Category: Current and Future Trends

Barnes & Noble beats Amazon to the punch with lighted e-ink Nook (hands-on) | E-book readers – CNET Reviews

 

Barnes & Noble beats Amazon to the punch with lighted e-ink Nook (hands-on) | E-book readers – CNET Reviews

My comments

Illuminating non-self-lighting displays

The new e-ink display technology is showing up a few issues here, especially with use in darker environments. The typical solution for dark-environment ebook reading was to use an accessory cover that had an integrated light of some sort. But it will follow the same path as the liquid-crystal display as I outline below.

Initially, if an application required any form of useability in a dark environment such as a watch, the manufacturer installed a filament bulb in the side of the display and this was lit up by the user pressing a button. Later on, in the mid-80s, device manufacturers used a LED array installed behind the display to backlight small displays like number displays. This typically provided a relatively-consistent illumination effect across the display area and allowed for such practices as changeable illumination colours, which was asked for with car radios.

This became the norm through the mid-90s until some watch manufacturers worked on the use of “electroluminescent” illumination technology which provided an illuminated display on their watch with very little battery consumption and an even display lighting.

Large LCD screens for video / data display applications do use cold-cathode fluorescent backlighting but have moved to white-LED backlighting as a way to be power-efficient.

Research that has been done

The current problem with the e-ink display is that it isn’t self-illuminating. This is although there is research by Pixel QI in to establishing a display technology that can combine what the LCD offers with the e-ink technology. This is to counteract the problem of LCD and OLED display applications being “washed out” in bright sunlight.

But there could be the use of a white electroluminescent panel behind an e-ink display, especially a colour fast-refreshing type to allow for a highly-flexible “use-anywhere” display that can conserve power.

Conclusion

Once we see further work on the e-ink display taking place, it could then allow for this technology to move beyond the Nook or Kindle e-reader.

Send to Kindle

The full-featured wristwatch has come back thanks to Sony

Articles

Sony unveils ‘Dick Tracy’ Android wristwatch

Sony unveils the SmartWatch, syncs with Android phones | News.com.au

From the horse’s mouth

Product page – Sony UK

My Comments

Since the late 1970s, some Japanese firms like Seiko and Casio introduced multi-function digital wristwatches. These typically had an integrated calendar, alarm clock and stopwatch as well as the time display with a seconds count; and showed this information on a liquid-crystal display. There were some economy models that came with just a time display and a calendar.

Infact, through 1980-81, these were a “must-have” and people could impress each other by showing that new digital watch they had bought. They would even step their watch through the functions that it could do.

Through the 80s, manufacturers gradually added extra functions to these watches such as hourly chimes, musical alarms, phonebooks, four-function calculators and even games as a way of differentiating their product. This trend started to peel off through the 1990s due to various factors such as an effective “innovation ceiling” for this product class as well as the mobile phone becoming a commodity.

Even now, the smartphone has displaced the wristwatch as a personal timepiece, with some people wearing a quartz analogue watch as a “dress watch” or not using a watch at all. This is due to the smartphone implementing a clock that works off an Internet-based or mobile-network-based master clock and setting up for daylight-saving automatically. They also have the same functionality as the most tricked-out 1980s-era digital wristwatch, if not more.

There have been a few attempts at implementing a digital watch that works as a remote terminal for a smartphone but Sony have released the latest in the form of the “Smart Watch”.

This is an Android-powered wristwatch that is paired with an Android smartphone using Bluetooth technology. The phone runs a special communications app that allows it to be a display and control surface for that phone. You control this watch using its OLED touchscreen rather than pressing one of the buttons on the side of those watches, There is the ability to upload apps to the watch via the communications app so you have the right functions on your wrist.

At the moment, there needs to be work done on providing a level playing field for data communications between smartphones or similar devices and remote-display devices like these watches. Devices like watches would also need to keep the time independently of the phone when they are offline from that phone so they can do what a watch does best.

This could become an interesting return to the watch just like what has happened in the 1980s where the desire for many functions on your wrist made this accessory earn its utility value rather than fashion value.

Send to Kindle

A serious “all-in-one” workstation computer that answers the iMac

Videos

Video reveal of the HP Z1 workstation

Video introduction of the HP Z1 Workstation

Product Page

HP Z1 Workstation

My Comments

When I first saw the videos of HP’s new Z1 all-in-one workstation with 27” LCD display, I had seen it as a game-changer especially for Windows-based workstation-class computing. This is more so as an increasing number of people live in and work from smaller homes or rent smaller office spaces and the traditional workstation may not fit these settings anymore. It may also be seen similarly as a game-changer for the “serious gamers” who would like to play World of Warcraft or other similar games on high-performance computers.

Typically this class of computing was serviced by a computer that had a separate “tower-style” system unit located under the desk. This was connected up to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse. Some of the high-end Apple iMac all-in-one computers may have satisfied high-end graphics and multimedia needs; and there may have been a few computers with compact system units serving in this class of high-intensity computer.

I had also reviewed a Sony VAIO J Series “all-in-one” computer for this site and had found that the compact nature of these computers has a distinct useability advantage over the traditional desktop with the “tower-style” system unit that I was using.

HP has brought this kind of compact standards-based all-in-one computer to the architecture, engineering and graphic arts industries in a form that is reliable and continually serviceable. Here, the system can be laid flat and opened up so you can repair or improve the system, like as you could with the traditional workstation-class computer. It still needs the forced-air cooling but the software regulates how the fans run so as to cut down on the noise.

Some people may see this as being too “cutting edge” for a workstation-class standards-based “all-in-one” and there may be foibles associated with this model. But I would see this as a chance to bring high-performance computing in a home-friendly compact form without having to have the Apple logo.

Send to Kindle

Next generation HTTP afoot

Article

Engineers rebuild HTTP as a faster Web foundation | Deep Tech – CNET News

My Comments

HTTP has been the standard transport protocol since the dawn of the World Wide Web and effectively became the backbone for most file transfer and streaming activities of the modern Internet.

But there is a desire in the Internet industry to bring this standard to 2.0 and bring some major improvements to this standard to cater for today’s Internet reality.

Data multiplexing between client and server

One key capability is to implement the SPDY protocol which supports multiplexing of data between the Web server and the Web browser. This is to provide for faster and efficient data throughput by shifting the data using one “channel”; as well as providing support for managing quality-of-service.

This may involve the deployment of audio and video material under a high quality-of-service while text data and software downloads can pass through on an “as-needed” basis.

Inherent end-to-end encryption support

The SPDY protocol that is to underpin HTTP 2.0 also provides support for end-to-end transport-layer encryption. But Microsoft wanted this feature to be optional so it is implemented according to the needs, such as a blog not needing encryption whereas an Internet banking or device management Web page would need this level of encryption.

But I would also like to support in this feature the ability not just to encrypt data but to authenticate the same data using a digital signature. Here, it could permit users to be sure that the Web site they are visiting or the file they are downloading is authentic and would be especially of importance with field-updated BIOS and firmware deployments, as I raised in my commentary about a lawsuit involving HP concerning this practice and its security ramifications.

Caching support at network level

Another feature that is being proposed is to provide for network-level caching of HTTP data. This is intended to provide for environments like mobile networks where it could be desirable to cache data in the service network rather than on the user’s mobile device; rather than introducing proxy servers to provide this kind of caching.

It will also allow mobile and embedded devices to avoid the requirement to have Web caches for quick loading of Web pages. Of course this will not be needed for those Web pages that have regularly-updated data such as Web dashboards, Web mail or similar applications.

Other issues

It also is worth investigating whether the HTTP 2.0 standard could support applications like client-server email delivery or advanced document authoring such as version control.

Of course this development will take a long time to achieve and will require some form of HTTP 1.x backward compatibility so there isn’t the loss of continuity through an upgrade cycle.

Send to Kindle

Delivering purchased content collections to the home network

Apple and others may have us streaming content on a temporary basis in to our homes after we subscribe to them or another content provider but we will still want to download content to our home networks. This is so we can believe that we really have bought and owned the content rather than perpetually renting it. As well, an increasing number of content providers will take advantage of the digital environment to affordably distribute content under a “to-own” philosophy where we can buy that content in a digital form for cheap.

An example of this would be a few of the US’s well-known magazines, especially National Geographic, offering their back-issues as a collection of PDF files on a CD collection or a USB hard disk. Similarly, we would purchase digital albums of our favourite recordings from various online stores including iTunes. As well, when I went to a travel fair on Sunday 19 February, a country provided an optical-disc-based “slide collection” of images of that country at their stall.

The question that many will ask is how can it be made easier to deposit this content so it is available across the home network. Here, we could copy the files to a public “media folder” on a network-attached storage unit that is on the home network. But we would have to know where that “media folder” exists and how we should present the media to the network. As well, we would need to make it easier for a collection of PDF or other “electronic-book” files to be discovered on a mobile computing device such as a tablet.

A secure network installation routine for small networks

There typically are installation routines in place for provisioning software to computers but these look after putting the software in place on the computer from a user-carried, network-hosted or downloaded package and making the software discoverable in the computer’s operating system. The practice is also similar for delivering software updates and add-ons for network-attached storage devices and other similar devices.

Most media that is purchased online for download is typically downloaded to the user’s regular computer or, in some cases, their mobile device and manually copied to the network-attached storage using the operating system if it is to be shared. It also holds true for digital photos that are downloaded from one’s digital camera or content held on a “carry-through” physical media container like an optical disc or USB memory key. This can be a pain for people who don’t have much computer experience or patience.

One way to make this easier would be to provide a secure simple network installation routine for content collections. This could be based on the routine knowing common variables that represent the content collection and where particular content classes should go. It could manifest in a download handler associated with an online music store that knows the location of the download-music folder on the NAS.

Such routines would need to have a high level of security in order to prevent questionable software from being made available to the network. They will also have to properly support and handle permission systems that are part of most network operating systems.

These routines could allow the copying of “new” media files from the source to particular folders or, in some cases, mount the content collection to the NAS’s file system if it was in something like a USB hard disk such as the National Geographic example. Then it would force the media to be annexed to the index created by the NAS for searching and browsing the media. Of course, there will be the desire to install a skinned microsite which allows one to browse or search a media collection and this would work if the NAS uses a Web server.

Making “electronic-hard-copy” formats discoverable over the network

With DLNA at its current point, it is now feasible to provide images and audio-visual content to nearly every network-enabled audio and video player, allowing users to search or browse for the content they are after. This can be done using the device’s control surface or a control point hosted on another device and the browsing and searching can be performed against many different attributes such as the artist, title, date, user-assigned keyword or genre or a combination thereof.

But this concept hasn’t been extended to the “electronic hard-copy” document that is used for e-publishing. This will become more relevant as we purchase e-books and similar documents and create our own “e-libraries” and store them on NAS drives on our home networks. This will be of importance as large collections of works are made available in electronic hard-copy format for sell-through download or supply on a physical medium like a USB hard disk or optical-disc collection.

Here, PDF, ePub, XPS and other electronic-hard-copy files could support standardised metadata and the DLNA specification could be extended to permit discovery of content held in these electronic hard-copy formats. This would allow people who use e-readers, tablets and smartphones equipped with the right software to discover and download this material to these devices without having to know the file hierarchy of a NAS or use file managers to “pick up” the content. This software could then be integrated in to these devices in a similar manner to how DLNA media player software is becoming de rigeur for the standards-based tablet or smartphone.

Conclusion

The main issue here is that to be comfortable with newer content-delivery methods, we need to he able to do what we used to do in acquiring and annexing the content to household-common content pools so that all members of the household can gain access to the material. This then has to be made easier to d when it comes to file-delivered content especially for people with limited computer skills and what has been made available for photos, music and video content must extend to e-books and similar content. It also must allow the use of standards-based technology that doesn’t tie the user down to a particular vendor.

Send to Kindle

What is the sound-tuning that is now implemented in laptops all about?

HP Pavillion dv7-6013TX laptop - keyboard highlightedA trend that I have seen with laptop computers and some all-in-one desktop computers is for them to have their sound output “tuned” by a company involved in the recording or reproduction of music. In a similar vein to how a motor-racing team will work a car destined for street use to improve its performance, these firms, such as Harman (JBL), Bang & Olufsen or Dr. Dre’s Beats Audio,  will work on the sound-reproduction systems to improve the computer’s sound reproduction, whether through its integrated speakers or through headphones attached to the computer.

The main issue that these efforts are trying to conquer is the tinny sound that emanates from the typical laptop speakers. Previously, these computers used just a pair of small speakers installed in their small chassis that didn’t yield good bass or midrange reproduction and they were driven via a low-power stereo amplifier in the computer. The setup was just good enough for audio prompts and, in some cases, speech from people without accents, yet did a horrendous job at reproducing music or sound effects in video or game content.  This is compared to the way even a cheaper portable radio or tape player that is equipped with the traditional 3” cone speaker can reproduce most frequencies “across the board”.  It is made easier due to these sets having a larger cabinet that isn’t crammed out with circuitry and reproducing sound through a larger speaker with a deeper cone. End-users are asking a lot more out of their computers as they use them as personal jukeboxes, movie players and games machines or businesses make heavy use of them as voice and video telephony endpoints.

HP Pavilion dm4 BeatsAudio Edition laptop at a Wi-Fi hotspotThe challenge is to keep these computers slim yet yield a proper and desirable sound across the audio spectrum. Typically the modifications will focus on the sound-reproduction and amplification circuitry as well as the integrated speakers. For example, there will be digital-sound-processing circuitry that works as a tone control for the computer, with the ability to improve the tone for the integrated speakers.

There will be the implementation of Class-D power amplifier circuitry that is designed by people in the audio industry and the sound will emanate from a multi-way speaker system. An example of this is the ASUS Ultrabooks implementing Bang & Olufsen ICEPower audio amplification. Most systems will use a 2.1 speaker setup with a separate bass driver that may be separately amplified, but some may use a multi-way speaker setup with many speaker units to achieve the sound of larger traditional speakers. As well, there would be some work on planning out the speaker-enclosure area to allow the sound to come out of the system properly.

From what I have noticed when I reviewed many of the laptops, I have come across some setups where the speakers can be muffled easily when you rest your hands on the palmrest, or some computers may sound better when placed on a harder surface. I have also noticed that the screen area isnt necessarily used on most laptops as a place to locate speakers because when you have speakers there, you can improve the stereo separation and sound localisation there.

There are still the many challenges ahead for these sound-tuning projects, where there is an expectation to yield that punchy bass from the built-in speakers. This is usually the kind of stuff that the marketers hype on about when they promote the computers that are equipped with these sound-tuning efforts. Other than that, these efforts have succeeded in putting the life back in to sound reproduction from the larger “new-computing-environment” laptop computers.

Send to Kindle

Corning’s future vision of glass

Videos

 

A Day Made Of Glass 1 (link to this)

 

A Day Made Of Glass 2: Same Day (link to this)

My Comments

I had heard about Corning’s new series of videos about glass being more than just windows, mirrors and drinks containers. Their vision in these videos was to have windows, mirrors and similar objects as display surfaces for computer-hosted data; as well as for other applications like photovoltaic (solar) cells or electrochromic uses like tinting or frosting on demand.

Some of these visions include windows that are clear but become frosted “on demand” for privacy or show images or text such as a themed photo cluster or a diagram, with some being touchscreens for interacting with the display or being a control surface for lighting for example. The applications were being extended to automotive use like the glass displays being part of a dashboard for example.

This has been made feasible through efforts like the “Gorilla Glass” technology that is now being implemented in smartphones, tablets and large displays like TVs. Here, this glass is about an increasingly-tough surface or about a thinner glass surface for an LCD or OLED display application (including a touchscreen) being as tough as a glass surface of regular thickness.

It is even worth noting that Philips was also involved in “taking glass further” with mirrors that are displays and lately with an OLED light  / solar-cell combination which is transparent one moment and a light-source another moment while supplying extra power during the day. This latter application was pitched again at cars with a way of bringing more light in to the car but also working as an interior light when it is darker.

At least this shows that there will be many different game-changers when it comes to the design of display and similar technologies.

Send to Kindle

Making sure your small business is ready for IPv6

Article

HP Blogs – 6 steps for SMBs to become IPv6-ready – The HP Blog Hub

My Comments

There is all the talk of us running out of IPv4 public IP addresses for the Internet, and an increased awareness of IPv6 Internet technology. One major driver for the IPv6 technology is the rolling out of next-generation broadband services; where this feature will be seen as being part of the “next generation” mould.

In the near time, the typical IPv6 network will operate as a “dual-stack” setup where there is an IPv6 network and an IPv4 network operating over the same network space. A device such as an IPv6-ready router will typically bridge the gap between the dual-stack devices and the IPv4-only devices by assisting in the discovery of the devices and transferring data between the two different network stacks.

Outside IT contractors

If you do regularly engage outside contractors for your IT needs such as your POS / property-management technology, it would pay to ask whether the technical staff know about IPv6 and how to deploy it. Most of these contractors may think that small business doesn’t need IPv6 but as the Internet moves to this technology, it pays to be future-proof.

ISPs and Webhosts

It is worth making sure that your business’s ISP and Internet hosted services such as your Webhost are ready for IPv6 or have intentions to roll out a customer-facing IPv6 service.

Most ISPs and Webhosts are likely to have the backend of their services working on IPv6 technology but their customer-facing services like the Web services or Internet service may not be ready. This may be due to the presumption that most customer setups will fail when confronted with IPv6. The exception may be the ISPs that serve a “switched-on” audience that knows their way around the Internet technology; or ISPs and Webhosts that offer customer-facing IPv6 service as a limited-user beta test and they may offer a “dual-stack” setup.

It also pays to check that your domain host supports domain records that are compatible with IPv6 setups. This includes having AAAAA-form DNS records that can resolve your domain name to IPv6 addresses.

Hardware

Computers that run Windows Vista or 7, MacOS X Lion or recent Linux distributions will be ready for IPv6; with Windows XP having support through a downloadable module from Microsoft’s Web site. Relatively-recent computer equipment can be upgraded from prior operating systems to the newer IPv6-compliant operating systems. For the mobile platforms, the IOS (iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch), Android, Symbian and Windows Phone 7 platforms do support IPv6. They will typically operate on a “dual-stack” arrangement by being able to service an IPv4 network and an IPv6 network at the same time through the same network interface,

Similarly, most network printers pitched at the business end of the market that were released over the last few years would have support for IPv6 in a dual-stack setup.

As for routers, managed switches, access points and other network hardware, I would suggest that you check for firmware that supports IPv6 for your existing equipment. Keep an eye on the manufacturer’s Website for newer firmware updates that support IPv6.  If you are purchasing or specifying newer network equipment, make sure that it does support IPv6 or has future support for this in a planned firmware update. Most unmanaged switches, HomePlug-Ethernet bridges and devices that don’t use a Web or SMNP user interface would not need to be compliant with IPv6. This is because these devices work at levels below the IP stacks.

In the case of routers, the device should work as a “dual-stack” unit with support for routing between the two different IP network types. It should also be able to cope with working with a dual-stack Internet service especially as the business Internet services that provide IPv6 will do so in a dual-stack manner.

When I review any network hardware including printers, I will identify those pieces of equipment that are IPv6-ready so as to help you know whether the equipment will be future-proof.

Software

As for software on these computers, any desktop firewall software or other network-utility software that you run would need to support IPv6 operation. This is something that recent versions of this software would cater for, but you should make sure of this when you specify new software. It also holds true for any other network-management programs that need to work on an IP level.

The application software that serves office functionality or line-of-business needs wouldn’t be of concern in relation to IPv6 because the operating system would be handling the network-resource requests for these programs.

Conclusion

The key issue with assuring IPv6 compatibility for your small business network is to make sure that your computer equipment works on dual-stack IPv4/IPv6 software and / or there is a router that works as n IPv4/IPv6 bridge on both sides of the network-Internet “edge”. As well, the IT contractors and services that you engage would need to be knowledgeable about IPv6 and the impending rollout for your business.

Send to Kindle

Renault debuts in-dash Android system concept with app market

Article

Renault debuts R-Link, an in-dash Android system with app market — Engadget

My Comments

The Android operating system isn’t just in your hands anymore with a tablet or smartphone. Renault has made sure it will be in the dashboard of the car, together with an app store to back the concept.

There is a main questions that I have about the concept at the moment. One is whether the system will use an updatable wireless-broadband link or a Wi-Fi network or both for data transfer to and from the network?

But what I see of the idea is the main use of the apps for driver and passenger entertainment, in the form of DLNA-based synchronisation of media with the home network, Internet radio (vTuner and similar Internet-radio directories, Last.FM, Pandora, etc) and similar applications. But there are other app ideas like advanced navigation including “book-ahead” functionality and roadside-telematics integration, and car statistics monitoring.

There could even be the ideas of using this Android platform to integrate the vehicle with home automation. The most obvious scenario that would come to mind would be looking at the dashboard to know whether the garage door that should be closed is infact closed and then touch a button to close it. This could avoid the need to look at the rear-view mirror as you drive out to check on the garage.

At least this effort by Renault with the Android platform could become a platform for developing in-vehicle infotainment and telematics systems and applications.

Send to Kindle

DLNA in the hotel room

Article

Ericsson’s proof-of-concept solution for DLNA in the hotel room (PDF)

Harbourside Apartments - one of those serviced-apartment blocks that could benefit from DLNA

An example of a hotel or serviced apartment block which would be relevant to DLNA

My comments

Why DLNA in the hotel room?

Increased availability of affordable DLNA-compliant entertainment equipment

Most manufacturers who sell consumer electronics are offering electronic entertainment devices that can be connected to a home network and can pull down content from that network or the Internet. When it comes to obtaining media from the home network, these manufacturers will use the established UPnP AV / DLNA technology rather than reinvent the wheel. This feature is being promoted as a distinct product differentiator and will soon end up being offered across all of a manufacturer’s lineup except, perhaps, the very-low-end models.

Some of this equipment is available in form factors that would suit the typical hotel room, suite or serviced apartment. Examples of this include the Sony CMT-MX750Ni / CMT-MX700Ni and the Rotel RCX-1500 music systems that I have reviewed on this site as well as the increasing number of “smart TVs” offered by LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony. In the same context, a DLNA-compliant network media adaptor could displace a solution-specific option as the gateway to premium content in the hotel as has been investigated for residential cable TV.

Sony CMT-MX750Ni Internet-enabled micro music system

Sony CMT-MX750Ni – an example of a DLNA-compliant music system for a hotel room or serviced apartment

In the case of some of the network media adaptors and “smart TVs”, it could be feasible to integrate site-specific apps or Web links to facilitate interactive services like room-service ordering or in-room checkout that have been part of hotel-based video systems.

Access to online content through mobile computing devices

Most people are making use of online content services like Internet radio, Last.fm, YouTube and Netflix on the mobile computing devices that they take with them all around the world. This also includes use of the Social Web where Facebook and Twitter profiles and pages are replete with photo and video content hosted or referred to by the profile’s / page’s owners.

Multimedia content held on users’ mobile computing devices

Another fact is that guests want to be able to bring their own content. Examples of this include music that is held on a smartphone or reviewing just-taken digital images or footage held on a digital camera or laptop on the large-screen TV.

Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablet computer

Acer Iconia Tab A500 – an Android example of a platform tablet computer

This is being taken further by the fact that platform smartphones and tablets have DLNA controller abilities either with them or as a low-cost or free app; and that mid-range and premium cameras will be equipped with Wi-Fi and “show-on-DLNA” functionality as a product differentiator.

This concept can allow better use of site-specific media like the pay-per-view movies. For example, a movie that is started on the lounge TV in a suite or apartment could be completed on the bedroom TV or a guest could view one of those pay-per-view movies on their iPad or similar tablet.

Personally I also see this concept as part of the desire by the hospitality sector that your hotel room or apartment is your home away from home.

Requirements Of This Setup

Different Media Pools

There are three different media pools that one has to consider when implementing DLNA technology in the hotel environment.

“Own media pool”

This represents the media files that are owned and maintained by the guests. They would be held on secondary storage in a portable computer, mobile device or camera or held on a network-attached-storage device.

Examples of these include music and image collections held on a notebook computer or just-taken digital images and movies held on a camera, camcorder or mobile phone. This could encompass content that is offloaded to a compact NAS device like Thecus’s N0204 “pocket rocket” NAS.

Property-local media pool

This media pool represents all media available to the guests courtesy of the hotel. It would typically be held on servers located within the property and the most obvious application would be those pay-per-view movies that guests can buy and view on their room’s TV.

But it can encompass any “broadcast-to-network” feeds used for distributing regular, cable or satellite TV through the building via the LAN or line-level media feeds used to pipe audio or video content from cabarets, conference suites or similar locations around the hotel.

Global media pool

The global media pool is representative of media that is owned by third parties and held on servers accessible to the hotel via Internet. The guest would simply select the content from the service provider and have it appear on their TV.

Examples of this would include IPTV services; Internet radio; online-media services like catch-up TV,YouTube or Netflix; the Social Web or cloud-driven remote access to one’s home media pool like Skifta.

A distinct logical realm of control

The room or apartment where the guest stays has to be seen as a distinct realm of control for the guest. This also includes situations where two or more rooms or apartments are hired by the one guest to be used effectively as one room, such as the common “connecting rooms” setup.

This means that the guests have to be able to push the media they want to view to any of the DLNA-compliant devices in their room, whether they bring the devices themselves or use the hotel-supplied devices. It also means that they have access to all of the content they can use, whether it’s the media on their laptop, the pay-per-view movies in the hotel or content on their Netflix or YouTube subscription.

But they can’t push the content to neighbouring guests’ TVs without invitation nor can they gain access to content pools they aren’t normally entitled to.

Ericsson’s proof-of-concept solution

This is a “proof-of-concept” setup that works on the assumption that there is no Wi-Fi Internet service in the premises and the mobile device is using wireless-broadband i.e. a 3G data plan for its Internet.

The hotel will need computer equipment on its network that performs the following functions: a Residential Gateway which links the hotel network to the Internet; and a Residential Control Device which controls access to DLNA devices in the guest rooms or apartments.

The guest’s smartphone will need a handler app which is part of the process of establishing the relationship between the mobile devices and the room devices and is performed whether the Internet connection is via Wi-Fi or wireless broadband. This app maps the DLNA equipment in the hotel room to the “global media pool” available through the online media service based on a unique identifier which is generated when the guest checks in for their hotel stay.

This identifier could be obtained by the handler app through a QR or similar code that is shown on the room’s TV screen when the guest enters the room; or printed on the room keycard that the reception staff hand to the guest. A phone capable of working with near-field-communication setups could obtain the identifier through this path, again at checkin or when the guest lets themselves in to their room if the room lock uses NFC technology; such as some of the newer VingCard RFID setups.

Then the handler would list out the DLNA devices in that room as “content sinks” for the guest to enjoy their content on.

Missing Factors

In-house public Wi-Fi

There is a missing factor with the Ericsson proof-of-concept setup. Here, most hotels will want to provide Wi-Fi Internet service as a value-added or extra-cost amenity. As well, all smartphones and tablet computers have integrated Wi-Fi wireless functionality.

The typical way of provisioning Wi-Fi in the hospitality industry is to implement a site-wide public Wi-Fi extended-service-set covering the whole of the building. As well, if the public Wi-Fi network is properly setup, there isn’t the ability to link data between the Wi-Fi-enabled computing devices, so as to assure privacy and security for each computer user. I have raised on this site the idea of evolving this secure-network setup further to allow clusters of device

There hasn’t been work done on the idea of implementing a room-unique or guest-unique network setup for the hotel industry. This is although some hotels were trying out the use of “MiFi” routers to provide guest-unique network setups, which I learnt of in an article in the HotelChatter blog; as well as the many Wi-Fi routers that I had seen set up at the Australian Audio & AV Show in the Melbourne Marriott Hotel in order to provide DLNA media networks for demonstrating network-driven music distribution.

Access to local media

Another missing factor is the ability to provide content that is held in the guest’s own media pool to the room’s DLNA ecosystem. Here, we may want access to the media held on our devices, whether it is music held on a smartphone, videos held on a tablet or just-taken images held on our Ultrabook.

Here, there wasn’t any question about gaining access to media held on these devices via the hotel’s public-access network infrastructure either through “pull” (access through DLNA playback device’s controls) or “push” (source device’s control app) methods.

Multiple rooms

The last factor that wasn’t considered is the desire to pass media between rooms of a cluster such as guestrooms hired by a family or a conference room hired by a business alongside the guestrooms for the conference guests as part of a “block booking”.

These multi-room bookings may provide for arrangements like allowing users to shift the content to other rooms under limited circumstances. Similarly, it could be feasible to have content held on one device in one room viewable on devices in other rooms used by the group.

On the other hand, it would be desireable to prevent content being push-played by one group member to the room of another group member as a way to assure privacy and security for that member.

This situation can be catered for using the Residential Control Device software by allowing bridging between the unique IDs under certain circumstances.

What would be essential for successful DLNA setups in the hotel sector

Local logical network serving one or more physical networks

Here, you would need to create a local subnet (logical network) for each room / apartment or cluster or rooms. The physical Wi-Fi networks that are part of this local subnet would need to work with a unique SSID and stay-unique Primary Shared Key for their security. They would be served by a local Wi-Fi router that would be managed by the hotel’s “back end” software.

This software would bootstrap the router so that it is set up to the guest’s needs and allow guest-supplied equipment to simply and securely enter the subnet, linking it to the Internet and the hotel-supplied DLNA equipment. This would be set up with NFC or QR-Code technology or WPS-PBC setup when the guest enters their room.

Upon checkout, this router would be set up to a “ground-zero” mode which doesn’t provide casual access to the Internet or the DLNA devices until another guest subsequently checks in.

A consistent connection and discovery experience

When you connect your computer equipment to this network, the discovery experience for DLNA-compliant equipment must be the same as for when you use your computer at home.

The local logical network can make this feasible by exposing only the DLNA-compliant AV equipment that exists within the guest room / apartment at the exclusion of equipment and computers in neighbouring rooms. Yet the content-discovery experience is what would be expected for the class of equipment. This includes the use of control points to “push” content to playback devices.

IPv6 – a main facilitator

A major facilitator for this setup would be the use of IPv6 networks. The address pool offered by this standard is much bigger than the address pool offered by the legacy IPv4 technology and there is inherent support for secure tunnels between logical networks.

In this application, an IPv6 setup can comfortably create local logical networks for each and every guest room in a large Vegas-class resort or downtown (central business district) hotel. There is no need to implement network-address-translation to permit the local logical networks and the back-end systems aren’t destabilised. There is the ability for IPv6 routers to create v6-v4 links to legacy IPv4 devices which represent most DLNA media playback devices and this has to be supported and functioning properly in these devices.

Conclusion

What needs to happen to facilitate the concept of DLNA-based media management in the hotel environment is for further research and study to take place. Here, it would need to be based on technologies that are currently available to the hotelier and potential guests, such as in-house public Wi-Fi networks and near-field communications.

The functionality could also be implemented in network-infrastructure equipment through the use of software that is deployed to the equipment while it is in use, rather than through replacing or adding new hardware. Any DLNA-enablement setup should not preclude the use of media devices that are available to the consumer marketplace.

Send to Kindle