VIDIPATH Archive

DLNA 4 and Vidipath facilitate elaborate TV user interfaces for network devices

Thecus N5810PRO Small Business NAS press photo courtesy of Thecus

NAS units will be required to provide a rich user interface on the big screen without the need of an app

I have had a look through the DLNA 4.0 and VIDIPATH standards and found a feature that these standards do provide for in the form of a “remote user interface”. This is where another server device can provide a graphically-rich user interface on a separate client device typically in the form of a Smart TV or video peripheral. It works very much in a similar frame to how Web browsing, where you have Web pages hosted on Web servers and streamed over a network to a Web browser existing on a client device.

The standards that are supported in this context are HTML5 and RVU (pronounced R-View) which facilitate this graphically-rich user interface. It was pitched more at pay-TV operators who provide their customers a PVR or media gateway and want to share the same user interface across all of the smart TVs, connected video peripherals (Blu-Ray players, games consoles, network media players), regular desktop/laptop computers and mobile computing devices (smartphones, phablets and tablets).

Here, this would facilitate operator-provided video-on-demand, interactive TV services, the electronic programme guide and value-added services but allow the operator to present these services with their “skin” (branding and user experience) on all of the screens in a customer’s household. This is in contrast to services like programme guides, PVR content collections and recording schedules being presented using the device manufacturer’s user interface which may not be consistent especially at the lower end of the market. It wouldn’t matter whether the server device was “headless” (without a display or control surface) like a broadcast-LAN tuner or had a display and control surface like the typical set-top PVR with its own remote control and connected to the TV in the main lounge area.

But this technology appeals to another class of devices beyond the pay-TV set-top boxes and media gateways.

Increasing network-attached-storage vendors are partnering with software developers to develop and deploy advanced media-server software in their consumer-focused NAS products. Examples of these include the Plex Media Server being packaged with newer Western Digital premium consumer NAS products and the media server software that Synology are packaging as part of their latest DSM 6 NAS software. Typically these offer functionality like rich media information or improved search / browse functionality.

Some of the NAS devices offer PVR software that works with USB digital-TV-tuner modules or broadcast-LAN tuner boxes and are targeted towards markets where free-to-air TV or pay-TV delivered without operator-supplied equipment is highly valued.

As well, a lot of consumer-focused NAS devices are being marketed in the concept of the “personal cloud” and these devices could benefit from a rich user interface that takes advantage of smart TVs.

It also includes the possibility of Secure Content Storage Association pushing their Vidity “download-to-own” platform as a way to deliver the same kind of collectability and rich user experience that the DVD and Blu-Ray box-sets are known for when supplying sell-through video content “over the wire” or allowing customers to download DVD and Blu-Ray content to their home networks. This could also encompass using a NAS as an “offload device” for extra binge-watch content that you bring in using a PVR.

More and more, manufacturers will look at ways to add value to NAS devices or broadcast-LAN tuner devices as a way to have customers buy the newer devices rather than hang on to older devices.

When NAS suppliers want to offer this kind of functionality, they either implement a Web user interface which may work best for regular computers and tablets with you needing to know IP addresses or device network names, or you are having to download and install companion client apps into your client devices. This doesn’t really work well with any 10-foot “lean-back” experience.

But the reality is that this software can exploit RVU or HTML5 remote-user-interface standard technology to realise the user-interface images on to the regular television screen. Typically, all it requires is that the devices exploit their Web server software to implement the RVU or HTML5 remote-user-interface technology and use UPnP which is already used for the DLNA content server functionality to expose this content to TVs and similar devices.

For that matter, the ability to print out content from an interactive-TV show should be integrated in to RVU or HTML5 technology because some shows and advertising like cookery shows encourage the printing out of value-added content for users to benefit from this content.

To the same extent, the hotel applications could take this further by opening up virtual content sources for things like in-house video-on-demand or gaming; or even provide a user interface to services like in-room dining or booking use of day-spa facilities.

What needs to happen is that the remote user interface technology can be exploited beyond the set-top-box or media-gateway application and taken further to NAS or other server-role devices on a home or business network for a proper 10-foot experience.

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More coverage on the VIDIPATH technology.

Article VIDIPATH logo courtesy of DLNA

DLNA’s VidiPath Enables Subscription-TV Sharing At Home | TWICE

My Comments

I have given previous coverage to the DLNA VIDIPATH technology which allows you to use the home network to share pay-TV content around the home using compliant Smart TVs or desktop / mobile apps.

Foxtel IQ2 pay-TV PVR

A PVR-type set-top box can serve as the hub of a VIDIPATH pay-TV setup

This article talked of a typical scenario where you have a PVR-grade set-top box provided by your pay-TV provider – the same kind of box as Sky+ or Foxtel IQ. The typical scenario for serving a TV in the master bedroom. the den or the games room would be to rent another set-top box from the pay-TV provider and have them pull coaxial cable to where it is installed. If you wanted to participate in the pay-TV provider’s “TV Everywhere” platform, you would have to download and register their desktop or mobile app to have cable-TV content on your computer, tablet or smartphone when you are at home.

Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray Disc Player

VIDIPATH-capable Blu-Ray players can bring pay-TV to the secondary bedroom TV

VIDIPATH provides an authenticated method of allowing third-party devices to connect to the PVR via your home network. The application that was raised in the article was to have a Smart TV in the bedroom or den without the need of a set-top box, or to install an open-frame app on your computer or tablet to pull up live, on-demand or PVR-recorded pay-TV content.

But a situation that wasn’t raised was the fact that one is not likely to spend as much on secondary TV sets as they would for the primary one where they watch most of the TV content on. Either the main set may be upgraded and the set that served that role would be installed in the bedroom, a smaller TV would be placed in the kitchen or similarly-small area or a set that doesn’t have the same bells and whistles as the one in the main lounge area may be placed in a secondary lounge area.

Here, such TVs may not be VIDIPATH-enabled and would really need to be considered would be Blu-Ray players, Blu-Ray AV systems, network media players and similar video peripherals to be equipped for VIDIPATH. Why? This is because such devices can add this kind of functionality to an existing TV by simply using the existing TV as a display. It is in the same context as the VHS video-cassette recorders of the 80s where they had features like enabling cheaper and older TVs to benefit from remote control.

As manufacturers like Sony release Blu-Ray players and home-theatre systems that have “smart-TV” abilities, it wouldn’t tale long for them to offer VIDIPATH-capable versions of these devices as a way to enable the secondary sets.

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Now for Pay TV – A DLNA VidiPath-capable HDMI dongle

Article

HDMI dongle with DLNA Vidipath support will help cable operators with multi-room and multiscreen | VideoNet

From the horse’s mouth

ZapperBox

Product Page – Zip-R Stick

My Comments

VIDIPATH logo courtesy of DLNANow that DLNA VidiPath has been established for securely and surely delivering pay TV through the home network, a company has released a Chromecast-style HDMI dongle that exploits this technology.

This device, sold by ZapperBox as the Zip-R Stick connects to your home network via Wi-Fi, serving as an ultra-compact set-top box to bring your pay TV to that secondary TV. This is without the need to have a technician supplied via your pay-TV company to pull cable to your bedroom, den or kitchen.

It is built as part of the ACCESS NetFront Living Connect 3.1 media-sharing solution and has the NetfFront Browser software on that stick. As for the ability to control it, you use your smartphone to control it via a Bluetooth link or use an RF-based remote control that is compliant to RF4CE specifications.

One main application that would come to mind is where you have a TV set up in a transportable manner where you locate it wherever you are wanting to use it. Here, the Zip-R stick could be plugged in to a flatscreen TV which has a size of up to 32” which is kept in the kitchen or den and is ready to bring out to the yard so you can follow the ballgame while working or relaxing out there.

This is at least an example of what a level playing field offered by DLNA VidiPath technology can offer through the path of device innovation.

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VIDIPATH has now been launched for Pay-TV

Introduction

VIDIPATH logo courtesy of DLNADLNA have worked out the final set of CVP-2 Guidelines and have started a testing regime for video equipment that fits the bill. This is to provide the ability for a level playing field when it comes to distributing premium subscription-TV (Pay-TV) content around a customer’s home network to devices that the customer owns.

A current pay-TV setup with each TV having a set-top box

A current pay-TV setup with each TV having a set-top box

They have also decided to market the new concept under a consumer-friendly brand which is “VIDIPATH”. This is following on from how a distinct brand make it easier for customers to remember what to look for when buying in to a technological improvement, such as with the successful Dolby noise-reduction system for the cassette tape.

The reason to progress with VIDIPATH has been based on the strong circulation of DLNA-capable media-server and media-endpoint equipment to distribute audio, image and video material over the home network. For that matter, it is a feature that is so important to me when I choose network-capable AV equipment or NAS units.

A VIDIPATH-enabled pay-TV setup where each VIDIPATH-capable TV, video peripheral or computer can view pay-TV

A VIDIPATH-enabled pay-TV setup where each VIDIPATH-capable TV, video peripheral or computer can view pay-TV

They launched the certification program for service-provider and consumer equipment on Sept. 11 and VIDIPATH-certified equipment is expected to be available by December, in time for this Christmas’ shopping season.

What does it offer

VIDIPATH offers DLNA compliance plus features essential to the delivery of premium subscription-TV content around the home to the display device.

Media contents in Dropbox folder available on DLNA-capable Samsung smart TV

VIDIPATH enables a compatible smart TV to view pay-TV content without the need for a set-top box

It uses DTCP-IP link-layer protection and device authentication to assure a secure signal path to the display device. This is important for content providers who want to be sure where the content is actually ending up.

Foxtel IQ2 pay-TV PVR

A PVR-type set-top box can serve as the hub of a VIDIPATH pay-TV setup

Also it uses HTML5-based remote user interface to allow the customer to have the full user experience associated with the pay-TV service at the TV or on the mobile device without the need for a set-top box or “TV-Everywhere” app on each viewing device. This allows for access to PVR services, pay-per-view / video-on-demand content, the pay-TV provider’s storefront and other services associated with the pay-TV service. The HTML5 interface would be able to adjust itself for useability on smartphones or small tablets which have the smaller actual screen sizes even though a lot of newer devices are implementing increased screen pixel densities.

Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray Disc Player

VIDIPATH-capable Blu-Ray players can bring pay-TV to the secondary bedroom TV

Another feature is to provide the exchange of necessary data across the home network to allow the gateway device to enter low-power modes when the display client devices aren’t making use of it. This also works alongside the ability to provide remote diagnostics on any of the display client devices when the customer calls the pay-TV service provider to rectify faults with their viewing experience.

It even supports “adaptive delivery” to allow the VIDIPATH-capable Pay-TV system to provide a best-case signal that is dependent on the viewing device and on the bandwidth available to the home and within the home network. This is based around the open-frame MPEG-DASH adaptive-streaming technology so that implementations aren’t necessarily bound to particular vendor ecosystems.

How will VIDIPATH be implemented in the home network?

Sony PS3 games console

Consoles like these could be able to pick up pay TV from a VIDIPATH gateway device

A pay-TV service like Sky, DirecTV or Foxtel would supply a VIDIPATH-certified gateway device to the customer. This device would be connected to the satellite dish, cable-TV infrastructure or dedicated IP service connection like DSL and to the home network. It may be in one of two form factors: a “headless” device that has no video output for an attached display device, or a full PVR set-top box of the same ilk as a Foxtel iQ2, Sky Plus box or one of the cable-TV PVR boxes, which is typically connected to the main living-room TV set.

The customer would view their content on a display device that would be a VIDIPATH-capable Smart TV or be a TV set connected to a DVD player, network media player or other video-peripheral device that is VIDIPATH-certified. They could also run a VIDIPATH-certified media-client program on their regular computer, smartphone or tablet to view the TV content on the device.

How will it benefit

Customers

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10" tablet - Press Photo courtesy of Samsung

With the appropriate app, this tablet can pull in pay-TV using VIDIPATH

They can concentrate on their own TV or video peripheral device and the device’s remote control being the navigation device for their pay-TV content, rather than juggling different remote controls for changing channels on the pay-TV box and adjusting the sound on the TV or home-theatre. This is a real bonus with smart TV’s or home-theatre systems that have access to network-hosted AV content.

If I move location, I would only need to worry about returning one piece of hardware to the pay-TV provider as part of the move-out process if they don’t operate in my new location. Similarly, for those of you who live in pay-TV markets where different providers compete, the process of selecting the best offer is simplified because you only deal with one piece of hardware to connect to the provider’s infrastructure. An example of this is most US markets where DirecTV and / or DISH provide a satellite TV service that can compete with what the local cable-TV firm offers.

Pay-TV providers

They are in a good position because they can rationalise the pay-TV customer-premises hardware they need to have on hand at all times. This is more so with having to deal with providing and managing set-top boxes for customers who want pay-TV in other rooms. Rather they can be in a better position to provide highly-capable gateway devices and manage one of these per subscribing household or business.

They still don’t lose the ability to provide the distinctly-branded user experience because this can be conveyed across all of the customer’s VIDIPATH-capable display devices. Rather they can even enrich the branded service and effectively take it further in a “write once, run anywhere” manner.

What do we need to do?

.... as can a smartphone like this

…. as can a smartphone like this

As customers, when the opportunity comes to buy network-capable video equipment, we need to keep our eyes peeled for the VIDIPATH logo on the equipment. As well, when we subscribe to pay-TV, we can use our pay-TV provider’s feedback mechanism to suggest implementing VIDIPATH as a service feature.

As pay-TV providers, we should look towards identifying whether the pay-TV equipment that is in current circulation at our subscribers’ homes can support VIDIPATH after a firmware upgrade. Similarly, implementing VIDIPATH in next-generation customer-facing equipment like gateways or set-top boxes can be a valid step for evolving the pay-TV service. This also will be about training the staff who deal with our subscriber base such as sales staff, customer-service staff and installation technicians to understand the VIDIPATH system and how it can make the job easier. It may also involve effectively “dumping” the revenue stream that is realised from renting multiple set-top boxes to customers who have multiple TVs.

Conclusion

I would expect DLNA VIDIPATH to simplify the pay-TV experience and integrate it with an increasing number of customer-owned display devices, whether be Smart TVs, games consoles or tablets.

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