field trial to show how service providers can make money providing these service.
Since home control requiring supporting lots of different equipment, 4Home created and constantly updates their Home Ecosystem Management database of drivers and profiles of home control products, media and entertainment devices, and mobile phones. This enables service providers to roll out a variety of device bundles with their control services. 4Home has worked with Actiontec, and encouraged us to visit a home that embodies home monitoring.
Actiontec -- A Visit with Lesley Kirchman
Our visit with Lesley Kirchman, Director of Marketing at Actiontec, was a wonderful change of pace from the theoretical discussions of new products and services to the realities of homes like yours and mine. Actiontec provides the Broadband Home Router that powers Verizon's FiOS Internet Service. Lesley showed us Actiontec's new zControl home management system when we met with her at CES ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0801_8.html#link8a ).
Lesley decided that before Actiontec could sell the zControl system to service providers, she needed to test for herself how it worked in a real home. She had invited us to visit her home to see what she had done and learned as a user. There we saw many devices, including Z-wave light switches and thermostats, IP security cameras, and more. These all connect to Actiontec's home router and are accessible through a common interface at home and outside the home by computer, cell phone or other IP communications device.
Z-Wave, which we've covered previously ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0801_8.html ) is an interoperable wireless communications protocol thatís designed for low-power and low-bandwidth appliances. As of June, 2008 there were over 225 Z-Wave consumer products in the US retail channels.
As you might imagine, when theory meets real world there are pesky problems--like how to install things in the wall, how close devices need to be to see each other in a mesh, how easy they are to set up and use, and lots more.
Thanks to Lesley and her colleagues, we'll be confident that when ActionTec's zControl Home Automation Controllers come to market, we'll all be beneficiaries of the learning that came from real world testing.
TiVo -- Champion of the User Experience
Sandy admits to being a cheer-leader for TiVo. How many people counted them out when DVR capabilities started becoming embedded in settops from lots of other vendors? Remember articles like "How to Save TiVo"? Sandy sees products from TiVo and Apple as being the proof that the user experience and ease of use can make a real financial difference to technology companies--something she was never able to convince the executives at the old AT&T.
We visited with Joe Weber of TiVo during our Silicon Valley trip and again at IPTV World Forum. As a supplier to service providers like Comcast and DirecTV, and directly to consumers through the retail channel, TiVo seems to be successfully navigating both sides of a dangerous path.
On the service provider side, TiVo is engaged with cable operators on their roadmaps of what features will migrate into the tru2way environment. They are embedding new features like direct link to on-demand programming and a dedicated HD folder for those who only want HD content. The search feature now includes not only linear but also on-demand content.
Meanwhile, TiVo is intimately engaged in the rapid advances in the IP World and has teamed with Amazon, YouTube, Walt Disney and others in their constant quest to keep consumers engaged with their TVs. They see their DVR as the single device and single remote to browse TV, VOD, movie websites, music websites and user generated content.
Weber's talk at IPTV World Forum promoted the notion that IPTV service providers could encourage more DVR innovation by moving away from middleware and toward protocols. Middleware's promise is seductive --"write once and run anywhere" to potentially millions of devices. But he said using middleware requires operators to test core applications across all devices. Worse, it stifles innovation and creates a barrier to new entrants by making it impossible to create new services outside the middleware definition. He recommended moving to a protocol environment, defining communication between the components "but not the inner details of the components."
This season usually brings press previews of new technology toys for the upcoming holiday season. Pepcom's New York Holiday Spectacular lured us with the prospect of margaritas and fiesta food in addition to the products. Notable among this year's displays were several wireless USB products, a new Skype videophone, an amazingly small full HD resolution camcorder from Samsung, as well as many laptops, storage devices, media players, headsets, phones and more.
Since we generally talk about the more serious products, we decided that this was the show to inject some fun. Here are a few of Sandy's favorite fun toys.
We were very amused by WowWee's portfolio of robotic products. The remote controlled Tinkerbell Easy Flier and its flower wand remote controller will light up our granddaughter's Christmas.
Her techie dad will think the vertical flier is pretty cool, but will probably have his eye on the new Rovio. This webcam-enabled three-wheeled robot has a GPS system, can have preprogrammed routes and streams live audio and video to you via any web-enabled device.
In the "we can't decide if this is cute or creepy" category was the N-Power: SpongeBob SquarePants Eyeball Speaker Dock. It comes with a pair of eyeball loudspeakers that rock and roll back and forth.
In the slightly more serious vein, the Asus AiGuru S2 videophone provides Skype video conferencing without a PC. It has built-in Wi-Fi to connect to your broadband router. We're slated to receive a pair to give them a trial run and look forward to reporting back on them.
We're always attracted to new products and services to make our media more convenient and accessible. Several years ago we wrote about ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0403_6.html ) Get Digital, a service that converts personal CD collections to MP3s or other digital audio formats. Scan Cafe is a similar concept focused on images. It accepts your old photos, slides and negatives, and converts them into high quality digital files on DVD.
Sometimes you want to go the other way--from digital images to hard copy. We liked the quality of products we saw from SmileBooks, which has just entered the US market after a long history in photo finishing and printing in Europe. The software allows great flexibility, including personalized backgrounds and the ability to put text anywhere. The software is downloadable, so you can put your SmileBook together on your next plane ride. It looks very nice but we have not yet tried it out yet. We've been enthusiastic users of Shutterfly in the past, and we're looking forward to trying SmileBooks once this newsletter is on its way to you.
The value proposition for femtocells is enticing. However, business models, industry standards, interference, regulation, and cost are all crucial issues hindering femtocell advancement and deployment. ACI's Femtocells Summit, taking place October 27-28, 2008 in San Diego, will address these issues and offer networking opportunities with key players in the industry. ( www.americanconference.com/femtocells )
WCAís 14th Annual International Symposium & Business Expo
The Wireless Communications Association International (WCA) Symposium is taking place in San Jose, CA November 4-6, 2009. It will bring together key players from the worldwide wireless broadband community to discuss business, technology, policy, investment and security issues. The symposium will focus on the developing ecosystem for WiMAX and other Fourth Generation networks. Speakers from the US FCC, Clearwire and Xohm are among those on the agenda. ( www.wcai.com/events.php )
The TelcoTV Conference and Expo, now in its seventh year, will be taking place at the Anaheim Convention Center, November 11-13, 2008. The show is targeted at telecom carriers who are interested in learning the latest about broadband and entertainment solutions. This yearís show will contain a large exhibit hall and expanded educational tracks covering MobileTV, NetVideo, The Consumer Experience, IOC Issues, Technology, and Differentiation Strategies. ( www.telcotvonline.com )