Big (Cable) Tech Trends for 2012

Publish date:

And here we are again at the last issue of the year. This week, we’ll go more
“things in motion stay in motion”
than “history is a great teacher,” with
a forecast of five big tech trends for
’12. Here goes:

1. HTML5. This one skips into
the shop-talk scene every day, it
seems. Remember the big fight between
Apple and Adobe about which
was better, HTML5 or Flash? Steve Jobs won. What
HTML5 means for cable: A way to render subscription
video on all those Internet-protocol-connected
screens, without the need for customers to do anything
(like download a player). It’ll focus the 2012
scene around efforts like remote user interfaces
(RUIs), companion-screen viewing, and putting clickable,
MSO-branded icons on screens served by IP.

2. ACR. Automatic Content Recognition, Audio
Content Recognition, po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe. If the
hype about this one gets any more breathless than
at the recent TV of Tomorrow conference in New
York, we’re in for a doozy of a year. Why: ACR, in
essence, is an out-of-band bypass technique. An
app on a handheld (or built into the TV) listens to
the stream, as it plays out, and correlates interactive
stuff with it. That portends a dance of angst
between program networks and service providers, in
the familiar tune of “We Don’t Need You to Do This.”

3. IPv6. Short version: Everything connected
to the Internet needs an address; the pool of addresses
(IPv4) is running out. As in right now.
There’s a remedy — IPv6 — but issues will abound,
likely in a “death by 1,000 cuts” pattern. No huge
calamities; lots of little aggravations. IPv6 isn’t
backward-compatible with IPv4, for starters. This
one affects all of us: consumers, retailers, manufacturers
and service providers.

4. CDNs and “Federated” CDNs. Content delivery
networks, or CDNs, exist to store and process
video hierarchically for delivery to all of those IPconnected,
video-capable screens we keep buying.
They’re a mixture of national and fiber backbones,
storage servers, and ways to slice and dice video
files into right-sized chunks for the end screens that
want them. Bigger operators, like Comcast, started
years ago on their CDNs; smaller operators are talking
about “federated” CDNs, useful to rent capabilities
rather than having to buy glass and servers.

5. Clouds and Gateways. Gateways are in-home
devices that work as both set-top boxes and cable
modems. Lots of tuners for bonded IP channels
(read: shelf space for IP traffic). Lots of ways to
transcode incoming video into other formats. Bigger
processors, more memory, more ways to interconnect
all the stuff in your house.

But wait: Isn’t the cloud for handling transcoding
and processing? Sit tight. Transitions, like the one
we’re living in right now, usually can’t accommodate
a flash-cut (to cloud, or to gateway). Both will exist,
here in the fervor of the transition.

That’s the short list. Next time, what to expect at
the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.
Until then, merry merry and Happy New Year to you!

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