Q&A: Interoperability in the Connected Home

 

With Rami Amit, Jungo’s CTO

 

Q:  What is the interoperability challenge within the connected home?

A: New elements have entered the home – tablets and connected TVs, IP content and mobile applications. These devices and services bring massive change. The interoperability challenge also exists when these devices are taken out of the home: users expect a consistent experience regardless of where they are.

The result is a change in the focus of interoperability. In the past interoperability in the home was mostly related to IP connectivity and networking. Today the main challenge is content delivery, user experience and interaction between multiple devices.

Q: Whose challenge is it?

A: My view is that service providers need to address this challenge. Service providers don’t want to become “dumb pipes”; they can take a leading role in making interoperability a reality and not a nightmare.

To do this, service providers must control the gateway software. Gateway software is the only element that connects the myriad devices in the home and that can handle the mediation into the home and within the home.

Q: Which devices will dominate the connected home in future years? Will they need to be based on open standards?

A: Industry analysts predict that within 3 years more than 70% of TVs will be connected.

The approach taken today by some of the TV manufactures is to create a walled garden of content, services and applications. I don’t think this is a sustainable approach. There is definitely a need for open standards if we want to have devices from multiple vendors work properly.

Q: Considering digital TV receivers, set-top boxes, PVRs, HDTV, next generation DVD, game consoles and digital media players - what initiatives enable interoperability and collaboration between devices?

A: DLNA is the major interoperability initiative. However, if you tried to play with all sorts of DLNA controllers (at least six are installed on my smartphone), you will probably understand that there is still a long way to go.  For instance, file format conversion and media transcoding is needed to make sure that the experience is consistent.

On the networking side there are some nice achievements that enable device interconnectivity within the home. The fact that these devices don’t sit next to an Ethernet outlet created a demand for technologies such as MOCA, WIFI and some new interest in G.hn, all geared to deliver multiple HD streams within the home.

TR-069 is promoted by the Broadband forum and had some nice achievements recently, as it enables set-top box management as well as non-IP devices.

Q: Why do you view gateway software as the master of the connected home?

A: I just mentioned multiple rapid changes within the home, from new devices, through IP content and OTT, to IPv6 going in. The industry as a whole agrees that standards are not yet aligned.

This is where the gateway comes in. Its role is to help cope with the changes in the connected home and be able to both adapt and mediate in cases where standards are not aligned.

The gateway has another important role: remote management and diagnostics using TR-069.

The Jungo roadmap reflects our views. We see the gateway as having a role in content delivery, as a mediation proxy for DLNA, DRM and file format conversion.

Q: How do you see the future? What needs to change?

A: When all interests are aligned, we will see more services and a better connected home. Since much of the play is around content, TV vendors needs to understand that they can’t just try to monetize their channel to the consumer, because it needs to be aligned with the needs of the end users, the content owners and the service providers. So the connected TVs of tomorrow need to be a lot more open, enable remote UI and HTML5 instead of the current built-in UI or closed app stores and to enable DLNA.

When this happens, and it will, we will see a new combination of devices such as gateways provided by the service provider, enabling the safe delivery of content, along with connected TVs, which may be the future setup within the home, with or without a set-top box.

 

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