Not content to train the next generation of cable engineers and technicians and develop standards for new cable technologies, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) is positioning itself to be a potent patent player too.
Along with its global arm, the International Society of Broadband Experts (ISBE), SCTE is now developing several patent applications in the energy management and systems operations fields. With one US patent granted so far for network energy management and up to four more in the works, the organization aims to pump out a few network-oriented patents each year for use by its cable operator and vendor members. (See SCTE/ISBE Scores First Patent .)
"This is the beginning of capturing IP from the applied science side of the business," said SCTE|ISBE President and CEO Mark Dzuban. "We're doing this on behalf of the industry."
Sounds good. But, you might ask, why the need for SCTE to play the patent game? Don't CableLabs and many MSOs and vendors already develop patents for various new cable products and technologies?
The answer is yes, of course, they do. But Dzuban and his team see a gap in the market between the more futuristic products and technologies that CableLabs engineers are inventing for the industry and the "competitive IP" products and technologies that cable operators and vendors are developing for their own proprietary use. They see an opening for "vendor-neutral" solutions in key operational areas like network energy management.
"We look at the marketplace and see what we can do to help." Dzuban said. "We're on the operations side… This is a byproduct of examining the problems we need to solve."
It probably doesn't hurt that, at a time when the cable industry is going through yet another wave of consolidation and cost-cutting, the development of patents gives SCTE yet another reason for being. CableLabs, the industry's other major tech organization, has also been working hard to justify its existence as both cable operators and vendors increasingly scrutinize their spending on industry trade groups and joint efforts.
Developed by a small team working under SCTE CTO Chris Bastian, the first patent, U.S. Patent No. 10,135,845, covers part of the Adaptive Power System Interface Specification (APSIS) that the organization crafted as part of its Energy 2020 energy-saving program. That spec defines energy management protocols for different devices, provides a framework for aligning network energy consumption with network usage and offers more than 20 ways to support adaptive power management.
Dzuban indicated that the other proposed patents under development will likely address similar network energy management and operational issues. But he declined to be more specific. "We have a couple of really good ones that we're hoping" to develop, he said.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading