CES Key Learnings: An Acronym Buster for the Pay-TV Market

Anyone visiting CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in January saw a plethora of new products seeking to be the next big consumer market phenomenon. In fact, every year there seems to be an exponential leap in technological developments, and with it comes an exploding new vocabulary to describe their multimedia triumphs and experiences. The world’s early adopters and technology enthusiasts, alike, all flock to Vegas, and above the cacophony of noise and excitement, a new crop of buzz words begin to fill the halls of CES.

So how do we break through the acronym clutter? Can we? Every profession has its own ‘speak,’ which creates communication challenges for anyone outside of their niche. We all use buzz words and acronyms, that to our market sector (i.e. health) or discipline (i.e. sales), make perfect sense but are most certainly gobbledygook to the average person on the street.

I work for Entropic, a world leader in semiconductor solutions for the connected home. The Company transforms how traditional broadcast and IP streaming video is seamlessly, reliably, and securely delivered, processed, and distributed into and throughout the home. Entropic’s next-generation silicon and software solutions enable global Pay-TV service providers to create more captivating whole-home entertainment experiences by delivering new ways to connect, engage and enjoy multimedia content. I think the description of what we do would make sense to most industry people, with only a single acronym used (IP – internet protocol). But let’s dig a little deeper!

 

When I arrived at our CES suite, I was inundated with acronyms that are shaping the industry in which I work. We had on display new developments in our SoC (system-on-a-chip) family – as we introduced our EN7300-series, our latest SoC to integrate High-Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC) decoding, Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA®) 2.0 home networking, and dual DVB-S/S2 demodulators using full-band capture satellite tuning among other components. We also demonstrated new silicon support available today for 4KP30 upscaling and discussed 4KP60 solutions that will be available in 2014. We highlighted our c.LINK™ broadband access technology that is widely deployed in China, and highlighted our first-generation dCSS (digital Channel Stacking Switch) technology, which is already deployed by DIRECTV to reduce the cost and complexity of satellite installation and set-top box (STB) upgrades.

One theme that rang out at CES was the idea of the ‘Connected Home.’ Connecting devices to the home network is often challenging, and so is ‘talking the talk’ in this segment. Standards such as DNLA (Digital Living Network Alliance®) are there to help identify devices that will work together when plugged into the home network. Wireless (IEEE 802.11XX), although the most convenient, has its limitations and then there exists MoCA, which Entropic pioneered and today is probably the best kept secret from a consumer perspective but installed in approximately 35M homes in the U.S. MoCA-based adapters come in many different shapes and sizes, such as Ethernet-to-Coax Adapters (ECAs) or their wireless counterparts, Wireless Ethernet-to-Coax Adapters (WECAs), USB bus-powered MoCA Adapters, which are designed to connect Smart TV’s that require Internet, and the list continues. The technology is already widely embedded in subscribers’ Pay-TV STBs and gateways, facilitating high performance in-home networking over a coax network backbone. MoCA has initially been adopted by U.S. operators and provides a very robust ‘no new wire’ solution to deliver multiple HD streams over the home network with QoS (Quality of Service), multi-room offerings, shared EPG (Electronic Program Guide) and broadband or wireless extension to rooms distant from the wireless modem and router. MoCA can co-exist with the broadcast content whether it be cable, satellite or terrestrial and allows bandwidth-intensive broadband services, including OTT (over-the-top) and 4K content as well as VoD (Video on demand) services to be accessible – all using the same in-home network infrastructure.

Hardware wasn’t the only acronym culprit in the Pay-TV segment; software had its own vernacular too. The RDK (‘Reference Design Kit’) initiative, an open source software stack for set-top boxes continued to gain momentum at CES and among the cable ecosystem, in general. As an early RDK licensee, Entropic showed its Open RDK platform, using its EN7588 SoC that leverages the OpenEmbedded build process to ensure full cross-platform software portability. Applications that ran on the RDK platform included CVP-2 (commercial video profile 2) and improved browser performance for RDK based on Google’s BLINK browser. CES also brought enhancements to RUI (remote user interface) implementations with many RVU® Alliance members demonstrated the expansion of the RVU standard into the cloud, with RVU 2.0. And to round out the software acronym category, let’s not forget operator-based CAS (Conditional Access System) and DRM (Digital Rights Management), which is integrated into SoCs, like Entropic’s, to empower global Pay-TV operators with the ability to deliver secure premium content and services to multiple screens within the home. In fact, Entropic was the first SoC vendor to show a fully-capable OTT HDMI IP-STB stick with 802.11n wireless and broadcast-quality CAS support.

Hopefully this article shows how acronyms (just a few of many!) are used in the Pay-TV sector; and ignoring them may be at your own peril. You have to be on the same page as your customers and partners and should actively ensure you share the same language and path going forward.

I now have to prepare something for our upcoming sales meeting to discuss our company’s CRM system and work on my strategy to increase revenue and GPM in my territory.  When it comes to acronyms never be too shy to ask, LoL.

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