If you work on the “anywhere” part of the “anything, anytime, anywhere” puzzle, it’s only a matter of time until you bump into “DLNA.” It stands for “Digital Living Network Alliance” and travels closely with another four-letter acronym, “UPnP,” for “Universal Plug and Play.”
On the surface, DLNA is a home-networking concept. As it gathers steam, though, it touches anything that creates, moves or displays digital video. That means programmers, operators, and equipment makers (particularly set-tops, TVs and things with screens).
As the devils of the details go, DLNA can get pretty dense, pretty fast. For that reason, this week’s translation starts with the one of the problems it aims to solve, which is how to easily navigate video across interconnected display devices, from different manufacturers, in different industry segments.
It’s a safe bet that much of the electronic stuff in your house is already interconnected, either over a wireless (Wi-Fi) network, or over a wire (MoCA, Ethernet). Say you want to be able to access all of your media (photos, movies, songs) on all of the devices inside your home network — your photos on the TV, your songs on the stereo, your videos on the PC or TV screen.
For that to happen — in a way that doesn’t require a night-school degree in networking and content management — the various constituents on your home network need to talk clearly with one another about their capabilities and intents.
In the language of DLNA and UPnP, that discussion about capabilities is known as “discovery.” Discovery happens when a new device attaches itself to the home network.
Maybe it says, “Hi, I’m a multiroom DVR. I do MPEG-2 compression, and I can store this much stuff on my built-in hard drive.” Or maybe it says, “Hi, I’m an HD camcorder. I compress in MPEG-4, my resolution is X, and my aspect ratio is Y.” In a gross oversimplification, that’s the UPnP part.
The DLNA part addresses how to visually present the stuff that wants or needs to move amongst those connected devices. Say you plug that camcorder into your network, via your PC. With DLNA and UPnP in place on all devices, you could then go to your HDTV, be presented with an icon for the camcorder, and navigate your recorded stuff on the big screen.
DLNA matters to multichannel video because it’s included in the body of video specifications known (industrially) as OpenCable. Specifically, DLNA and UPnP are in OpenCable’s home-networking extensions. This means they become part of “Tru2way” set-top boxes and HDTV sets, as a way to let everyday people move their digital stuff around — easily, intuitively, and without a lot of hassle. A noble intent!
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