Emerging Technologies: Group Imagines Future of Medium

Jan 9, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Billed as the “emerging technologies” conference, this week’s Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers gathering in Tampa, Fla., will target that sweet spot between near-term business plans and the futuristic visions of what TV will look like a decade from now. That means the conference will focus on services the cable industry will be able to offer within three to five years and how to implement them.

The goal of conference planners is to leave behind the day-to-day issues, but at the same time avoid talking about a science-fiction future, said Kenneth Wright, chief technology officer for VOD server maker C-Cor and the programming chair for the conference.

“Once you get beyond the next 18 months, what does the next generation look like? That is the one guiding light we have [for the conference],” he said. “The approach we took was: What will the services look like, what will broadband operators be offering to their customers, what will the other providers be offering to their customers?”

Invisible Enabler

Technology is the invisible enabler behind those new and newly intermingled services. As such, the conference will cover the innovations that need to be implemented to move to an on-demand, integrated world.

“Today video service and voice service and high-speed data services and wireless services are somewhat standalone offerings,” Mr. Wright said.

That will change in just a few years.

“You can be on a cellphone call as you drive into your driveway and have it switch to your wi-fi-based phone. Or you are watching your TV and one of the phones rings and caller ID comes up and you decide whether to start a video conference. Or you’re watching a show and it’s time to go to the grocery store, so you switch to watching it on your handheld wireless device. Really, the imagination is the only limit on how these services look. They look like whatever we can imagine by truly integrating what have been silo services,” he said.

For this evolution to occur, the industry must continue its trend toward open systems. “In the past you bought an end-to-end system from company A and company B and you were locked into their system. … Now you can move to mix and match and pick and choose. As you move to open systems you free yourself from being stuck with a single vendor, and you move to a world where there are more opportunities for third-party innovation,” Mr. Wright said.

Open platforms lower costs for service providers, and because they make it easier for vendors to talk to each other, they also pave the way for the integrated future, he said.