Monday, March 31, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Enure Networks provides the world’s first and award-winning patented home network management software solution capable of completely and intelligently automating the entire broadband home network environment. This includes automating set up, security, configuration, diagnosis and the self healing of connectivity problems in real time. The solution operates without the need for user or service provider intervention. This level of intelligent automaton in
Enure’s products dramatically reduces technical support inquires, operations and costs for telecommunications and cable broadband and triple play service providers. Enure Networks is a venture capital-backed company with funding from Elron Electronic Industries Ltd. More information can be found online at http://www.enure.com/.
If your company is interested in becoming an Advisory Sponsor or Supporting Sponsor, please contact Steve Harvey at 972.996.0221 or email@example.com.
MoCA is an open, industry driven initiative promoting distribution of digital video and entertainment through existing coaxial cable in the home. MoCA technology provides the backbone for whole home entertainment networks of multiple wired and wireless products. Visit http://www.mocalliance.org/ for more information.
For additional sponsorship information, please contact Steve Harvey: by phone at 972.996.0221 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
For all those interested in speaking at the CONNECTIONS Europe Summit France event, please complete the Call for Papers submission form: http://www.parksassociates.com/events/europe/2008/may20/call-for-papers.htm
The agenda sessions topics include the following: Digital Lifestyles: Building the European and Global Business Cases, IPTV and Television 2.0, Differentiating Video Services in a Hyper-competitive Market, Broadband, Value-added Services, and the Bundle, Adding Value to Access Services: Connectivity, Content, and the Customer, Which Connections Matter?, Connected Home and Device Management, Surrounding the Digital Home with Support, The Role of Customer Support in the Digital Home, and Consumers and Digital Media.
The second CONNECTIONS™ Europe Summit will take place August 29, 2008, in Berlin, Germany.
CONNECTIONS™ Europe: Strategies for Digital Living Markets summits are produced by Parks Associates in partnership with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA®). These one-day summits provide attendees with high-level analysis and consumer research from Parks Associates, networking opportunities, and information on emerging residential and mobile technologies and services. These focused events provide a forum where executives can present and learn about vital international trends, successful strategies, and key players in the development of digital living technologies. http://www.connectionseurope.com/
Inaugural CONNECTIONS™ Europe Summit to Address Connected Home Strategies for Service Providers, CE Vendors
This CONNECTIONS™ Europe Summit will be the first of two 2008 seminars for the European continent. These summits will host high-level strategists and executives active in the digital living space and feature discussions and analysis on designing, developing, and marketing advanced products and services for the home.
Enure Networks and the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA™) are Advisory Sponsors for both 2008 Summit events. The first of the two Summits will take place May 19, 2008, at the Palais de la Mediterranée, in cooperation with Management World 2008, which takes place May 18-22, 2008, at the Acropolis Convention Center in Nice, France.
Agenda Sessions include:
Digital Lifestyles: Building the European and Global Business Cases
IPTV and Television 2.0
Differentiating Video Services in a Hyper-competitive Market
Broadband, Value-added Services, and the Bundle
Adding Value to Access Services: Connectivity, Content, and the Customer
Which Connections Matter?
Connected Home and Device Management
Surrounding the Digital Home with Support
The Role of Customer Support in the Digital Home
Consumers and Digital Media
The second CONNECTIONS™ Europe Summit will take place August 29, 2008, in Berlin, Germany.
Microsoft Mediaroom provides new ways for consumers to experience TV as part of their connected, digital lifestyle, while also creating new business opportunities for broadband service providers, hardware manufacturers, content creators, advertisers and application developers. Over 20 of the world’s leading service providers across four continents have selected the Microsoft Mediaroom platform to drive their digital TV services.
More information on Microsoft Mediaroom and the opportunity to deliver the best in TV plus all your media in one place is available at http://www.microsoft.com/tv and http://www.microsoftmediaroom.com/.
CONNECTIONS™, produced by Parks Associates in partnership with CEA, provides unbeatable value and exposure for sponsoring companies. Sponsoring CONNECTIONS™ positions your company among industry leaders and provides outstanding marketing opportunities throughout the year, including at International CES events.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
and Jayant Dasari, Research Analyst, Parks Associates
The European broadband, communications, and television landscape is not just characterized by intense competition among telephone providers. The cable operators, telcos, and satellite providers not only need to keep a close eye on each other, but also players delivering digital terrestrial television (DTT) services.
As of the end of 2007, Europe had nearly 150 million television subscribers, eight percent growth from year-end 2006 (see Figure 1). The percentage of households with two-way interactive services capabilities (subscribing to digital cable and telco/IPTV), however, was only 12% of the total television households. This is in marked contrast to the North American market, where digital cable and telco/IPTV services are found in one-third of television households. The European market certainly has room to grow in providing interactive and digital television services.
Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) Services
Under the European Union Commission directive for a single European communications market, all of the markets under its jurisdiction face a deadline to switch from analog broadcasting to digital broadcasting by 2012. Terrestrial television is still a major source for viewers in some of the major Western European markets including France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom (U.K.). Almost 55% of the television viewership in these markets relies on terrestrial services for television. It is therefore expected that Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) offerings will play a very important role in the TV market in Europe over the next five to ten years, even as cable, satellite, and telco television providers ramp up their offerings
While inherent market conditions in many European markets, where there is strong presence of terrestrial TV viewership, favor DTT growth, it is not wholly accurate to portray DTT as an “either/or” offering that could preclude a household from choosing a telco in particular for a bundled services offering. In much the same way that satellite television services are a standard offering for many U.S. telcos, DTT provides the telecommunication service providers a way to sell bundled services – including video services – at competitive prices. A prime example of this type of bundle is the BT Vision service.
The aggressive local loop unbundling taking place in Europe is creating a new class of CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers) that do not have their own video distribution infrastructure. They may also take advantage of DTT services to offer bundled services that include video, VoIP (voice over IP), and broadband features.
These market dynamics have created a dynamic market for DTT offerings.
In spite of a relatively slow growth in subscriber base, cable operators still control approximately 36% of the television market spread across Western Europe. One key aspect of the European cable market is that almost 80% of it is served by analog cable. In a sense, Europe offers a potentially fertile market for cable operators willing to invest in cable plant upgrades and who see an opportunity in building significant revenue streams by moving customers from analog to digital television services and by bundling robust broadband and voice offerings with video.
Although cable operators have struggled in recent years (with notable reorganizations in the U.K.), there is a growing consensus among operators that investments need to be made to upgrade mainly analog networks for digital services. These investments will certainly impact their competitors’ decisions. Two key areas that the cable operators intend to invest significantly in are infrastructure upgrades and customer service. A recent study by the Center for Customer Driven Quality at Purdue University indicated that 68% of the customer loss was driven by service experience. This has renewed the cable operators’ focus on enhancing their commitment to customer service.
Satellite services in Western Europe have exhibited a healthy growth of 5% catering to approximately 23% of the total market in that region. The growth in areas where there is a significant digital divide due to lack of broadband penetration is expected to be higher.
Satellite operators in Europe may also have advantages inherent to their business plans vis-à-vis operators in other parts of the world. Satellite service providers in the U.S. lack a broadband access network to deploy two-way interactive services. This dilemma is also the case in Asian countries where, like in the U.S., telcos are not required to unbundle their broadband access lines and allow competing service providers to lease them. In Western Europe, however, unbundling regulations are strictly enforced. As a result, satellite TV providers are more actively exploring interactive TV services as a means to differentiate their offerings.
Telco/IPTV services are among the fastest-growing television services in the world, jumping from two million households in 2005 to more than 14 million households in 2007. Europe overtook Asia as the leading telco/IPTV services market, and now boasts nearly 60% of households using such services.
In Europe, the IPTV market is shaping up nicely thanks to a more fragmented yet competitive TV market and a smaller territory, which makes broadband networks less costly to build in each country. IPTV deployment accelerated during 2005-2007 in major countries such as France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, making Europe the top region in the world in terms of total subscribers. Most importantly, the potential to see even faster growth between 2007 and 2010 is substantial, as most operators have not yet penetrated 10% of their service markets.
The strong growth of IPTV services on a European-wide scale is attributable to the work of many of the major incumbents as well as challengers entering the space.
As telcos in particular begin reporting higher take-rates for their IPTV services, they are indicating that video-on-demand applications have become increasingly popular with their subscribers. Additional features for interactivity and for television personalization are also seen as vital to both differentiation and revenue growth. Telcos will be seeking technology partners with a wide breadth of expertise in network infrastructure, set-top box, and other CPE development, and in delivering interactive features.
Growing TV Services in Europe: Key Considerations
Service providers have been investing heavily in next-generation technologies to upgrade their network infrastructure. These investments have thus far focused on two main aspects: convergence and capacity. Although these elements are seen as critical in increasing both the quality and the flexibility of the services that operators can provide, will they respond to the bundled services offerings in the same way that U.S. cable customers have? With the telcos, cable, and satellite operators all vying in many cases for the same European customer, will rock-bottom pricing still rule as a strategy, or will consumers readily see the increased value in broadband- and video-centric bundles, remain more loyal, and eventually be willing to pay more for these services?
Two other aspects that will also play a key part in reducing the churn rate for service providers are the switching costs and customer satisfaction. These two key factors depend heavily on the speed and the extent to which the service providers will deliver on their promises on integrating communications and entertainment. There is a significant amount of work to be done in standardizing the next-generation technologies and integrating them onto one manageable platform to enrich the consumers’ experience.
The need for integration is all the more acute in Europe where mobile service penetration in many markets is 100% (and more!). European Union regulations require that all service providers support number portability that will allow consumers to switch to a provider of their choice without having to change their mobile identity (i.e., their number). Service providers must view convergence as not only a way to manage their costs and bring uniformity to their service delivery but also as a way to empower customers as active participants in this confluence of entertainment and communications and to build their own converged identities. It is this identity that the subscribers will most-directly associate with switching costs. Any service provider that moves in this direction and provides a platform for a converged identity and backs it up with a commitment to customer satisfaction will have a clear first mover’s advantage in garnering the largest market share.
About the Authors
Kurt Scherf studies developments in home networks, residential gateways, digital entertainment, technology development in the housing market, and residential and building management and controls. Kurt is the sole author or contributing author/analyst to more than 50 research reports and studies produced by Parks Associates since 1998.
Kurt joined Parks Associates following a career in political research and multi-tenant dwelling management. He earned his BA from The University of Iowa.
Jayant Dasari joined Parks Associates following a career in telecommunications with both service providers and equipment manufacturers. He earned his B.Tech in Electronics and Communications Engineering from Nagarjuna University and his MS in Telecommunications from University of Louisiana.
This article was published for the 2008 CONNECTIONS™ Conference Industry Insights, the official publication of CONNECTIONS™.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Founded in 1993, Actiontec Electronics is dedicated to providing a full range of broadband connectivity and broadband-powered solutions that both support today's all-digital lifestyle,and enable broadband service providers to deliver entirely new communication and entertainment experiences. Offerings range from the market's broadest selection of IPTV-capable broadband home gateways for bringing IP-based video services into the home, to DSL modems, wireless networking devices, routers and digital entertainment devices.
A global company from its inception, Actiontec is headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley with offices in Beijing, China; Basingstoke, UK; Taipei, Taiwan; Denver, CO and Colorado Springs, CO. For more information, visit http://www.actiontec.com/ .
Parks Associates and CEA welcome Actiontec as a sponsor for this year's CONNECTIONS event.
Monday, March 17, 2008
The TM Forum Device Management Summit on “Low-Cost Device Deployment and User Support” addresses the growing management requirements generated by intelligent interconnected devices in the home, including mobile handsets, set-top boxes, and gateways. With one trillion devices expected in the next 15-20 years, service providers must solve device-based management issues, leading to reduced support costs, improved customer experience, and potentially add additional service revenues.
TM Forum helps its members by defining best practices, guidelines, and standards for operational processes and systems to enabling better automated processes by deploying operational systems that require lower integration effort across the service delivery chain. The TM Forum has formed an interest group of hardware, software, and service provider companies to investigate the feasibility of a common industry approach to user-device management.
“In a marketplace where customers demand ‘any service on any device, anywhere,’ user devices are becoming a key part of content and information services, creating major challenges for service providers,” said Keith Willetts, chairman and CEO, TM Forum. “The Forum has launched a new initiative to explore the feasibility of a common device management approach. We are delighted to have forged this exciting new relationship with CONNECTIONS for a series of events to help stimulate innovative solutions to this growing challenge."
To find out more about this event and register online, please visit: www.tmforum.org/device
Saturday, March 15, 2008
and James Kuai, Research Analyst, Parks Associates
3G: at Full Throttle
In the U.S. mobile broadband market, all major mobile carriers except T-Mobile have launched 3G mobile networks. At the end of 2006, out of the 225 million cellular subscribers in the United States, 15 million used a 3G-based mobile broadband service via cell phone, PDA, laptop, or other device. Also, we estimate there were 3.5 to 4 million data card service subscribers in the U.S. in mid-2007.
While WCDMA/HSPA technologies dominate worldwide, CDMA operators such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel currently own the majority of mobile broadband customers in the U.S. These two companies have both commercially deployed EV-DO, and together they accounted for 13-14 million subscribers at YE 2006. AT&T’s mobile broadband business also has shown great market traction. In October 2007, it introduced its first HSPA (High Speed Packet Access)-compatible data card service, making AT&T’s mobile broadband service comparable to Verizon and Sprint’s in terms of throughput. In terms of other wireless technologies, although AT&T and BellSouth have tested mobile WiMAX, their intent was to deliver broadband services to regions not covered by its DSL network. AT&T made it clear that it will not be aggressive in alternative technologies, evidenced by its divestiture of WiMAX spectrum to Clearwire.
T-Mobile USA, the U.S. operation of T-Mobile International AG & Co., has been the slowest to join the mobile broadband bandwagon. One of the reasons is the lack of licensed 3G spectrum. As a result, T-Mobile had been suffering from busy network traffic and deficient reception. Fortunately, its success in the FCC AWS spectrum auction in Q4 2006 more than doubled its spectrum holdings in the top 100 markets. T-Mobile USA began rolling out its UMTS network in March 2007, and the company plans to complete most of the network by 2008.
Mobile WiMAX: Sprint and Clearwire’s Drama
In the mobile WiMAX area, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) decided to include WiMAX technology in the IMT-2000 set of standards in October 2007. This decision endorsed WiMAX (IEEE Standard 802.16) as a global standard and escalated opportunities for global deployment of the technology as equipment vendors and network carriers worldwide will have more confidence in this new technology. On the other hand, the commercialization of mobile WiMAX is making progress, with the help of a healthy industry ecosystem.
Although the company faces multiple challenges, Sprint Nextel remains an important player in mobile WiMAX. It chose mobile WiMAX as its next-generation technology to leverage its 2.5GHz spectrum and differentiate from other service providers based on technology merits and a time-to-market advantage. It announced an audacious plan in August 2006 to deploy a national WiMAX network. Sprint believes that mobile WiMAX can help build a new business model that enables consumers to purchase embedded consumer electronic devices at retail and then bring them to its network for connectivity services, providing supplementary revenue to its traditional mobile voice services. Also, unlike AT&T or Verizon, Sprint does not have a landline business anymore, and thus it hopes to leverage mobile WiMAX and compete with DSL or cable Internet in the residential broadband market
Furthermore, Clearwire and Sprint’s partnership drama may be one of the most memorable events in 2007’s telecom industry. As number one and number two 2.5GHz spectrum holders and both WiMAX advocates, Clearwire and Sprint Nextel announced a partnership in July 2007 to accelerate the deployment of WiMAX technology across the U.S. This high-profile partnership was announced only to be cancelled just a few months later, which again cast a shadow on Clearwire and WiMAX’s future. This split is likely to dampen the enthusiasm of investors and delay the original schedule of a national WiMAX network in the U.S.
Marketing, Devices, and Open Access are Key to Commercial Success
Moving forward, the mobile broadband industry has to go beyond road warriors or mobile workers. Understandably, the adoption of and interest in a mobile broadband service is much higher among those who travel nationally or internationally at least several times per year and those who spend more than 20% of their work time traveling locally. Reducing fees will help the market to grow, but in order to appeal to mass-market consumers, service providers should offer flexible a la carte plans so consumers can add and drop services based on their needs.
Besides pricing, Internet-friendly phones and mobile broadband-enabled consumer electronic devices are also critical in the evolution. For example, Amazon.com launched a wireless e-book, called Kindle, in November 2007, which utilizes Sprint’s EV-DO 3G to download content. Although it is still too early to predict its success, Kindle has received acclaim partly because of the wide availability of 3G mobile broadband that greatly facilitates content downloads. In addition to Sprint, other carriers also have vocally embraced the open access principle, which is likely to accelerate the adoption of mobile broadband. Verizon announced that in early 2008, it will publish its technical standards for devices to interface to its network, and then any device that meets the minimum technical standards, be it a game player or a digital camera, will be able to connect to the network. AT&T responded with a vague statement declaring that its GSM network had always been “open” in the sense that users of unlocked phones can buy a SIM card to join its network, but the company failed to mention whether devices other than mobile phones will be able to access its 3G network.
Going forward, the 700 MHz auction, which will happen between 2008 and 2009, is set to champion the open access and open device principles and change the competitive landscape. The auction will cause several changes in the mobile broadband industry. First, the physical characteristics of the 700 MHz band will ensure wide availability and better quality of mobile broadband. Secondly, companies outside of the traditional telecom industry might become mobile broadband service providers and increase the level of competition. More competition and the open-access principles will certainly lead to more diverse business models, such as advertisement-supported services. Incumbent mobile carriers will also be forced to change their attitudes and business models. Lastly, consumers will enjoy more affordable and personalized services and have more freedom to choose their preferred devices, applications, and service providers.
This article was published for the 2008 CONNECTIONS™ Conference Industry Insights, the official publication of CONNECTIONS™.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Intamac Systems Ltd. is the global leader in Internet based monitoring, messaging and control services. Founded in 2000, and based in Northampton UK, the company has developed an Internet-based communications platform that allows consumers to remotely monitor and control devices in their home. Intamac has signed contracts with major corporate partners who use their broadband services to increase ARPU, leverage broadband and reduce customer churn.
With an established customer base on 3 continents, Intamac have been recognised for market leading innovation: Winner of the 2003 British Security Industry Association Excellence Awards for Best Innovation, winner of Digital Home Magazine 'Best online home service' and a Red Herring “Top 100” company for 2006. Intamac is committed to innovating with new technology products and services to improve the lives of people at home and at work. http://www.intamac.com/
Digital Security Controls Ltd. (DSC) is an industry leader in the design and manufacture of electronic intrusion alarm products. The DSC brand is recognized for superior quality and performance in over 140 countries worldwide. DSC includes intrusion alarm control panels, intrusion alarm detection devices and alarm communication products and services.
Founded in 1979, their success has been a result of an unwavering commitment to continually bring new standards of reliability, flexibility, performance and value to products for the professional security installer. DSC has a proud history of innovation, having introduced the industry's first micro-processor-based alarm panel, the PC2000, and the award winning Power832 that set a new standard for performance, flexibility and value. http://www.dsc.com/
Additional CONNECTIONS sponsors and supporting organizations/media can be viewed here: http://www.parksassociates.com/events/connections/2008/sponsors/sponsors.htm
CONNECTIONS brings together nearly 1,000 executives in the converging digital living industries. The three-day conference provides the ideal venue to learn, network, share ideas, and gain a greater understanding of new business models, industry trends, and future forecasts as the market for digital solutions continues to grow.
Parks Associates forecasts total U.S. revenues for installed home theaters and multiroom audio systems will grow from $6 billion in 2007 to more than $11 billion by 2012, due in large part to the advantages of digital content.
"This year's event features an intense focus on entertainment, communications, control, and the extension of the product purchase and customer support lifecycle," said Kurt Scherf, vice president, principal analyst, Parks Associates. "With an audience of key executives and sessions featuring industry experts and the latest consumer and market analysis, CONNECTIONS is the preeminent event for this industry." Keynote speakers include:
Amy Banse, President, Comcast Interactive Media
Rebecca Jacoby, Sr. Vice President & CIO, Cisco Systems, Inc.
Paul Liao, CTO, Panasonic North America
Phil McKinney, Vice President & CTO, Personal Systems Group, HP
Parks Associates, Motorola, and TM Forum will conduct pre-show workshops and seminars on June 24, prior to HP's opening keynote. CONNECTIONS also features sessions hosted by Motorola, Peak8 Solutions, IBM, and MoCA. Conference sessions, moderated by Parks Associates research analysts, will provide strategic analysis on key digital living categories and focus on the opportunities and challenges emerging in these evolving markets. Session topics include:
Hollywood and the Digital Age
Digital Solutions for the Automobile
Gaming and Virtual Worlds
Residential Energy Management and Home Systems
Service Support for the Digital Home
New Media and Digital Advertising
Wireless Networking for Multimedia
The Evolution of Social Networks
Place shifting and Content Storage
Solutions for Service Providers
Investment Opportunities in Digital Living
For full agenda, visit http://www.connectionsconference.com/.
CONNECTIONS will announce confirmed speakers soon.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Saturday, March 8, 2008
About 90 million people in the U.S. suffer from one or multiple chronic conditions, with diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory conditions having the highest prevalence. These conditions are also the most suitable for medical monitoring devices. Glucose meters and test strips are a multi-billion dollar business in the U.S. (industry data pointing to annual revenue of more than $3 billion). Blood pressure monitors are another widely used monitoring tool for patients with cardiovascular risks. Digital weight scales can serve both conditions, and their popularity is on the rise. Over the last few years, manufacturers of these mass-market medical diagnostic tools have begun to add a USB interface and expand internal memory so that users can download measurement data to their home computers. Software accompanying the devices can help users to perform basic charting and trend analysis on the computer, completing a “Do-It-Yourself” kit.
Less understood and lower-volume home diagnostic devices include cholesterol test tools, pulse oximeters, body fat meters, electrocardiograph (ECG) monitors, and spirometers. An emerging category is focused on using motion and environmental sensors to detect accidental falls, night seizures, urinary incontinence, mindless wandering, and disruptive sleep patterns, conditions that are most detrimental to a senior’s life quality. However, these devices are built on the latest technologies, which means that they are less mature and reliable and usually come with a higher price tag.
The benefits of connecting these devices to a network and transferring health data for remote monitoring and diagnosis are multi-fold. First, the data will be put in the hands of a professional who can make a better judgment of the patient’s conditions. Second, patients with multiple chronic conditions will be examined based on a complete set of information coming from multiple device readings. For instance, an irregular reading of ECG data plus an abnormal weight gain can point to a greater need for clinical intervention versus ECG readings alone. Connectivity helps synchronize data collection so that caregivers can have the right information at hand to make a decision. Third, connectivity makes real-time data collection possible. Fourth, continuous data collection can reveal better patterns than episodic measurements, another means for caregivers to make an informed decision. For example, human blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day. Episodic measuring only gives isolated data and may miss the peak and trough points that deserve physicians’ attention for cardiovascular care. Based on continuous data, physicians can make better recommendations to their patients on the timing and dosage of anti-hypertension drugs and the amount of cardio exercises during the time of the day. Finally, connectivity improves patient compliance. Manually saving and forwarding data can be a hassle for the users of multiple measurement devices. Inconvenience can lead to low compliance, which undermines the benefits of home monitoring. Automating the process and making it portable anywhere the patient goes through connectivity solutions will make patients more willing to cooperate with the monitoring regimen.
Connected medical monitoring devices serve three types of patients well.
Seniors with chronic and aging conditions
People with one or more chronic conditions
People with a strong desire to stay fit and well
These three segments have considerable overlapping portions. The Medicare population, for instance, encompasses all three segments. On the other hand, not all people in these segments are qualified users of the technology. Those with a considerable disability are perhaps better off in the hands of home care aides, living in a nursing home, or being treated at the hospital. Patients with severe dementia symptoms are not a good fit due to their lack of cognitive ability to use the devices properly. Therefore, although the potential market is big, the total addressable market for connected medical monitoring devices is smaller. Parks Associates estimates that between 22 and 25 million people were the appropriate target population of this application in 2007. As demographic trends favor this application and consumer awareness is on the rise, we expect the total addressable market to continue expanding over the next five years, reaching between 44 and 48 million people in 2012.
Medical device makers are thus put in charge of arduous but potentially very rewarding tasks: incorporating the latest technology into traditional medical devices for diagnostic and monitoring purposes, designing the new devices with the ultimate simplicity and utility for consumers, identifying the target population, and effectively marketing the solution. This is a brand new market opportunity with no old trails to follow, and the path to a viable business model is even harder to find. Very likely, device makers will need collaborations from various partners and blessings from key influencers of the healthcare industry, including consumers, to work out the right business models.
Note: The term “connected medical devices” describes medical diagnostic and measurement devices with networking support.
This article was published for the 2008 CONNECTIONS™ Conference Industry Insights, the official publication of CONNECTIONS™.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
The "Entertaining Home Connectivity" panel includeds CE and Retail experts who will discuss the consumer environment for HD video distribution in and around the home.
Confirmed speakers include: Rob Gelphman with MoCA, David Henry with NETGEAR, Pete Griffin with RadioShack, Daniel Wong with D-Link, and Dean Takahashi who will offer his editorial view.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
With a plethora of new Internet-base home services being launched by major service providers in the coming year, senior operations executives are favoring a ‘sandbox’ approach to installing customer premise equipment to reduce technical support and field service costs.
Not a wholly new term in the technology industry, a Sandbox is a virtual environment that is used by programmers to develop new code in a manner that doesn’t impact production systems. The same concept is being used by service providers and home networking consultants to rid themselves of the aches and pains of future service calls by providing a secure, private playground within a customer’s network made specifically to manage the Internet-based home devices.
Inundated with various wireless frequencies, today’s home is a virtual jungle-gym of communication conflicts and challenges. Many service providers and home networking consultants are continually challenged with what they may have originally thought would have been a simple installation of a new piece of technology such as an IP network camera or home automation device. This is largely due to the variety of custom network settings required by each device.
Central to the Sandbox is a home gateway which could be as inexpensive and simple as a WIFI router. Preconfigured and set to register (and re-register) with your host servers, the gateway manages communication between the devices and the service provider. The modest cost of a gateway will drastically reduce the costs of repeat service visits related to ISP-downtime, customer-driven network upgrades and, worst of all, Gen Y power-users configuring the network to work with the latest beta of their favorite online application.
It isn’t surprising to find that most successful service providers have used this approach in large-scale deployments of home services such as VoIP(i.e. Vonage), Internet TV(i.e. Apple TV) and video surveillance (i.e. iControl Networks). The advantage of being able to securely control the network environment, the Sandbox, in which your devices operate is crucial to controlling ongoing service costs.
In spite of new standards such as UPnP and hardware manufacturers trying to build the ideal All-in-One Home Gateway that is a modem, router, PVR and controls home automation devices, the Sandbox will continue to the service provider’s main approach to delivering Internet-based applications. For the consumer it may mean yet more boxes in the electrical closet. It is a small price to pay for a consistent, reliable experience which is the ultimate goal of every profitable service provider.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
There is no question that the marriage between consumer electronics devices and broadband content will be a key trend in 2008. For content providers and aggregators, a “go-to-TV” strategy solves at least one of the early challenges facing broadband video services – the requirement to watch the content on a PC. The hope is that if the industry provides a more seamless video-on-demand experience, consumption of video and other broadband services increases. For consumer electronics manufacturers, Web connectivity allows them to differentiate on content and services. It also opens the door for them to receive recurring streams of revenue, either by profit sharing with the content delivery services or via ad-support content. Of course, there is a third revenue stream – enhanced customer support – and I’ll discuss this a bit later.
Prior to the Consumer Electronics Show, here were some of the CE and content convergence efforts of which we were aware:
On January 3, Netflix and LG Electronics announced they will work together to develop a set-top box to allow consumers to stream video and other content directly to an HDTV. This device would be an ideal fit with the Netflix Instant Watching feature that now comes standard with the DVD rental service. My only question about this is why develop a separate set-top box? We’re quickly heading toward “black box overload” in the living room. Apple and VUDU are both pursuing this separate set-top route, but why not include the connectivity in something like a DVD player? If I’m a Netflix subscriber, I’m still going to rely on it to play DVD rentals for the vast majority of my video entertainment. Consider that the ratio of Netflix DVD offerings to Instant Watching is something like 90,000 titles to 6,000 broadband video offerings.
HP’s MediaSmart TV provides access to CinemaNow content. CinemaNow reports that it has about 1.5 million users (we assume that is cumulative), and the company announced an agreement with Macrovision shortly before CES. The companies are integrating technologies that will allow manufacturers of DTVs, network-attached storage devices, and set-top boxes to acquire premium content. So, we assume that HP will not be the only CinemaNow-capable CE manufacturer in the near future.
Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE Marketplace offers more than 3,500 hours of premium content, including high-definition video, from 35 studios and networks. On January 6, Microsoft announced that ABC (Disney) and MGM will be joining the lineup of content available through the service. Our own data indicate that 17% of Xbox users actually do pay to download the high-quality video from the LIVE Marketplace, making it the most-successful CE and content marriage to date.
Sony’s BRAVIA Internet Video Link service provides content from Yahoo!, AOL, Sports Illustrated, blip.tv, CondéNet’s Style.com, Men.Style.com, Epicurious and Concierge.com channels, and Sony Pictures’ Crackle, The Minisode Network, and Inside Sony Pictures channels. At CES, it was announced that CBS content will also be available.
Although the emphasis for CE vendors has been on developing alternative video-on-demand strategies, CES brought a number of announcements from the other major CE manufacturers that included both video and non-video applications. This looks to be the beginning of a “throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks” period for the CE industry, as they integrate the basic components of Internet and home networking into their devices, add some broadband features, and see what gains traction. Here is a sampling of the related announcements in this space:
Panasonic announced products leveraging tru2way™ technology. (formerly known as OCAP) The VIERA® HDTVs will be able to access interactive digital cable video services, including video-on-demand and interactive program guides, without a set-top-box. The company also introduced true2way set-top and portable DVR. In addition, VIERA PZ850 televisions with VIERA CAST will allow access to Picasa Web Albums and YouTube video from Google.
Samsung demonstrated its InfoLink™ RSS service with applications from USA TODAY that include access to customized news, weather, and other information.
Sharp introduced AQUOS® Net that brings Internet content and remote diagnostics to the television set. AQUOS Net includes powerline networking, so it looks like it is bringing content from a PC to the television set instead of an Internet-based service, at least as of now.
The remote diagnostics capability on Sharp’s product is intriguing. I’ve been saying for a while that consumer electronics companies are facing a challenge in providing support to their increasingly complex devices and that remote support with features such as automated diagnostics and troubleshooting will be critical (see my March 2007 blog A New Trend in Digital Home Customer Care: Enhanced “User Diagnostics”). Now Sharp is bringing this capability to some of its televisions. It’ll be interesting to see if other manufacturers do the same.
The marriage of content, services, and CE devices such as TVs and DVD players is in its formative stage, and it is a very fluid market right now. We certainly see the manufacturers taking an interest in the ability to sell services and applications above and beyond the set-top box, but it is unclear as of now as to how these services will be monetized. For online content services, we keep hearing about how ad-supported content will be the ticket, but nobody has really been specific in this area. We can certainly point to areas in which enhanced customer support (remote management, diagnostics, and troubleshooting, for example) can save on customer support costs and can also be a revenue generator. We fully expect others to follow Sharp’s lead.
One question that we’re getting frequently is whether these new CE and content initiatives are indicative of the pending demise of traditional entertainment providers such as cable, satellite, or IPTV services. As of now, we’d argue “no.”
Network capacity continues to favor the incumbent video providers on their ability to send lots of high-definition content (both linear and on-demand) to the home, and I expect that we will see aggressive moves on major players in 2008 to experiment more broadly with models such as day-and-date release of certain movies (matching the DVD window). Hollywood hasn’t bent over backwards in support of traditional VoD to date. However, if I’m a content producer, my best allies in the next few years could very well be the service providers who operate networks with large capacity and established security, who can pipe their content to a growing number of devices (such as mobile phones), who have the network infrastructure to ingest vast quantities of content and deliver it in a high-quality format, who have well-established billing practices, and whose advertising strategies grow more sophisticated.
For the incumbents, the opportunity also doesn’t end with commercial content. I was impressed with Cisco demos that I saw at CES that showed “hyper-syndication” of user-generated content into an operator’s TV lineup. This way, YouTube or other content can be ingested into the operators’ networks and provided as a stand-alone channel if desired. Game over? Not exactly. It’s just another example of what makes this industry so interesting to follow. We’ll be turning our attention to this space in several research reports in 2008 and look forward to reporting some of the findings later in the year.
About the Author
Kurt Scherf studies developments in home networks, residential gateways, digital entertainment, technology development in the housing market, and residential and building management and controls. Kurt is the sole author or contributing author/analyst to more than 60 research reports and studies produced by Parks Associates since 1998.