This is the latest installment of "Technically Speaking with SCTE," a monthly blog of interviews and columns to provide Light Reading Cable readers with timely updates on the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE)'s initiatives and activities.
This month's entry is a Q&A with Daniel Howard, the SCTE's SVP of engineering and chief technology officer, who sheds more light on a one-day conference symposium on the Digital Home on Oct. 16 that will set the table for next month's Cable-Tec Expo in Orlando, Fla.
Light Reading Cable: You've been using the term Digital Video 2.0 lately. In the cable context, what is 2.0 about? Is it strictly about the transition to IP video and serving a new class of connected devices?
Howard: It's really about the transition to IP video. Over the last year, we've seen announcements from Rogers [Communications], for example, where they're going to drastically accelerate their transition to an all-IP architecture. Obviously we're talking about all of the new connected devices -- tablets are everywhere. I don't know about you, but I've got them all over my home. What that really relates to is the multi-screen experience, and the ability to tie in more interactive advertising that doesn't pollute the main viewing screen.
The other piece of that puzzle is for technicians. What are the tools and what are the best practices for installing in the modern digital home, and all the services that will come along with it? How do we keep technicians up to date? It's a lot more about IP connectivity within the home as we head to the future as opposed to making sure that each cable outlet is hot and has a decent signal level.
The final element is that there's been a lot talk about next-generation access network technologies, and next-generation Docsis. How does the home leverage the new technologies and what does it get out of it? How do we make sure the technicians have the tools for whatever comes down the pipe? It's really all of the above.
Light Reading Cable: What are some other key trends that have caused SCTE to dedicate a whole day to the Digital Home ahead of Expo?
Howard: It also includes some of these new IP-based services like home security and home management and monitoring. Home management overall has been sort of a challenge for cable over the years. For some number of years we've toyed with the notion of managing the customer's home network to make their lives easier. It's now becoming much more plausible and possible to do that with the latest tools. Plus, as we start moving to a media gateway architecture within the home, which includes Wi-Fi as part of that, that makes it a whole lot easier for cable operators to manage the home wireless router. That also makes it easier to solve problems remotely so half the time customers don't even know that there was an issue.
Light Reading Cable: What are going to be a couple of big takeaways from this event?
Howard: I mentioned the end-to-end management of the digital home. That's a big deal, so we will really focus on how we get into the home network and actually manage things. There's going to be a session on multi-screen content delivery.
And then there's cybersecurity, which has been in the news these days. With cable operators offering business services, we think very long and hard about how to make sure that we can keep the business premises network protected. But that's becoming an issue that also has to be extended into the home environment. A home network can get compromised and end up with bots on it, and the cable operators are tasked by the federal government to keep track of bot behavior, and when they see it to shut it down. This is really a general trend that the SCTE and CableLabs are going after much more aggressively to help cable operators stay ahead of the curve on cybersecurity issues.
Light Reading Cable: If everything is going IP, how can cable differentiate itself?
Howard: Cable has always had the strongest of ties with the content industry. Time Warner Cable was at one time coupled with Time Warner [Inc.] content for so long, and now we have Comcast's recent acquisition of NBC Universal. That deeper partnership with the content industry and cable's historical expertise in delivering video is going to [tie in to] all these multi-screen applications as well as advanced advertising.
To my mind, it's their opportunity to waste at this point because I think cable has had a much better opportunity to see trends in home services … and be able to tie those more effectively. The Millennials all want things to be automatic. They want to turn on a device and have it know everything and connect to all their existing services with minimal effort. I think cable is positioned to exploit that better than anyone.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable