N2 Broadband, ICTV Provide Video Tonic for the Mayo Clinic

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N2 Broadband and ICTV Inc. are teaming up to deliver video, video-on-demand and subscription VOD menuing, games, weather, travel, e-mail and patient education for the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

ICTV is supplying its HeadendWare system, integrated with N2’s OpenStream platform, for the clinic’s 2,500 patients and staff members.

The ICTV and N2 hardware and software will ride alongside the clinic’s existing cable system. Mayo signed a deal with local operator Charter Communications Inc., providing its staff and patients with traditional cable fare and VOD offerings, including hundreds of hours of medical-information programming. The clinic runs VOD content from a Concurrent Computer Corp. server to Pace Micro Technologies 550 and Scientific-Atlanta Inc. Explorer 2200 set-tops.

The ICTV/N2 system will allow Mayo officials to customize the clinic’s programming offerings — both information and entertainment — to its patients.

It also allows other parties flexibility when writing new applications. “By creating an open environment that enables the use of standard Web tools by the software industry’s talented pool of developers, we’re able to help companies like Mayo build applications that would be cost-prohibitive of any other interactive television platform,” said N2 president Reggie Bradford.

The open-platform concept allows smaller companies like Mayo to be aggressive in terms of which applications they deploy, N2 vice president of business development Raj Amin said.

“In a lot of ways, they are further ahead,” he said. “They don’t have as much risk and they can take advantage of a one-platform approach to create customized user interfaces.”

That customization could translate to cable in general, Amin said. For instance, an MSO could furnish an Hispanic user interface for its guide or VOD menu in one part of town, while proffering different interfaces elsewhere.

ICTV had been offering games, e-mail and local content, like weather and travel information, said vice president of business development Jonathan Symonds. The launch of HeadendWare will allow Mayo greater customization and the ability to run even more applications.

The Mayo Clinic operates under a committee structure, Symonds noted. Its interactive-services committee is using an outside local design firm to create the interfaces wanted for various patients and staff. Those interfaces will serve as the front page for the information and entertainment programming Mayo offers.

The customization allows doctors to create VOD screens that showcase content specific for a patient that, for instance, just had gall bladder surgery. “It allows them to use the Web services tool set to design a VOD interface that meets the needs of its customers,” Symonds said. “You only see things pertinent to your section.

“The open platform also gives you a much broader developer community,” he added. “The costs come down dramatically. Programmers could build their own interfaces for VOD.

“Taking control of VOD interfaces is a huge application,” he said, referencing the deal between Comcast Corp. and Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc., through which the MSO plans to design its own portal.

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