Posted on

IBC 2013, impressions of a 4K OTT show

Although OTT has been an IBC topic for a few years, we actually saw a plethora of end-to-end platforms that actually worked, often purely in the cloud. The range of supplier was impressive from Israeli start-ups like Vidmind to multinationals like Siemens or the pioneer Kit digital, now reprendre Piksel. There was also much more talk of real world deployments. Underlying technologies are of course needed to enable OTT and adaptive bit rate (ABR) was omnipresent with most - but not all - stakeholders betting on the convergent MPEG-DASH flavour. OTT ecosystems can still be daunting and as we predicted in last year's white paper written for VO, Broadpeak and Harmonic, multi-vendor pre-integration was a trending theme. This year's IBC was, as expected, all about the forthcoming Ultra HD/4K resolution, which will now be enabled by the new HDMI 2.0 announced at IFA and HEVC. HEVC was shown in a few real world setups as oppose to last year's lab demos, although there wasn’t yet any consumer-grade decoding solutions. Many demos painfully showed that frame-rate is an issue as Thierry Fautier pointed out to me here. The jerky 25 FPS demos clearly made the point that it's going to be at least 50 FPS or higher resolutions just won't take off.  The 8K, Super Hi-Vision demo by NHK in the IBC's future zone blew my mind. With such an immersive experience, I doubt we’ll be wasting any more time with 3D in the living room. Although less prominent, but nevertheless significant, like the tip of an iceberg, the Smart Home continued its slow forward march with for example a demo of Cisco's Snowflake that dimmed the lights during a movie's night scenes. Several vendors like ADB or Nagra were talking about media hubs in the home. Big data was in a lot of discussions and I was pretty amazed by the power of solutions like Genius Digital's analysis of viewing statistics and how they can being immediate gain. Of course I too loved Wyplay's huge blue frog in hall 5, representing their new open source initiative, which needs to be analysed in the light of the US centric RDK project pushed by Comcast. As every year, I spent some time with a company slightly out of my usual focus, this year Livewire Digital showed me how professional newsgathering can meet BYOD. Some things I had expected (described here), but didn't see much of, included HTML5 that wasn't promoted as the mother of all UI technologies as I thought it would be. Also, despite Google’s recent successful Chromecast launch, dongles were not really visible at IBC (I’m told Qualcomm had one on their booth). Finally, it occurs to me tidying up my notes, that the true implication of the BYOD phenomenon hasn’t really been addressed head-on. Of course the show and conference were full of things to say about tablets and smartphones, but nobody seems to be looking at the deep business model transformation underway. When I learnt to do a TV launch business model, barely over a decade ago, the STB represented 70% of the project CAPEX if you hit a million subs. So in the future will a TV rollout cost 30% of what it used to, with the subscriber subsidising the operator for the other 70%? This is about my tenth IBC. In the jury for best booth, to which I was invited again this year (thanks Robin Lince), we realised that as IBC matures in the age of Internet and social media, the show is less about learning what the latest trend or product is or even what people think about them, we usually know all that before even coming. Face to face networking and building relations are the deeper motivation. In follow-up posts I’ll report on the 17 companies I spoke to this year at IBC: Brightcove, Envivio, Axinom, Visiware, Vidmind, Wyplay, Genius Digital, Astec, Axentra, Gravity, Akamai, Rovi, Cisco, Livewire Digital, Tara Systems, Verimatrix and SofAtHome.

Posted on

IPTV World Forum reports on Videonet

IPTV World Forum blogs are on videonet.

Overall there was a great attendance, with lots of people coming to Olympia to do business. The booths were decent although I didn't spot many exciting innovations this year and as usual the conference was of varying quality, from gems to blatant sales pitches.

The 2010 conference taught me that Canvas is a purely British thing for now, and a few companies companies stood out for me:

  • Netgem for their ability to do fancy stuff with run-of-the-mill chipsets,
  • Echostar for finally winning a deserved award for Sling-loaded
  • BeeSmart for their interesting freebee initiative,
  • Intel for getting Sodaville up and running, most impressive with Amino.

But overall it was a good show on my subjective scale.

Day 1 blog post is here

Day 2 blog post is here

Day 3 blog post is here.

Also some in depth analysis of some of the issues I became aware of at the show to follow.

Posted on

Why I’m going to IPTV world forum – March 23rd 2010

I’ll be staying for the three days at the event next week. I always spend long moments hesitating whether such a time commitment is reasonable. I thought I’d share my thinking in case it helps you make your mind up (and helps me decide whether to fork out a couple of k€ to go to NAB next month or not).

When I worked at Orange, heading international IPTV deployment, I gave one of the first talks from a major IPTV player at one of the first versions of the show in 2005 or thereabouts. It was about the technical challenges of IPTV deployment from a Telco perspective. IPTV World Forum holds a little sense of nostalgia for me.

In the early days Junction ran the show, and I remember it feeling like a special occasion. It’s probably the nostalgia speaking or maybe the fact that as it wasn’t yet mainstream we all felt a bit more leading edge. I suppose I can replace "feel good" factor from being a pioneer then to a "feel good" factor from knowing I was here first. To illustrate the newfound importance of the show, big decisions now get initiated at Olympia and the IPTV WF awards get fought over more and more.

We’re not supposed to decide which show to go to based on the quality of the tea and biscuits (no don’t pretend you never do). In this respect IPTV WF is pretty good on logistics, except maybe fort the A/V equipment that forces me to sit in the front rows if I want to both see and hear.

The main reason I’m going is networking. There’s only so much you can do with LinkedIn & Co and face-to-face meetings do make a difference. I know at least half the companies exhibiting and over a dozen speakers so it’ll be worthwhile just to catch-up. I also need to generate some new leads for my consulting business (;-€).

I'm looking forwards to awards ceremony at the end of day one. Only the English can make a pompous event fun as well (mind you the great food & drink helps). As I'm a judge, I can’t really talk about that till the results are out … but there were loads of good entries this year.

There will be demos of some really new things I want to see at the exhibition. This year I’m looking forward to seeing the BeeSmart free middleware that’ll be launched during the show. I’m also hoping ROVI will show their new promising looking EPG offerings. As I missed the NDS widget demo at IBC I was hoping to catch up on that but I can’t see them on the exhibitor list :o( - maybe I’ll have to go to the NAB show after all.

I wrote an blog entry here on the rosy future for the IPTV Monitoring market so I’ll be asking all the vendors like Mariner, Bridgetech, Ineoquest, Agama and the new kid in town from India called First Media what they think about that i.e. do they too see a blue ocean of opportunities?

I hope to do a post-show blog on the future of interfaces so I’ll also hop into booths from some middleware people like Dreampark and Nagravision.

Many of the usual suspects from the STB arena will be at the show so I’ll be checking out where they are in terms of chipsets & new deployments (although these tend to boringly all be confidential). But the ecosystem is constantly changing as the box makers move upwards or sideways in the ecosystem so I’ll be looking out for any exciting demos from booths like Netgem, PACE, SoftAtHome, Echostar, Awox and Amino.

I’m a bit disappointed in the content recommendation supplier line-up. Recommendation is still a stumbling block that we haven’t fixed. Hopefully Gravity R&D will have a better demo than they showed at the Prague show. I don’t know why the more mature suppliers like Jinni aren’t coming to the show. That’s food for thought for another in depth analysis.

I always drop into the Edgware booth not only because it’s invariably one of the nicest but mainly because they are a surprisingly interesting company to talk to; they have a real vision.

Oh and I’ll make a point of having a proper talk with the Canadians from Evertz because I kind of botched it last time in Prague and have heard they deliver a monitoring good job for Sasktel in conjunction with Mariner Partners who btw will also both be presenting at the show.

With over 100 exhibitors I expect it will take me at least a day and half to see everything I want to, and As I’m chairing during day one I’ll be there the whole time.

There’s some luck involved in choosing the best conference to listen to unless you know the speaker beforehand. Most speakers do go to the trouble of writing interesting fresh slides and are really worth listening to. However as with any mainstream conference, some vendors that pay a lot to get to say basically what they want amazingly get away with too much sales pitch. You should complain to the organizers if you see this. I certainly do. Telcos with big IPTV deployments who also get red-carpet treatment sometimes go around with the same slide deck from conference to conference; I’ve identified the speakers by now, but it's always worth listening to them if you haven't heard it before.

In the end I clearly do recommend going (twitter me @nebul2 to meet). If you decide not to come, several of us will be reporting from the show on Videonet.

Posted on

IPTV World Forum Eastern Europe 2009 Roundup

[lang_en]The turn out subjectively seemed to those who I spoke with, to be disappointing, but Informa, the conference organisers, were as always upbeat pointing to the 60+ operators present and the 20+ exhibitors. So I suppose, as the recession isn’t officially over, the glass is over half full.

The conference was setup around cosy tables so it was hard to judge the audience size but there were always between 50 and 100 people present in the conference.

The conference was branded with “quality of experience” and there was some effort to get that into the titles of some of the talks. But what I saw of day one talks didn’t reflect that. I suppose it’s the editorial control issue here. Informa can’t enforce much, the upside of which can be some surprising talks. One speaker I spoke to actually admitted to not really knowing what quality of experience actually is … I picked up a few snippets like from Michal Taborsky that Telefonica O2 has no plans on OTT yet and that HD is delivered in a best effort mode and so not charged for yet in the Czech Republic.

Sebastian Becker, founder, thebrainbehind, stood in as chair on day two. He was surprised by how cautious Russia seems to be with IPTV. It was surmised that torrent users are dominating/ruining this market. Croatians on the other hand seemed bullish on IPTV probably because of the lack of cable there.up

Mihai Crastelnau made a good presentation about the myths of content sourcing that we all say is so veeeeeery difficult, namely because you can’t work with studios. Well that may no longer be the case. It is however still not so easy to get all the details right like the metadata, subtitles, dubbing, encoding, etc.

A learning that OTE shared with the audience was that there should be a significant gap between the price for double play and triple play. Iskon in Croatia uses 25%, which seems to fit the market well.

The Orange IPTV advertising experimentation seems to be still in very early days, like the red button was in 2003. Orca and Dreampark both gave convincing middleware presentations. Finally Sebastian noted how NBC Universal showed their new channel branding strategy is a way to become must-have channels. Their message to platforms is (surprise-surprise) to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Overall, Sebastian Becker thought it was a good show considering the circumstances, although as chair he regretted that the audience didn't ask many questions.

The exhibition was well laid out in such a way that, unlike in London, no booths were stuck in the corner off the beaten track. Informa cleverly served a scrumptious desert in the middle of the exhibition so there was plenty of passage.

I randomly dropped into some booths of companies I didn’t really know.

Gravity is a Hungarian start-up in the recommendation space. They proudly stated at the booth that they were “Founder of the overall best Netflix prize best team”, but I never got to the bottom of that and everyone in this space claims some sort of link. Their demo worked fine, but with a database of 120 movies at the show I was unimpressed. If I get the time I’ll try out their half collaborative filtering half metadata approach on the web with a real database.up

I was more impressed by the DS2 booth. DS2 is a Spanish chip and reference design company for power line communications (PLC) devices. Their chipsets end up in the PLC devices from the likes of D-Link or Netgear. They compete with Intellon (also at the show) and claim a few USP’s like a TR-069 client option for just an extra $1. This could enable an operator to do things like upgrade a device firmware or reboot a customer’s PLC device. As we look towards more and more commitment from operators to manage IPTV services this looks like a really smart move.

DS2 sell a tiny daughter card for $16-20 which will let you integrate PLC into other devices, so it could for example be in the modem-router and STB of the operator straight out of the box.

The big news for folks in the PLC market is ITU-T’s ratification just this month of the G.hn standard that will enable true compatibility between vendors (hmmm sounds familiar, I thought that was already the case, I suppose it can’t be). DS2 say they’ll have new 400 Mbps devices ready and compatible by the end of 2010. Current devices are at 200 Mbps. Remember to halve all published rates between the physical layer advertised and what is achievable at o-an IP level. The dynamic range (i.e. how far you can get two PLC devices to talk to each other) isn’t expected to change though. So if it doesn’t work in your home now, it won’t any time soon.

As Evertz are at most of the IPTV shows and I have no idea what they do, I thought I’d stop by to find out. The first good news is that they come from Canada. They sell - and do correct me if I'm wrong with the technicalities - 3RU racks where you can slot up to 15 cards each of which takes an SDI input and spurns out an MPEG stream ranging from 1 to 20 Mbps. So I deduct that they do encoders. The company website (which feels uncannily like you’re at the Hertz rental car company) did little to help deepen my understanding. I’ll try the literature next time and anyone from Evertz please feel free to contact me for proper write up.

I stopped off at the Open IPTV Forum booth where I had three green t-shirted friendly people all to myself (hmm wonder who pays for that). Starting from 8 founding members in 2007 they boast an impressive 58 paid-up members. They have no pure-play middleware vendors (Ericsson doesn’t count because they supply the whole ecosystem). If they did have, say, Dreampark, it could help to get their specs off the white-boards and into live deployments.up

As I passed the Orca booth, Sefy Ariely, VP Sales & Marketing at Orca Interactive, grabbed my arm and told me he was a bit cheesed off [with me] about the comments I’d made in my last piece about them showing the Compass demo over and over at show after show (Read IBC 2009 report on Middleware). I told Sefy I had been nice because not only was it repetitive, but getting less interesting than it was in the beginning. Sefy, being a seasoned professional, had an answer to every objection. It was first just a concept demo, now it’s a real product. It looks like we just have to accept that real products are less exciting than demos.[/lang_en]
[lang_fr]The turn out subjectively seemed to those who I spoke with, to be disappointing, but Informa, the conference organisers, were as always upbeat pointing to the 60+ operators present and the 20+ exhibitors. So I suppose, as the recession isn’t officially over, the glass is over half full.

The conference was setup around cosy tables so it was hard to judge the audience size but there were always between 50 and 100 people present in the conference.

The conference was branded with “quality of experience” and there was some effort to get that into the titles of some of the talks. But what I saw of day one talks didn’t reflect that. I suppose it’s the editorial control issue here. Informa can’t enforce much, the upside of which can be some surprising talks. One speaker I spoke to actually admitted to not really knowing what quality of experience actually is … I picked up a few snippets like from Michal Taborsky that Telefonica O2 has no plans on OTT yet and that HD is delivered in a best effort mode and so not charged for yet in the Czech Republic.

Sebastian Becker, founder, thebrainbehind, stood in as chair on day two. He was surprised by how cautious Russia seems to be with IPTV. It was surmised that torrent users are dominating/ruining this market. Croatians on the other hand seemed bullish on IPTV probably because of the lack of cable there.haut

Mihai Crastelnau made a good presentation about the myths of content sourcing that we all say is so veeeeeery difficult, namely because you can’t work with studios. Well that may no longer be the case. It is however still not so easy to get all the details right like the metadata, subtitles, dubbing, encoding, etc.

A learning that OTE shared with the audience was that there should be a significant gap between the price for double play and triple play. Iskon in Croatia uses 25%, which seems to fit the market well.

The Orange IPTV advertising experimentation seems to be still in very early days, like the red button was in 2003. Orca and Dreampark both gave convincing middleware presentations. Finally Sebastian noted how NBC Universal showed their new channel branding strategy is a way to become must-have channels. Their message to platforms is (surprise-surprise) to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Overall, Sebastian Becker thought it was a good show considering the circumstances, although as chair he regretted that the audience didn't ask many questions.

The exhibition was well laid out in such a way that, unlike in London, no booths were stuck in the corner off the beaten track. Informa cleverly served a scrumptious desert in the middle of the exhibition so there was plenty of passage.

I randomly dropped into some booths of companies I didn’t really know.

Gravity is a Hungarian start-up in the recommendation space. They proudly stated at the booth that they were “Founder of the overall best Netflix prize best team”, but I never got to the bottom of that and everyone in this space claims some sort of link. Their demo worked fine, but with a database of 120 movies at the show I was unimpressed. If I get the time I’ll try out their half collaborative filtering half metadata approach on the web with a real database.up

I was more impressed by the DS2 booth. DS2 is a Spanish chip and reference design company for power line communications (PLC) devices. Their chipsets end up in the PLC devices from the likes of D-Link or Netgear. They compete with Intellon (also at the show) and claim a few USP’s like a TR-069 client option for just an extra $1. This could enable an operator to do things like upgrade a device firmware or reboot a customer’s PLC device. As we look towards more and more commitment from operators to manage IPTV services this looks like a really smart move.

DS2 sell a tiny daughter card for $16-20 which will let you integrate PLC into other devices, so it could for example be in the modem-router and STB of the operator straight out of the box.

The big news for folks in the PLC market is ITU-T’s ratification just this month of the G.hn standard that will enable true compatibility between vendors (hmmm sounds familiar, I thought that was already the case, I suppose it can’t be). DS2 say they’ll have new 400 Mbps devices ready and compatible by the end of 2010. Current devices are at 200 Mbps. Remember to halve all published rates between the physical layer advertised and what is achievable at o-an IP level. The dynamic range (i.e. how far you can get two PLC devices to talk to each other) isn’t expected to change though. So if it doesn’t work in your home now, it won’t any time soon.

As Evertz are at most of the IPTV shows and I have no idea what they do, I thought I’d stop by to find out. The first good news is that they come from Canada. They sell - and do correct me if I'm wrong with the technicalities - 3RU racks where you can slot up to 15 cards each of which takes an SDI input and spurns out an MPEG stream ranging from 1 to 20 Mbps. So I deduct that they do encoders. The company website (which feels uncannily like you’re at the Hertz rental car company) did little to help deepen my understanding. I’ll try the literature next time and anyone from Evertz please feel free to contact me for proper write up.

I stopped off at the Open IPTV Forum booth where I had three green t-shirted friendly people all to myself (hmm wonder who pays for that). Starting from 8 founding members in 2007 they boast an impressive 58 paid-up members. They have no pure-play middleware vendors (Ericsson doesn’t count because they supply the whole ecosystem). If they did have, say, Dreampark, it could help to get their specs off the white-boards and into live deployments.haut

As I passed the Orca booth, Sefy Ariely, VP Sales & Marketing at Orca Interactive, grabbed my arm and told me he was a bit cheesed off [with me] about the comments I’d made in my last piece about them showing the Compass demo over and over at show after show (Read IBC 2009 report on Middleware). I told Sefy I had been nice because not only was it repetitive, but getting less interesting than it was in the beginning. Sefy, being a seasoned professional, had an answer to every objection. It was first just a concept demo, now it’s a real product. It looks like we just have to accept that real products are less exciting than demos.[/lang_fr]