Cable Show 2012: Feel the Energy

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The sky was cloudy during much
of last week’s Cable Show, but inside the Boston
Convention & Exhibition Center, the outlook
was bright — especially for advanced cable
technologies now coming to the marketplace.

This year’s show was notable for the realworld
deployment of concepts that CableLabs
and the tech community have been developing
for some time now. As the CableNEXT exhibit
showed, cable operators are delivering on the
promise of the connected home by going “live”
with apps that allow customers to discover,
control and enjoy familiar cable content in new
ways — and over non-traditional screens.

The CableNEXT exhibit, revolving around
delivery of premium content from the cable
network and within the home, offered numerous examples:
On-demand and linear video to a TiVo-inclusive set-top, coordinated
by Comcast; remote user interfaces that give consumers
a way to find and play linear and on-demand cable
content across multiple screens (Cox Communications); and
linear video displayed on IP-connected tablets, smartphones
and PCs (Comcast and Time Warner Cable).

An augmented-reality demonstration at CableNET demonstrated
how the CableLabs EBIF specification can be leveraged
to support forward-looking applications that deliver
compelling (and in my view, amazing) media experiences.
We were also excited to see momentum building around the
Comcast-led Reference Development Kit that offers
developers an accelerated path to developing
advanced applications. The list goes on. Gateways,
advanced advertising, a watershed Wi-Fi roaming
agreement among top cable companies — the
technological progress was palpable.

A short stroll away, we presented technologies
that will make a significant contribution to consumer
energy savings in 2012 and beyond. Demonstrations
of “light sleep” operating modes for digital
set-tops with DVR capabilities made it clear that
meaningful reductions in set-top energy consumption
are in store as U.S. cable companies roll out the
capability across millions of devices this year.

Cable’s rising profile in the wireless-data marketplace
was reflected in CableNET demonstrations
that revealed inventive ways to fortify and differentiate
the cable Wi-Fi experience. The trio of technology displays
presented by CableLabs at last week’s Cable Show — the
Energy Lab, CableNEXT and CableNET — delivered a convincing
message not only about where cable technology is
heading, but what’s happening now. Connectivity among
devices in the home, fresh approaches to reducing energy
consumption and Wi-Fi advancement are among major
themes from the show destined to make a difference in the
lives of cable customers — starting now.

Ralph Brown is chief technology officer for CableLabs.