Category: Network Lifestyle And Activities

Being aware of fake news in the UK

Previous HomeNetworking01.info coverage on this topic UK Flag

Silicon Valley Starts A War Against Fake News

Fact Checking Now Part Of The Online Media Aggregation Function

Useful UK-focused resources

FullFact.org (UK independent factchecking charity)

BBC Reality Check

Channel 4 News FactCheck

Political Parties

A few of the main political parties to watch in the UK

Conservatives (Tories)

Labour

Liberal Democrats

Green Party

UK Independence Party

Scottish National Party

Plaid Cymru (Party Of Wales)

Ulster Unionist Party

Sinn Fein

My Comments and advice

A key issue that is affecting how newsworthy events are covered and what people should become aware of in the news is the rise of propaganda, satire and similar information disguised as news. This situation is being described as “fake news”, “post-truth” and “alternative facts” and a significant number of academics have described it as a reason why Donald Trump became President of the USA or why the British citizens wanted the UK to leave the European Union.

I am giving some space in HomeNetworking01.info to the fake-news topic because an increasing number of people are obtaining their daily news from online sources using a smartphone, tablet or computer. This may be in addition to the traditional papers or the radio or TV newscasts and current-affairs shows or in lieu of these resources.

There have been many factors that have led to a fertile ground for fake news to spread. One of these is that most of us are using online search / aggregation services and social media as our news sources. Similarly, due to reduced circulation or ratings, various well-known news publishers and broadcasters are cutting back on their news budgets which then reduce the number of journalists in the newsroom or reduce news coverage to a quality not dissimilar to a news bulletin offered by a music-focused radio station.

Add to this the fact that it is relatively cheap and easy to set up a Website that looks very enticing thanks to low-cost “no-questions-asked” Web-host services and easy-to-use content management systems. It has led to the rise of Websites that carry propaganda or other material dressed up as news with this material being of questionable accuracy or value. Let’s not forget that it is easy to use Twitter or Facebook to share articles with our friends or followers especially if these articles support our beliefs.

Autocomplete list in Google Search Web user interface

Google users can report Autocomplete suggestions that they come across in their search-engine experience/

It is also made worse by the cross-border nature of the Internet where one can set up a Website or social-media presence in one country to target citizens in another country with questionable messages. This makes it easier to run the propaganda but avoid being caught out by a broadcast-standards or election-oversight authority or the judicial system in the target jurisdiction.

The fact that the UK are going to the polls for a general election this year means that Britons will become more vulnerable to the fake-news phenomenon. This is a situation that is also affecting France and Germany, two of continental Europe’s major economic, political and population centres who either are in the throes of completing a general election.

Reporting autocomplete suggestions in Google Search Web user experience

What you see when you report autocomplete suggestions in the Google Search Web user experience

The Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Damian Collins (Conservatives), has raised this issue concerning Facebook and urging them to filter out fake news. This is although Silicon Valley have been taking steps to combat this problem through the following actions:

  • “turn off the money-supply tap” by refusing to partner their ad networks with fake-news sites or apps
  • engage with fact-checking organisations and departments that are either part of established newsrooms or universities to simplify the ability for their users to check the veracity of a claim
  • implementing a feedback loop to allow users to report auto-complete search suggestions, “snippets” answers, social-media posts and similar material shown in their sites, including the ability to report items as fake news
  • maintaining stronger user-account management and system security including eliminating accounts used just to deliver fake news and propaganda
  • modifying search-engine ranking algorithm or “trending-stories” listing algorithms to make it harder for fake news to surface.

What can you do?

Look for information that qualifies the kind of story if you are viewing a collection of headlines like a search or news-aggregation site or app. For example, Google has implemented tagging in their Google News aggregation site and apps such as “satire”.

Trust your gut reaction to that claim that is being offered in that Facebook post before you share it. If you find that the story sounds like exaggeration or is “off the beam”, it sounds like fake news. As well, the copy in many fake-news articles is written in a way to whip up anger or other immediate sentiment.

Check the host Website or use a search engine to see if trusted sources, especially the ones you trust, are covering the story. As well, if your browser offers a plug-in or extension that highlights fake-news and questionable content, it may be worth adding this feature.

Following news from one or more trusted news sources (including their online presence) may be the way to go to verify news being pushed around on the Internet.

For example, switching on the radio or the telly for the news may be a good idea so as to be sure of what really is going on with this election. In the case of the radio, you may find that BBC Radio 4, BBC Local Radio or a talk-focused independent station like LBC may be the better resource for deeper coverage of the election. Music stations who are part of the same family as a news or talk station such as the BBC stations or Capital, Heart and Classic FM who are part of the same family as LBC can also be of value if you use their short news bulletins as a news source. This is because their news bulletins are fed by the newsroom that serves the talk station.

As well, visit the online sites offered by trusted publishers and broadcasters to check the news in relationship to what the parties are saying. It also includes heading to Websites operated by the various parties or candidates so you can get the facts and policies “from the horse’s mouth”.

You also must take advantage of the feedback loop that Facebook, Google and other online services offer to call out questionable content that appears during the election period. Typically this will be options to report the content or autocomplete hit as something like being inappropriate.

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Competition arises for the online games storefront

Articles

GOG Galaxy client app (Windows)

GOG Galaxy client app (Windows)

Steam vs. GOG Galaxy: Which is service better for PC gamers? | Windows Central

Why I’m switching from Steam to GOG for PC gaming | Windows Central

From the horse’s mouth

Good Old Games (GOG)

Homepage

Galaxy client app

My Comments

When computer games developers moved away from delivering their game software to regular-computer users from packaged media to “download-to-own” digital delivery, there wasn’t really any competition. The options that become available were to supply the software through an online storefront that the developer creates for their imprints, a platform-specific app store run by the operating-system developer like Apple’s Mac App Store or Microsoft’s Windows Store, or to end up using Valve’s Steam online storefront.

Steam – the established games storefront

Steam was considered a good-quality online games storefront and gaming community but they got to that point where they became too proud of themselves and started to strip away desirable features or throw their weight around such as banning users for offering negative reviews.

The competition that is now rising up is Good Old Games or GOG for short. This electronic storefront and gaming community ran by CD Projekt have answered what computer gamers have always wanted. One of these is to offer value for money such as offering DLC (downloadable content – the extra content that extends a game’s value) as though it is part of the game rather than a separate title. Another was to offer DRM-free games that are really “download-to-own” along with underscoring an honour-driven carrot-based approach to tackling software piracy.

This means that you could do something like run the game without needing to be signed in to the storefront or be connected on the Internet. This can be of a bonus with those of us who use a laptop for gaming while away from home and you don’t have to lose your gaming content if GOG collapsed or was taken over by someone else. Some games can also benefit by allowing users to install copies of the game on multiple computers connected to the same network thus opening up to traditional network-based multi-player multi-machine gameplay. Thee is still the ability to save your game in the cloud along with a chat community which you would want to log in for.

One of the key features being drawn out is for GOG to support reissues of vintage and classic game titles. Here, they have revised these games to convey the same legacy feel that they offered yet are able to have them run on today’s hardware.

What I like about the rise of competition in the online retail games storefront space is that everyone involved has to treat their customers better and underscore value for money when it comes to selling games. It also means that there is pressure for these storefronts also to treat the games developers fairly and provide more avenues for these studios to sell their wares, rather than the developers having to reinvent the wheel by creating their own storefront every time they want to sell their games online in a location other than Steam or platform-specific app stores.

It could be seen as GOG being like the “indie” bookstore, record store or video store that appear in inner-urban areas of the major cities, the college towns or other areas that have that “cool” factor. This is compared to Steam positioning itself like one of the major book, music or video store chains that appears in most suburban areas or regional cities.

Similarly, it could open up the idea of Amazon and other online storefronts reaching towards the “regular-computer” gaming scene by setting up their own gaming storefronts. Here, it can lead to a vibrant multi-platform regular-computer (Windows/Mac/Linux) gaming marketplace that pleases both the gamers out there as well as the games developers including the indie studios. As well, like what is happening with the video-on-demand marketplace, it can open up the idea of niche gaming storefronts that cater to particular classes of gamers.

It is the sign of things to come for regular-computer gaming to see multiple retail online games storefronts starting to appear thanks to GOG.

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Google provides a tool to forums and the like to combat trolls

Article

ThinkBroadband forum

ThinkBroadband Forum – an example of a forum where content moderation can be simplified using Google Perspective

Google’s new innovative technology aims to combat online trolls | Android Authority

My Comments

Previously, I wrote an article regarding the Internet troll problem faced by people who have an Internet presence on a social network, forum, chat-room or similar environment. It is where they face toxic comments and online harassment on these boards from miscreants who use their presence there to make trouble.

A small business’s Facebook page – Google Perspective can make the management of these pages simple when it comes to visitor comments left on these pages

This is made worse for those of us who operate a corporate Internet presence on these environments for their business or other organisation or moderate a forum, blog or similar online presence. In some cases, it has caused some of us not to run these forums at all or turn off commenting ability for the blogs or other online content we publish.

But Google has come to the fore by developing software that allows moderators and users to gain better control over toxic Internet comments. This is based on a human-driven review cycle for comments such as end-users reporting or moderators disallowing comments discovered to be toxic. The Google Perspective software described here learns from the identified troublesome comments in order to determine what happens with new comments.

It is being offered as a set of application-programming-interface “hooks” that can be integrated with content-management systems, social networks and the like. But who knows how long it would take for the APIs that support this functionality to be offered simply as “wrapper” plugins for the popular extensible content-management or forum-management platforms. Similarly, an “outboard” comment-host like Livefyre or Disqus could benefit through offering the Google Perspective technology as a feature to help moderators with manage incoming contents.

They promoted the ability for a moderator to use Perspective to conditionally manage comments that are to be held for moderation or to red-flag potential “flame-wars” and miscreants. But they also put forward the idea for users to filter or sort comments by toxicity which can be of use for most of us who simply don’t want to waste time reading that junk.

What I see of this is that the Google Perspective comment-management software is something that could make it easy for those of us involved in the Internet conversation to make it easy to dodge the troublemakers.

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Fact-checking now part of the online media-aggregation function

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Google

Expanding Fact Checking at Google (Blog Post)

My Comments

ABC FactCheck – the ABC’s fact-checking resource that is part of their newsroom

Previously, we got our news through newspapers, magazines and radio / TV broadcasters who had invested significant amounts of money or time in journalism efforts. Now the Internet has reduced the friction associated with publishing content – you could set up an easily-viewable Website for very little time and cost and pump it with whatever written, pictorial, audio or video content you can.

Google News – one of the way we are reading our news nowadays

This has allowed for an increase in the amount of news content that is of questionable accuracy and value to be easily made available to people. It is exaggerated by online services such as search and aggregation services of the Google or Buzzfeed ilk and social media of the Facebook ilk being a major “go-to” point, if not the “go-to” point for our news-reading. In some cases, it is thanks to these services using “virtual newspaper” views and “trending-topic” lists to make it easy for one to see what has hit the news.

As well, with traditional media reducing their newsroom budgets which leads to reduction in the number of journalists in a newsroom, it gets to the point where content from online news-aggregation services ends up in the newspapers or traditional media’s online presence.

The fact that news of questionable accuracy or value is creeping in to our conversation space with some saying that it has affected elections and referenda is bringing forward new concepts like “post-truth”, “alternative facts” and “fake news” with these terms part of the lexicon. What is being done about it to allow people to be sure they are getting proper information?

Lately, a few news publishers and broadcasters have instigated “fact-checking” organisations or departments where they verify the authenticity of claims and facts that are coming in to their newsrooms. This has led to stories acquiring “Fact-check” or “Truth-meter” gauges along with copy regarding the veracity of these claims. In some cases, these are also appearing on dedicated Web pages that the news publisher runs.

In a lot of cases, such as Australia’s ABC, these “fact-checking” departments work in concert with another standalone organisation like a university, a government’s election-oversight department or a public-policy organisation. This partnership effectively “sharpens the fact-checking department’s knives” so they can do their job better.

But the question that is facing us is how are we sure that the news item we are about to click on in Google or share in Facebook is kosher or not. Google have taken this further by integrating the results from fact-check organisations in articles listed in the Google News Website or Google News & Weather iOS / Android mobile news apps and calling these “fact-check” results out with a tag. The same feature is also being used on the News search tab when you search for a particular topic. Initially this feature was rolled out in to the US and UK markets but is slowly being rolled out in to other markets like France, Germany, Brazil and Mexico.

Google is also underpinning various fact-check efforts through helping publishers build up their efforts or instigating event-specific efforts like the CrossCheck effort involving 20 French newsrooms thanks to the French presidential election. It is in addition to supporting the First Draft Coalition who helps with assuring the integrity of the news being put up on the Internet. It also includes the use of the Digital Initiative Fund to help newsrooms and others instigate or improve their fact-checking operations.

A question that will also be raised is how to identify the political bias of a particular media outlet and convey that in a search engine. This is something that has been undertaken by the Media Bias / Fact Check Website which is an independently-run source that assesses media coverage of US issues and how biased the media outlet is.

But a situation that needs to appear is the ability for fact-check organisations who implement those “accuracy gauges” to share these metrics as machine-useable metadata that can be interpreted through the rich search interfaces that Google and their ilk provide. Similarly, the provision of this metadata and its interpretation by other search engines or social-media sites can provide a similar advantage. But it would require the use of “news categorisation” metadata relating to news events, locations and the actors who are part of them to make this more feasible.

Similarly, a social network like Facebook could use the fact-checking resources out there to identify where fake news is being spread so that users can be certain if that link they intend to share is questionable or not.

To the same extent, engaging government election-oversight departments like the Australian Electoral Commission, the Federal Election Commission in the USA and the Electoral Commission in the UK in the fact-checking fabric can help with assuring that there are proper and fair elections.  This is more so as these departments perform a strong role in overseeing the campaigns that take place in the lead up to an election and they could use the fact-checking organisations to identify where campaigns are being run with questionable information or in an improper manner.

As part of our research in to a news topic, we could be seeing the fact-checking resources playing an important role in sorting the facts from the spin and conspiracy nonsense.

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Two niche video-on-demand providers are starting to show up strong

From the horse’s mouth

Acorn TV – SVOD provider offering the best of British telly to the USA

Native Clients

Mobile: iOS, Android

TVs and Set-top Devices: Apple TV (tvOS), Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV (newer)

SBS On Demand – AVOD provider offering foreign and art-house content to Australian audiences

Native Clients

Mobile: iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle Fire, Windows Phone

Regular Computers: Windows 10

TVs and Set-top Devices: Apple TV (tvOS),  XBox 360, XBox One, PS3, PlayStation 4, Humax, Fetch TV, Telstra TV, Telstra T-Box, Sony Bravia Smart TVs, Android TV, Google TV, Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, Panasonic Viera Smart TVs, HBBTV, TCL TV

My Comments

As the mainstream “over-the-top” video-on-demand market becomes saturated with service providers who try to cover all the bases, a few companies are rising up or will rise up to offer an “over-the-top” video-on-demand service that targets a niche audience.

Some of these companies are based on an existing media-publication or distribution platform that already courts that particular niche like a home-video distributorship, a TV broadcaster or a bookstore. Here, I would simply see a niche video-on-demand provider very similar to an art-house cinema or a specialty bookstore.

The different companies provide these services on one or more of the following three business models

  • AVOD (Advertising Video-On-Demand) – advertising-funded with TV commercials run during the show like with traditional TV. It is commonly used with services that started out as “catch-up TV” services offered by TV broadcasters who sell advertising.
  • SVOD (Subscription Video-On-Demand) – funded by users paying a monthly or yearly subscription fee to see all of the content offered by the video-on-demand provider. It is the same kind of business model that Netflix operate on.
  • TVOD (Transactional Video-On-Demand) – viewers pay to have access to a particular movie or series title either on an infinite basis or for a certain time period. It is similar to the video offerings provided by the platform app stores (Apple iTunes, Google Play or Microsoft Store).

These providers may find that the business model that they choose may please the audience that views their content, especially if they are capitalising on their media-distribution heritage. On the other hand, they may have to operate the different business models together such as taking a “freemium” approach with an advertising-funded service but allowing viewers to subscribe to a premium ad-free service.

There are two services I am calling out in this article that are answering to the niche video-on-demand market.

 

Screenshot of Acorn TV website

Acorn TV – the best of British telly in the USA

One of these is Acorn TV, a subscription video-on-demand service that is supplying the best of British telly to the American market. It was based on the Acorn imprint which sold British shows on packaged home-video media (VHS videocassettes and DVD / Blu-Ray discs) in to the USA since 1994. Acorn are even heading towards creating their own content as well as redistributing the content offered by the British TV channels in to the USA. It appeals to British expats who have moved to North America along with Americans who appreciate the high-quality content that British TV is known for.

SBS On Demand Windows 10 platform app

SBS On-Demand (Windows 10 native app) – foreign-language TV in Australia thanks to SBS

The other of these is SBS On Demand, an advertising video-on-demand service that is supplying Australian viewers with foreign and art-house content. This service evolved from a “catch-up TV” service that SBS, a publicly-funded radio and TV service that focused towards Australia’s ethnic communities since the late 70s, ran in conjunction with their free-to-air TV service. Here, they have become the Australian TV outlet for the rising classes of subtitled content like Nordic Noir crime fiction even before such content came on the scene in the UK and USA. SBS still create their own edgy TV content to show on their regular TV service or directly on this on-demand service.

Most of these providers work on traditional content trees with content grouped primarily by the standard content genres with opisodic content listed by series title. But as this class of on-demand video provider evolves,  there will be the curated thematic content groups appearing in their content trees, focusing on particular themes like content classes that underscore the niche very well like the “Golden Age of British Comedy”.

What needs to happen is the ability for those niche video-on-demand content providers not to just represent themselves as just another app in your smart TV’s or mobile device’s app store but to expose the fact that they provide a particular class of content.

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Silicon Valley starts a war against fake news

Article

Facebook and Google to block ads on fake news websites | Adnews

Facebook Employees Are In Revolt Over Fake News | Gizmodo

Google and Facebook Take Aim at Fake News Sites | New York Times

Does the internet have a fake-news problem? | CNet

Google CEO says fake news is a problem and should not be distributed | The Verge

Want to keep fake news out of your newsfeed? College professor creates list of sites to avoid | Los Angeles Times

My Comments

Since Donald Trump gained election victory in the USA, there has been some concern amongst a few of Silicon Valley’s tech companies regarding the existence of “fake news”.

This is typically a story that is presented in order to refer to an actual news event but doesn’t relate to any actual news event. In some cases, such stories a hyped-up versions of an existing news item but in a lot of cases, these stories are built up on rumours.

The existence of Internet-distributed fake news has been of concern amongst journalists especially where newsroom budgets are being cut back and more news publishers and broadcasters are resorting to “rip-and-read” journalism, something previously associated with newscasts provided by music-focused FM radio stations.

Similarly, most of us are using Internet-based news sources as part of our personal news-media options or or only source of news, especially when we are using portable devices like ultraportable laptops, tablets or smartphones as our main Internet terminals for Web browsing.

Silicon Valley also see the proliferation of fake news as a threat to the provision of balanced coverage of news and opinion because they see this as a vehicle for delivering the populist political agenda rather than level-headed intelligent news. This is typically because the headline and copy in “fake news” reports is written in a way to whip up an angry sentiment regarding the topics concerned, thus discouraging further personal research.

But Facebook and Google are tackling this problem initially by turning off the advertising-money tap for fake-news sites. Facebook will apply this to ad-funded apps that work alongside these sites while Google will apply this as a policy for people who sign up to the AdSense online display-ads platform.

There is the issue of what kind of curating exists in the algorithms that list search results or news items on a search-engine or social-media page. It also includes how the veracity of news content is being deemed, even though Google and Facebook are avoiding being in a position where they can be seen as “arbiters of truth”.

The big question that can exist is what other actions could Silicon Valley take to curb the dissemination of fake news beyond just simply having their ad networks turn off the supply of advertising to these sites? This is because the popular search engines are essentially machine-generated indexes of the Web, while the Social Web and the blogosphere are ways where people share links to resources that exist on the Web.

Some people were suggesting the ability for a search engine like Google or a social network site like Facebook to have its user interface “flag” references to known fake-news stories, based on user or other reports. Similarly, someone could write desktop or mobile software like a browser add-on that does this same thing, or simply publish a publicly-available list of known “fake-news” Websites for people to avoid.

This is infact an angle that a US-based college professor had taken where she prepared a Google Docs resource listing the Websites hosting that kind of news, in order to help people clean their RSS newsfeeds of misinformation, with some mainstream online news sources including the New York Magazine providing a link to this resource.

The issue of fake news distributed via the Internet is becoming a real problem, but Silicon Valley is looking at different ways to solve this problem and bring to it the same level of respect that was associated with traditional media.

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Allowing for niche SVOD providers to exist

Google Play Android app store

App stores like Google Play could be the place to set up shop as a boutique SVOD provider

An issue that will face the subscription video-on-demand market will be the existence of niche players. These are boutique SVOD providers that provide current and back-catalogue content that focus on particular tastes and interests. Examples of these could include a provider who runs European, Asian or other foreign films in to English-speaking markets; a specialist in art-house cinema, documentary movies or low-budget fare of the 60s and 70s that was run at a “flea-pit” cinema or drive-in, or even an extension of a Christian bookstore chain that runs Christian movies.

This is similar to how home video evolved through the early days where video content providers worked with particular vertical markets even though the major film studios saw this new distribution medium as too risky. This allowed, for example, the low-budget independent content to gain more of a foothold with some of the names listed in these movies’ credits to head towards bigger better-paid gigs.

Very hard to compete in the successful mainstream SVOD world

Netflix official logo - courtesy of Netflix

Netflix – the sign of a saturated SVOD marketplace

What has been noticed recently is that only a few mainstream SVOD providers that “cover all the bases” can exist in one market at one time. This was recently exemplified when QuickFlix fell of the tree because they were trying to pitch the Australian market against Netflix, Presto and Stan. Similarly, the SVOD model has been proven to be successful as this article from Advanced Television shows, underscoring concepts like increased perceived value and customers signing up with multiple SVOD services.

From my experience with Netflix, I had noticed that the subscription video-on-demand services were able to come across in an exciting manner especially with their user interface. For example, they offered a recommendation engine which allows you to discover content you may be interested in; along with a carousel-style user interface that encourages browsing.

Ability to divide the niche genre in to sub-genres

A niche SVOD provider would be able to license particular kinds of video content that serve their niche and even break this content collection down in to multiple sub-genres. Examples of these could include the Australian “Ozsploitation” movies that could be part of the “grind-house” low-budget movie niche; or there could be a Christian SVOD provider offering the “testimony” movies as a separate class of movie. Or a foreign-language provider could run language-focused genres like, for example, a European provider running the Nordic-noir content as a distinct class of content.

Ability to sell the content in other forms

Inspector Morse DVD box set

Collectable optical-disc box sets could still be sold by niche SVOD providers

A situation that can easily give the niche SVOD provider an edge over the traditional SVOD provider of the Netflix ilk is that they could work directly with studios and distributors servicing that niche, typically indie studios, to take the content further.

For example, they can offer “download-to-view” or “download-to-own” as a content-acquisition option along with the streaming option. This can be facilitated through the use of the SCSA Vidity secure-content-delivery mechanism. Similarly, the niche SVOD provider, especially if they work alongside a bookstore, video store or similar outlet, could allow for online or “click-and-collect” selling of content on physical media like Blu-Ray Discs. This is becoming more so as the niche bookstores and “collectable” DVD stores are still hanging on even though there is a reduction in the number of mainstream content stores in the “bricks-and-mortar” form.

Specialised information including playlists

The specialist nature also has the ability for a niche SVOD provider to supply more detailed material about the content or even offer themed playlists that viewers can work through. Such playlists could be created based on an occasion like an anniversary or awards ceremony that affects the niche; or even films based in a particular location.

But what would these providers need to do to put themselves on the map?

As well as acquiring the necessary server space on optimised servers around the world and licensing the catalogue of movies and TV shows to have available, they would need to work on making Web and platform apps available to gain access to this content.

Apple TV and Chromecast – a foot in the door

Apple TV - Mirroring on - iPad

An Apple TV device could be a foot in the door for niche SVOD providers courting iOS users

Some platforms, namely the iOS and Android mobile platforms support streaming to the large-screen TV via a home network thanks to the Apple TV and Chromecast devices that connect to your regular TV. This may dodge a problem associated with catering to most of the smart-TV platforms where the content provider may have to be allied with the platform’s vendor or approved by that vendor to get the content app in their app store. It is because the user interface can be focused on the iOS or Android devices with the app “throwing” the stream from the SVOD service to the Apple TV or Chromecast device.

But some Web-based platforms may be able to work with the big screen thanks to Apple TV (in the case of MacOS or iOS) or Chromecast (in the case of Android, Chrome OS or any operating system with the Chrome browser). In some of these cases, you may be able to have it that the video content goes “full screen” while it is playing.

Platforms that would succeed for app-based approaches

XBox One games console press image courtesy Microsoft

XBox One – the games console / multimedia box accessible to niche SVOD providers

The platforms that I see as working well for niche SVOD providers would be the Android and Windows 10 platforms due to being able to show a larger variety of content without the risk of being removed from the platform’s app store. Similarly, the Android TV platform supported by the Freebox mini 4K set-top box, some of the newer Sony smart TVs and the NVIDIA Shield games console; the XBox One games console or the Kodi open-source set-top-box platform could be seen as TV-based platforms that facilitate niche SVOD providers.

Bringing new customers on board

Another issue that needs to be raised is that the onboarding experience for new subscribers has to be simplified. This may involve a Web-based or app-based experience including the ability to allow TV-based or set-top-based apps to cater to multiple users and accounts. It may also involve whether the niche SVOD provider has to implement social sign-on, perhaps as an option, where one can use a social network’s user interface to sign on to the service.

This could be facilitated through the initial onboarding experience being facilitated with a secure Web-based user experience where the user ends up creating their own account and setting up a subscription plan. Then they log in to the mobile-based or TV-based user experience with this account that they created in order to enjoy the content.

Promoting the service

To reach out to the audience base that would value the content, the potential niche SVOD provider would need to run advertising and PR campaigns focused on that audience class. They may also be discovered through feature-app functionality provided by the different app stores, especially where the app store creates thematic app lists to expose particular content to particular users.

In this case, the blurb that the niche SVOD provider supplies to the app stores for their platform apps needs to mention the kind of audience that the SVOD provider is intending to reach. This includes using the keywords that best describe that audience and the sub-genres that the content is classed to.

Conclusion

When a subscription-video-on-demand service market becomes saturated, it may have to be the time to create this new medium’s equivalent of a specialist bookstore, art-house cinema or specialist video store. This also means that there has to be the ability to utilise different ways to nurture the enthusiasts who are willing to spend more on this kind of content.

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Why is there interest in Internet-assisted in-home healthcare

There is a strong interest in using Internet-based connectivity as a tool for facilitating in-home healthcare.

Bluetooth-connected pulse oximeter

A Bluetooth-connected pulse oximeter in action

This involves the use of a mix of sensor types that are typically used to observe a patient along with the use of regular, mobile and other computing devices to process and present this information to the carers and to the medical professionals. It also includes implementing voice and video telephony to allow medical professionals to communicate with the patient without the need to frequently travel to where they live.

Why the interest?

Ageing at home

This is where a senior citizen is able to live independently at their home as much as possible but have supporting care from relatives, friends and professional carers.

tablet computer used as part of in-home telemedicine setup

A tablet used as part of an in-home telemedicine setup

One of the reasons driving “ageing at home” is the fact that the generation of people born through World War II and the post-war Baby Boomers will be entering their senior years which will place strong demands on health care and welfare facilities that cater to this group of people.

Another is that an increasing number of aged-care facilities have been associated with substandard quality of care“I don’t want to end up in the nursing home”.  This is brought about with more of us being aware of this level of care either through observing how those we have known in our life’s journey that were looked after in those facilities were being treated, or hearing about instances of substandard care in the media such as the infamous “kerosene bath” incident that hit the news in Australia in the early 2000s.

This has also been driven by the trend towards health-care deinstitutionalisation affecting geriatric and palliative care where there isn’t a desire to rely on large facilities for this kind of care.

Other healthcare needs

Increasingly hospitals are looking towards “hospital in the home” or similar programs as a way to provide ongoing care for convalescent patients and those with illnesses that require long-term attention. Here, the care associated with what would typically be provided in a hospital, typically nursing-focused procedures, would be offered at the patient’s home but with visiting nurses, doctors and allied staff.

Even obstetric care is also affected by this trend, with an increased preference for minimal hands-on professional care for low-risk mothers when they go in to labour. Similarly, low-risk psychiatric care is being delivered at home thanks to telecommunications-based technologies.

The advantages that are being put forward for this kind of care is that the patient can stay in the familiar surroundings of their home and, again, has been underscored by the concept of deinstitutionalisation in healthcare. Governments and others also see it as a cost-saving because they can focus a hospital’s beds towards those needing acute care.

The rural community are seeing an application for this kind of technology so as to avoid the need for frequent long-distance travel which would be of importance when it comes to specialised or advanced healthcare.

How is the kind of healthcare delivered?

Here, the focus is on observational healthcare where medical professionals can assess the situation based on either the data that is collected or through communications with the patient. In some cases, it may be based on an event-driven principle where the professional is alerted if the situation goes beyond certain limits.

This is facilitated through the concept of “telemedicine” where the data is conveyed through an Internet connection and has been facilitated through various technologies.

One of these is “machine vision” where one or more cost-effective high-resolution cameras feeds images in to a platform-based computer which runs software that recognises and interprets these images for medical use. One application that was put forward was to observe a patient’s pulse using a camera that observed the brightness of one’s face as the heart beats. Another application is to use a smartphone’s or tablet’s camera to read fluid-analysis strips as part of assessing urine or blood while an app in that device interprets this information rather than a person comparing what is seen on the strip against a chart.

Another of these is the implementation of common communications technologies like Bluetooth, Zigbee or Wi-Fi in sensor devices. This can lead towards the existence of cost-effective sensor devices that can work with existing computer devices with a minimal need for extra hardware, while these devices can use cost-effective software to interpret and present this information. This has led to startup companies and tech innovators developing devices like “wandering-alert” socks that work with Bluetooth and apps.

What needs to be done?

An issue that will affect in-home telehealth is where device manufacturers and health providers legally stand when it comes to providing these services.

One of the questions that is being raised is the use of non-medical sensor devices for medical applications. One of the scenarios is the use of a general wellness device like a fitness band or a wellness-focused thermometer as a medical sensor for clinical purposes. Another scenario would be the use of a “non-wellness” sensor like a security system’s PIR and door sensors, a home-automation sensor, or a smartphone’s camera for medical-observation purposes with these devices feeding their data to software running on a platform-based computing device.

These questions are being examined by the US’s Food and Drug Administration with respect to wellness-focused devices serving as medical devices in this context. But implementing home automation and security in this context may require a case-by-case assessment based on the actual installation and would only work with geriatric, psychiatric or allied situations where observational healthcare is the order of the day.

Similarly, software that uses devices like cameras for medical reasons like “machine vision” may have to be certified by medical-device authorities to be sure that the software provides accurate results no matter the input device. In the case of software that uses cameras, there would be a requirement for a minimum resolution for the camera to turn out consistently accurate results.

Conclusion

Once the issues that affect the provision of Internet-assisted in-home health care are identified and worked out, then it could be feasible for the home to be a place to deliver continual health care.

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Blu-Ray, HBBTV and app-based NAS systems can take documentary content further

Increasingly the Internet has been used as a “cyber-library” of information that is being used to create many interesting feature-length documentary films.

Wikipedia - could augment many of these documentaries

Wikipedia – could augment many of these documentaries

But most of these shows have been augmented by a micro-Website dedicated to the film, which may just contain some public-relations material like press releases. But some of these sites contain more detailed information on the topics covered in these films and/or provide a pathway to a “call-to-action” like engaging other entities that relate to the documentary’s subject. The classic example may be to have viewers contact a particular advocacy organisation for assistance if the subject relates to them personally; or to engage local, regional or national politicians to have the issue covered in the film raised by their government.

In some cases, the Website is the only resource used to keep the film’s viewers updated on the topic. This may be augmented with a site-based newsfeed or email list so viewers can keep “in the loop” with what is going on.

Similarly, there are other resources like the “reference sites” like IMDB, Wikipedia, Bible Gateway and the like which provide useful reference tools for viewers to use. Let’s not forget YouTube or Vimeo being used simply as a video repository for supporting video material.

But how can these resources be brought to the large screen?

The Blu-Ray Disc family of optical discs

Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray Disc Player

Blu-Ray players can provide pathways to online content

The DVD had opened up some ways content can be taken further thanks to providing a standardised way to add interactive content like a graphical menu tree along with the ability to package supporting video and image content. There is even the ability to provide supplementary audio tracks that have extra narration that can be played alongside the main audio track.

But the Blu-Ray disc family has taken this concept further with a few features that earn their keep with the documentary film.

Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray player remote control

A remote control that comes with a Blu-Ray player – a pathway to interactivity

One of these is BD-J which is a variant of Java written for Blu-Ray applications and can be run an all Blu-Ray players currently in use. This can allow for interactive content that is more than just a fancy menu, a photo gallery or some extra video material. For example, the “coloured” function buttons on every Blu-Ray player’s remote control could be exploited to allow the viewer to pull up “explain more” screens or movies if they need to understand concepts. A skilful Java programmer who is good at creating full-screen graphics could even create an experience not dissimilar to a computer game to highlight various concepts in a graphically-rich manner.

Another feature available to the Blu-Ray format is BD-Live which connects the Blu-Ray player to online resources. Here, this could range from a Web-hosted resource list through “download-to-view” movies and trailers that take it further. A BD-J script could exploit the RSS Webfeed associated with Webpages or blogs relevant to the film or show up the Wikipedia page about the topics of relevance. These same scripts can even provide pathways to advocacy Websites in a localised form or even provide that link to an online petition.

HBBTV and similar “broadcast + broadband” technologies

Panasonic VIERA AX900 Series 4K UHDTV press picture courtesy of Panasonic

HBBTV-capable TVs can provide the same level of rich interactivity with broadcast content

Another path for a lot of these shows to be exhibited is through broadcast TV, often with public-service broadcasters being associated with showing documentary and other allied content to inform the populace.

But in Germany and a large part of Continental Europe, along with Australia, Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV is in full flight. This works with TVs or set-top devices that are connected to the broadcast-TV infrastructure (aerial, cable-TV or satellite dish) along with a broadband Internet connection. This standards-based setup allows broadcasters to transmit information that leads to access to interactive-TV content via the Internet with a focus on “lean-back” presentation.

These systems could make it feasible that a user can have access to the online resources while the content is being broadcast. This could be facilitated by using the so-called “red button” concept being implemented with interactive TV where users can bring up this content by pressing a red button on the remote control. But there will be a requirement to provide access to a simplified user experience such as using the coloured function buttons for direct access to the “calls to action” for example.

File-based media distribution

Thecus N5810PRO Small Business NAS press photo courtesy of Thecus

App-based NAS units that exploit RVU and HTML5 remote user interface can provide a high level of interactivity for these movies

If the content is to be delivered as file-based video, it may be about implementing an RVU-compliant media server and using a “file-of-files” like an ISO file or BitTorrent Bundle file to deliver video material along with a “lean-back-friendly” Web page that can be presented with this media server. An example of a server that could tick these boxes is the Plex advanced media server being made available to a few current-issue NAS units but this doesn’t implement RVU and HTML5 remote-user-interface technology nor does it allow for “file-of-files” delivery. Here, this issue will crop up if Vidity is being considered as a “sell-through” format for delivering file-based video content or if BitTorrent Bundles, part of the BitTorrent Now platform, are being valued as a way to deliver indie documentary content.

Where HTML5 is used skilfully, it could he feasible to create a highly-interactive media interface in the same guise as either a well-designed Website or Blu-Ray BD-J user interface. Again this leads to tapping in to external resources like the “reference hub” sites (Wikipedia, IMDB & co), the film’s Website or blog, “call-to-actions” and the like. There can also be the ability to use animations and other graphics to “tell more”, as well as ways to control playback of the film like “diving in” to particular portions or adding narration tracks.

What are the issues to be faced?

Handling the 10-foot lean-back user experience

The main problem with Webfeeds, Wikipedia and the like is that these resources are typically formatted in a “lean-forward” manner associated with working with a tablet, laptop or desktop computer. But these resources may not appeal to the 10-foot “lean-back” viewing experience associated with watching TV and video content on the household TV set.

The traditional “lean-forward” layout for computer use involves a “dark-on-light” colour scheme that doesn’t really work well for the large screen, the use of serif typefaces in the copy text that can be hard to read from a distance along with a navigation experience that is focused towards a touchscreen or a keyboard and mouse rather than a D-pad on a remote control.

It is compared to the “lean-back” experience where larger bright sans-serif text is set against a dark background and any highlighting is made more distinct. There is the expectation that the user interface has to be navigated with one hand using the D-pad on a remote control. The same experience can also be achieved if one used a projector to show a Website or similar interface to a group of people such as in a boardroom.

But most of these attributes are being shared by mobile-compatible user interfaces as viewed on a smartphone due to the requirement for reduced clutter and the ability to be operated by one hand.

The problem could be answered through the use of “application-specific” interfaces dedicated to presenting the interactive content in a 10-foot experience. Here, a resource like a blog or a Wikipedia article would need to be presented in a market-up text form. Then a BD-J interface for a BD-Live Blu-Ray Disc, or an HTML5 or RVU interface Website that accompanies a file-delivered film package would be used to “set” these external resources to a 10-foot user interface.

Similarly, the definition for “responsive” or “adaptive” Website design or user interfaces could encompass a variation for 10-foot lean-back applications. This is where a Website could be required to work on a regular computer’s screen, a smartphone, a tablet or a TV screen with the variation being described as “large-screen” or “lean-back”,

Conclusion

As independent and other filmmakers build out documentary content especially with the help of the Internet, it could become feasible to use the Internet and interactive-content technologies as a way to provide more detailed information with these shows that the viewer can summon. It can also allow the filmmakers to build up a call-to-action for their viewers while the film is fresh in their minds.

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The CSIRO considers the Internet Of Things a viable alternative to the alarm pendant

Article

Why the CSIRO is building smart homes for elderly Australians | IT News

My Comments

The typical situation to assure the welfare of an  elderly, disabled or chronically-ill person who is living alone at home is to have them wear a pendant or wristband panic-button that signals carers or loved ones if they need help.

But issues have been raised about these devices being, for example, left somewhere in the home because the person forgets to wear it after they have finished an activity which may not play well with these devices. As well, these wearable devices are only of value if they trigger the device in response to an emergency situation like a fall.

The CSIRO are looking towards the use of the “Internet Of Everything” as a way of monitoring the welfare of these people, a use case which I do frequently refer to in the context of this technology.

Here, they would use commonly-available sensor technology like the motion sensors that are part of every intruder-alarm system, or flow meters and power meters on appliances; or door-contact sensors on wardrobes or kitchen cupboards to observe for normal activity.

Along with this, the CSIRO effort also wants to use health sensors like blood-pressure monitors or scales to register a person’s health statistics and it has been valued because the patients will be wanting to know how they are doing along with the ability to provide more knowledgeable information to their doctor about their symptoms.

They want to use knowledge of past health incidents affecting elderly, disabled or chronically-ill people to train the machine-learning algorithm to identify the abnormalities at an earlier stage rather than when a serious incident occurs. Of course, any machine-learning setup needs to be able to adjust to newer legitimate changes so as to avoid any “false positives”.

A question that will always be raised is the cost to set up this kind of observation with it costing less than AUD$3000 because of the use of common technologies and components rather than specialised hardware.

The topic of privacy has also been raised because the CSIRO monitoring system is based on cloud technology and Internet-based data access, and is of importance to reduce the risk of elder abuse. Here, the goal is to allow the patients to control their data so that it is exposed to whoever they trust in a granular manner. This is more so with relatives because they may be trusting of certain people within their family.

As well, the features that have been raised as being of importance to the elderly community for this personal-health monitoring setup include the ability to know who is at the door, the ability to engage in videocalls with family and friends along with the ability to know if one has forgotten to turn off a tap or appliance. This can easily affect older people who may become increasing forgetful about these things such as a burner on the newer gas cooker being left on but turned really down or not being able to hear clearly that the washbasin tap is still running.

The effort that CSIRO is undertaking is to be able to allow an elderly or other vulnerable person to live independently yet be able to know that help is at hand while their loved ones are sure that they are well.

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