Tuesday, January 24, 2017

CES 2017 IoT and Voice Control: The tipping point

Internet of Things consumer applications are finding their way into the backdoors of homes via the dramatic surge in Amazon Echo and Google Home purchases. At CES, Amazon signs claiming integration were displayed in almost every IoT vendor’s booth. While consumers have latched onto Alexa and OK Google as their voice-based search engines (and entertainers), the other growing use is voice control of devices – from outlets to garage doors to cameras – in the home.

While IoT had a bit of a rocky start with consumers who dabbled with devices they found at local big-box hardware stores, it seems as though personal AI assistants are easing some of the start-up pain. Beyond voice control, there are also a couple of remote controls designed to help aggregate all the protocols and networking providing a central control for all devices – sevenhugs uses triangulation from three sensors to detect the proper device for control, NEEO, in year two of development, has a smart hub that interconnects the devices, and has some hand recognition intelligence to identify the user. Each has its own unique approach, but all control systems, and in particular voice, are trying to solve the same problem – helping control devices without having to get out a mobile phone and find an app for each function.

This doesn’t completely solve the home automation problem which is currently still an Internet of ‘Thing’ world instead of ‘Things.’ Most devices are only adding voice or remote control that provides essentially a one-to-one relationship, from controller to device. The full realization of IoT is still crawling along, as devices generally are not yet sharing data and controlling each other using scripting language tools such as IFTTT. For example, if the fire alarm goes off, it might be helpful if this triggered doors to unlock, or shut off the oven and stove. Or in a B2C application, anonymous data could be sent to manufacturers so that they could identify appliance failures.

This interconnectedness of devices and data is the harbinger of many life changing opportunities. Each CES we leap forward on this front; the sticky wicket is that each manufacturer would ideally like you to buy all devices and appliances from them, and that’s generally not human nature. This means there is still opportunity to develop simple programmatic rules that allow devices from a variety of manufacturers using a variety of wireless technology to talk to one another and share pertinent data. These kind of interactions will be interesting challenges if voice is the controlling interface.

On an adjunct note, Alticast is working on Voice Authentication, providing a simple way to get secure access to various devices and systems. As we move on getting more data and more interconnected devices, securing these systems is imperative.  You can get the paper at either of these two links:


Friday, January 13, 2017

Through the looking glass at CES 2017

2017 CES may prove to be a pivotal year. The enormity of the show over multiple locations in Las Vegas makes it impossible to see everything, but the pervasive theme was that key emerging technologies are being transformed through integration and ubiquity. As an example, Internet of Things devices went from demos in a number of assorted focused companies last year, to every booth that builds products for the home. Most devices were tied together as systems and were integrated with Amazon Alexa for control, or used Homekit as their software platform. For the home, almost every appliance had a screen (some replicating mobile phone displays) while providing everything from remote control, to building your grocery lists–from which Alexa can place orders.

UHD technology continues to improve with both hardware and software taking advantage of High Dynamic Range and audio advancements. The TV smarts in the physical device itself have been moved to a separate bar, allowing the display to be thinner than a whiteboard. One demonstration showed a sliding glass door on a bookcase that could be ‘turned on’ and become a TV. On the service delivery side, the network technology for bringing QoS to wireless media delivery also gained considerable attention – good news for MSO and OTT providers focusing on IPTV. And just like with IoT devices; Robots, Drones, VR goggles and smart heads-up glasses were everywhere.

The most integration was seen in the automotive hall, where concept cars had doors that opened with biometrics, were full of cameras and lidar or radar, had virtual ‘personal assistants,’ and were exclusively electric. They provided either mixed autonomous driving or completely driverless operation. A Mercedes panel van without rear or side windows, featured a robotic package handler that retrieved a package and pushed it out the top to a drone for doorstep delivery. Consider all the technologies that have come together for this vehicle–pretty incredible.

This show gave the sense that we are at a technology tipping point where Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence will be coming at us faster than we anticipated, and in many forms. It was a refreshing look into the future.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Alticast today announced that CJ Hellovision, the largest cable operator in the Korean market, has completed the largest seamless overhaul of a content security system using Alticast’s AltiProtect download and replace conditional access solution.

CJ Hellovision installed the cardless, software-only AltiProtect system remotely and transparently to more than 4 million subscribers, using Alticast’s patented remote switching technology.  The deployment has enabled migration to AltiProtect CAS on all of CJ Hellovision’s legacy set-top-boxes, allowed unification of CJ Hellovision security across legacy and new devices and provided a long-term solution for UHD content protection – all while reducing system maintenance costs.

"We selected Alticast because their solution was backed by a patent for remote switching technology, and the service was completely transparent to subscribers during the conversion process," said Dr. Hong-Ik Kim, Head of Engineering for CJ Hellovision.  "Thanks to Alticast’s security team, we were able to successfully commercialize the software platform without any customer calls. The superiority of Alticast's patented technology gave us confidence for success, which was solidly proven during the implementation. Also, the service quality has been much improved with AltiProtect.”

Working together with Alticast, CJ Hellovision created an action plan for migrating CAS security over 22 individual business areas and 13 different set-top box types, including bi-directional and uni-directional models. During a 28-month period, the system was remotely installed and provisioned specifically for each customer without costly truck rolls or the interruption of subscriber services. 

As the provider of the core STB software for CJ Hellovision, Alticast was uniquely positioned to facilitate any necessary integrations between AltiProtect CAS and the CJ Hellovision deployed devices. In addition, Alticast leveraged its expertise in content security to manage the project closely, allowing flexibility as needed for meeting CJ Hellovision’s infrastructure and service delivery needs. 

Studio-approved and highly rated by Telcordia, AltiProtect uses well-defined industry standards to ensure reliable content protection for broadcast and VOD, and can easily adapt to unique network infrastructures. Alticast now has converted more than 90 percent of Korean domestic cable operators’ legacy conditional access systems to AltiProtect CAS.

“Our industry-leading know-how in content security and our prioritization of client needs were key to the successful and seamless completion of this project,” said Dr. Mi-Sung Cho, Executive Director of Security Division.  “We look forward to helping other pay-TV operators replicate CJ Hellovision’s success of migrating efficiently and without schedule delays to stable, highly-secure content protection systems.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

App Fatigue Revisited: Growing Problem, Pay-TV Opportunity?

Since we first raised the concept of “App Fatigue” during the summer, additional data has surfaced indicating that more is not better when it comes to application availability.  Most recently, Adobe’s 2016 Mobile Benchmark Data showed the limited utility of most media and entertainment applications, with fewer than half being used 10 times or more.  Equally concerning is the finding that 24% of media and entertainment apps were used only once.

The Adobe report suggests a variety of reasons why certain apps are unable to compete, even in the short term, including poor app performance, availability of superior applications or even the inferiority of a given app when compared to a browser experience.  Colin Dixon points out that the months spent on app development -- Nine Hertz, an app development company, has pegged time-to-market for a standard native mobile app at 18 weeks – are only the first step to success; the bigger challenge is getting people to download and use it.

Although Adobe’s research shows that media and entertainment apps have had the highest app install rate (14%) of any industry over the past year, Dixon points out that user tendencies toward the Web and social media on mobile devices presents media and entertainment companies with a significant challenge: ensuring that their apps are relevant enough to attract and retain users amidst the competition for user engagement.

The pay-TV industry itself proposed an app solution as a counter to the FCC’s “Unlock the Box” concepts over the summer.  While action on the FCC proposal has been postponed since the November election, we continue to believe that pay-TV is uniquely positioned to thrive in an “App Fatigue” environment.

We believe operators are well positioned to deliver services – either securely to set-top boxes or as an app to third-party devices – that leverage troves of subscriber data and analytics.  Using that information, they can fine tune strategies and applications for mobile or other consumer devices, enabling them to understand the reasons behind abandoned apps and develop successful mobile media delivery solutions that best meet consumers’ needs.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Value of Voice Control Coming Through Loud and Clear

Voice control has come of age, with greatly improved voice recognition, natural language and machine learning. The amazing ability to understand any voice with any accent is a huge achievement. Pairing that with the ability to respond in a conversational manner means voice control will become the de facto user control interface for many devices.

Millennials are probably the biggest users of voice control: more than 50% use Siri, Google and other systems to get answers for anything from restaurant recommendations to the distance to the moon. In the home there is increased reliance on “intelligent personal assistants” such as Alexa and Google Home.  Comcast is heavily promoting its Xfinity TV voice control system, and considering moving away from traditional remote controls altogether.

When machine learning is involved, the ease of voice control and the power of big data can transform lives.  Combining video or audio search data, all other searches on the Web and conversations with a personal assistant can inform the music you play or the content you watch, recommending a wider breadth of content choices that are tailored to consumers’ lifestyles.

But the real pleasure is the simplicity of acting hands-free. The ability to easily ask for something and quickly get the results may be ending the days of mind-numbing up-down flipping through a guide. You don’t even need to go to the Internet.

Here’s a scenario that might take place in the my house when the “Sports” command is given and a filtered list appears:  A more specific request – “Broncos” – might offer choices of multiple teams, but based on location and viewing history, we’d get information on the Denver Broncos and their upcoming games.

Pay-TV operators have had voice control on their lists for some time, but the technology has needed fine tuning to avoid adding to consumer frustration. The advancements in technology mean that now, for good reason, they are all clamoring to put voice control into their ecosystems, providing a much easier and much more intelligent user experience for their subscribers.