Category: Current and Future Trends

USA to pry open mobile-app-store market

Article

Google Play Android app store

Legislation or regulation to come about to open up the app-store market on mobile devices to competing providers

How the Open App Markets Act wants to remake app stores – The Verge

What the Open App Markets Act means for future of Big Tech (fastcompany.com)

From the horse’s mouth

US Congress

Open App Markets Act (Follow this law through Congress)

My Comments

At the moment, if you want to add functionality to your smartphone or tablet, you have to use the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store to download the necessary apps. Some Android phone manufacturers like Samsung and Amazon run their own app stores with the former operating theirs alongside Google’s app store and the latter in lieu of that app store.

This process also affects post-download transactions like purchasing the software after a trial, subscribing to the services associated with the software or buying microcurrency for a game using real money. With services like Netflix or Spotify or mobile ports of some desktop software, you use the service’s desktop user interface to sign up and pay for subscriptions then you log in to the user account you created for that service using the mobile app to benefit from what you paid for.

The same approach is being used for the ChromeOS platform and Microsoft and Apple want to push this on to their Windows and MacOS desktop computing platforms. This is more so with Microsoft and the ARM-powered Windows laptops or offering lightweight “S” variants of Windows for cheaper computers. It is also implemented with games consoles, connected-TV/set-top-box platforms, printers, network-attached storage devices, routers, connected vehicles and the smart home as a way to add functionality to these platforms.

This may even apply to app stores on regular computers like the Windows Store

Here, some of the companies in Big Tech want to provide that same kind of walled garden that is expected with games consoles for other computing devices as a way of providing some perceived “simplicity” and security for these devices.

Concern has been raised about this approach due to frustrating competition for apps on these platforms. It includes a monopsony approach where software developers are disadvantaged due to the app store charging commissions on software-related transactions or exacting onerous terms and conditions on software developers who want to have their apps available on the popular mobile platforms.

This is an issue that has been brought about by the Fortnite saga where Apple frustrated Epic’s wishes to sell microtransactions, subscriptions or similar services for Fortnite independently of Apple even for iOS ports of that game. There is similar activity going on in the European Union with the Digital Markets Act to push for competition in the mobile-computing-device realm while the authorities in charge of market competition in the UK and Australia are examining this issue.

What is the Open App Markets Act about?

What the Open App Markets Act means is that competing app markets can exist on mobile and similar-use platforms like iOS and Android. It also requires that these platforms have a requirement to allow users to sideload apps to their devices and the platform can’t default to its own app stores.

Sideloading is primarily transferring software from a regular computer or external / network file storage to the mobile or other device in order for it to run on that device. This is similar to the way we have installed software on our Windows, Macintosh or Linux computers for a long time. Here, we have inserted a floppy disk or CD-ROM in to a computer and ran an installation from that storage medium to have the software on the computer. Or we downloaded the software from the developer’s Website or a download site to our computer’s hard disk and ran the installation program associated with that software to install it.

It could also extend to software developers making the software available to download or purchase from their own Web presences, including processing any post-download payment transactions there. This means that the software developer gains effective control over their software through its lifecycle.

If software developers wish to implement post-download transactions for their software such as converting a trial version to a full-service program, offering subscriptions or selling microcurrency for a game, they can use a competing storefront or facilitate their transactions on their own Websites.

Who would it primarily benefit?

A user group that would benefit from the competitive app market would be gaming enthusiasts. Here, they would benefit from games-focused app stores like Steam, Epic and GOG who run their own leaderboards, online game saving, and online forums. Similarly, games developers would be running their own app stores for their games titles, continuing to offer the same kind of integrated functionality.

I also see Microsoft behind this idea because of software development being their founding stone with an example being the XBox One designed from scratch to support home-developed games. This is because they want to run app stores as a way to make it easier for up-and-coming software developers to put their wares on their market.

What are the issues here?

One key issue that would come up in my mind is a replication of the “bulletin board” or “download site” era that existed before and during the early days of the Internet. This is akin to the “shovelware” magazine-cover CD-ROM era that existed in the early days of optical data storage. That is where you had online or offline collections of poor-quality software available for download or installation on your regular computer. It is something that has affected some app stores in their early days where they were replete with poor-quality apps.

Here, there was very little effort regarding quality control when it came to making software available on a bulletin board or download site or adding software to an optical disc that was attached to a computer magazine. This is compared to most app stores where the people who run the stores vet the software before it is published as well as running “editor’s choice” or “spotlight” programs to feature good-quality software,

Apple and Google challenge the competitive app store approach because they see exclusive app stores as a way to maintain standards regarding software for their platforms.

Here, they see this primarily with data security and user privacy. But they also see this with maintaining legal and social expectations regarding the kind of software available on personal devices. This ranges from issues like suitability for children and suitability to use in the workplace or around your family; along with being able to facilitate access to undesireable content like hate speech or disinformation.

How could these issues be answered?

Computing-platform, operating-system and device vendors, amongst other strong voices in the personal/business IT and cybersecurity world could implement one or more “seal-of-approval” systems on apps or app stores. There would even be various legal protections and requirements placed on the software and app stores like intellectual-property or media-classification requirements, Here, the software or app stores have to maintain certain quality and similar standards before acquiring that “seal of approval”.

Endpoint-security logic that is part of the operating system or a third-party endpoint-security program offered by a brand of respect would add extra friction to installing or running software that doesn’t have one or more of these “seals of approval”. As well, such software would be required to identify and easily remove such software.

Similarly, these companies could vet software developers’ access to software-development kits and application-programming interfaces so that the developer has to be in “good standing” to use the features that matter in an operating system. As well, software-authentication regimes will be implemented in a strong manner for any software that is distributed or installed on these devices.

Is there a risk of a limited rollout of open app-market features

There can be a risk of Big Tech creating versions of their app-store-driven computing platforms for particular geopolitical areas when each area enacts open-app-market legislation.

In this situation, when a user registers a new device or the device’s operating system is updated, there would be logic to test whether the device is within a country or region under an open-app-market mandate then deliver a compliant version of the software to those areas. That is while a noncompliant version of the software is delivered to new or updated devices in areas that don’t have the open-app-market mandate.

This is similar to an issue faced in Australia with the motor industry where vehicle builders are “dumping” vehicles that are less fuel-efficient in to that market. That is because there aren’t the fleet-wide vehicle-efficiency mandates there that are similar to those mandates affecting USA, Europe or South East Asia.

Here, the issue that would be raised is having markets that aren’t regulated with open-app-market mandates being areas to continue the status quo regarding anticompetitive behaviour. Add to this intense lobbying of government or political parties by Big Tech to continue the same kind of behaviour with impunity.

Conclusion

What may be coming about for smartphones, mobile-platform tablets and similar devices is that governments will be forcing open the app-store markets for these devices so that users can seek software from competing suppliers.

Wi-Fi to become strong as a location and range-finding technology

Article – From the horse’s mouth

D-Link DIR-X5460 Wi-Fi 6 router press picture courtesy of D-Link USA

Multi-antenna Wi-Fi 6 and similar routers like this D-Link router could be part of allowing Wi-Fi to work as a location-tracking, range-finding and way-finding technology

Wi-Fi Alliance

Wi-Fi Location™: Performance drivers for Wi-Fi® ranging technologies and its achievable accuracies

My Comments

Qualcomm is driving Wi-Fi further as a location and ranging tool through the use of its own silicon. This is in addition to the Ekahau effort to use Wi-Fi as a real-time location system for business.

But it’s more about making sure that the Wi-Fi network is capable to answer Bluetooth and UWB wireless technologies in this space. This is being facilitated by Wi-Fi devices having multiple antennas and operating on multiple bands, That can exploit different bands’ radio-frequency characteristics like transmission / reception range.

In the business world, this may be about staff or asset tracking, indoor navigation amongst other uses. It may even be about “pointing” a laptop, tablet or smartphone to the closest printer or similar peripheral so you cut down on the amount of time it takes to select that peripheral. Airports, shopping centres and similar places will benefit in the form of enhanced indoor navigation for staff and end-users.

But as far as the Wi-Fi home network is concerned, this could come in to its own in a strong way.

This would be facilitated by the use of most recent-issue value-priced and premium Wi-Fi routers having multiple antennas thanks to newer Wi-Fi iterations like Wi-Fi 5, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 that implement various MIMO techniques; along with the ability to work on multiple wavebands.

Then there is an increased interest in multiple-access-point Wi-Fi networks thanks to Wi-Fi repeaters, distributed Wi-Fi (mesh) networks and access points that use Ethernet or wired “no-new-wires” networking technology like powerline networks as a backhaul. This is often implemented to fill in Wi-Fi dark spots within your home caused by things like highly-dense building materials or metal used as part of building materials or insulation.

NETGEAR Orbi with Wi-Fi 6 press picture courtesy of NETGEAR

Even distributed Wi-Fi setups like this NETGEAR Orbi with WI-Fi 6 system will serve the same purpose

One key use case for the home is the smart-home technology based on “Internet of Things” devices. The classic use cases would be the robot vacuum cleaners that move around your house, keeping the floors clean or the robot lawnmowers that keep your lawn mown down.

In the context of home and automotive security, it could be about geofencing and similar algorithms that limit the operation of smart locks or vehicle locking systems. It could even extend to preemptive control of heating / air-conditioning and lighting so when you are near home, the heating or lights come on.

To some extent, this could extent to healthcare at home including ageing at home. For example, this may be about fall detection or wandering detection for dementia sufferers. Or it could be about proof-of-presence and time/attendance records for paid carers.

The “nearest peripheral” location will come in to its own with the home network if you have multiple network-capable TVs or printers on your premises. Here, it could be about having the default printer being the one that is closest to you even if you take your laptop to the kitchen for example. It could also extend to use of Wi-Fi Aware for “across-the-room” use cases like transferring data between devices or user discovery with social media and online games.

Therefore in a lot of use cases, Wi-Fi will be valued as a location and ranging technology even if the network of concern is a small network that covers a house or small business.

The DTS Play-Fi multiroom audio platform now supports network-based surround sound

 

DTS Play-Fi home theatre setup with TV press image courtesy of XPeri

DTS Play-Fi Home Theater setup based around a Philips TV

Google, Apple and Amazon implemented “home-theatre” setups for their set-top-box and smart-speaker platforms. That is where their smart speakers and set-top devices work together in order to provide improved TV sound from audio or video content sources hosted on these set-top boxes. But these are focused primarily about improved stereo separation for the video content’s sound.

Similarly, Denon, Yamaha and Sonos have used their own network-based multiroom audio platforms to support multichannel sound across multiple Wi-Fi-based speakers that work on their platforms. This even extends to 5.1 surround sound with the IP-based packet-driven home network as the backbone between the speakers.

These setups have answered issues associated with the IP-based packet-driven small network that can affect proper in-sync in-phase multichannel sound delivery such as latency affecting one or more channels. Here, it’s been about using a single audio device, typically one the receives the stereo or multichannel audio stream from the source, working as the “reference sync device” for the multichannel audio setup and making sure all speakers refer to that device for the time sync information.

The DTS Play-Fi network-based multiroom audio platform has been supported by a significant number of “names of respect” within the hi-fi world. But lately a few TV manufacturers have come on board to extend this platform towards TV and video use cases including wireless network-based surround sound.

Initially this use case, driven by Philips, applied towards “extending” TV audio towards other logical rooms within a DTS Play-Fi setup. But it is now extended towards DTS Play-Fi surround-sound setups which use this technology and your home network as a backbone between the TV and the speakers that are part of a multichannel surround-sound setup.

This is based around a TV working as a “master device” or “anchor device” with the sound delivered to DTS Play-Fi speakers that serve the front left and right, surround or bass channels of the surround-sound setup. The TV’s own speakers would serve as the centre dialogue speakers and this cluster of speakers is set up as a logical room when it comes to streaming audio around your home network.

DTS Play-Fi Home Theater setup with soundbar press image courtesy of XPeri

DTS Play-Fi Home Theater surround sound setup – this time the soundbar is the main audio device

This concept is now extended towards a soundbar serving as a “master device” for these setups, due to the desire to have it work with all TVs rather than those equipped for DTS Play-Fi. In a lot of cases, the soundbar is used as a cost-effective and visually-attractive step towards improving one’s TV sound, with these devices appealing to households that maintain the “TV in the corner” arrangement or prefer a separate stereo system for music.

It is in addition to the “home theatre” application being extended to Dolby Atmos / DTS X setups that implement “height” audio channels. Here, a DTS Play-Fi setup with suitable equipment can be set up to encompass upward-firing speakers or speakers installed up high to create that “sound-above-you” effect but using wireless speakers and your home network.

Again this offers the advantage of wireless surround speakers where you only need power outlets near these speakers to have them work. This still comes in to its own with the open-plan living area with the lounge furniture serving as the room divider – there is very little in the way of cabling to deal with and the surround speakers can be relocated at a moment’s notice.

Similarly, the “sound bar” application could come in to its own with AV receivers where the goal is to move towards a full surround setup but without the ugliness associated with speaker cables run to the back of the room. This is something that some of DTS Play-Fi’s member companies like Onkyo and Pioneer who manufacture AV receivers, could aspire towards especially if they are trying to target some of their products towards the “value” market segment.

Here, some users may use a comprehensive AV receiver for their music playback and home-theatre needs, whether with a stereo amplifier and speakers optimised for music playback handling the front speakers or not. As well, a manufacturer could be offering value-priced AV receivers  that have up to four power amplifiers but support surround sound with DTS Play-Fi speakers.

Lets not forget that Philips could be a brand that pushes DTS Play-Fi towards the territory of affordable equipment and speakers being available from many household names. This could lead to speakers that are priced in a manner similar to IKEA’s SYMFONISK did for the Sonos ecosystem. That is to allow you to build out a network-based multiroom audio system or start a surround-sound setup based on the DTS Play-Fi platform for a reasonable price. It also includes creating one of these setups from scratch using affordable speakers then aspiring to use higher-quality premium speakers in the main living areas of the home while the affordable speakers end up in secondary areas like the bedroom.

The DTS Play-Fi approach to network-based surround sound is demonistrating the use of your home network for full surround sound distribution. As well, this is facilitating the use of a heterogenous setup with speakers from different manufacturers this allowing for the existence of innovative hardware that excels or is affordable for most people.

Sony to offer game-grade peripherals under the INZONE brand

Articles

Sony INZONE logo monitor and headsets image courtesy of Sony Electronics

Sony INZONE monitor and headsets

Sony announces INZONE line of monitors and headsets for PC and PS5 gaming | ZDNet

Sony’s new hardware brand will launch with gaming headsets and PS5-optimized monitors | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Sony

INZONE Product Page (USA)

INZONE Press Release

My Comments

Sony is creating the INZONE sub-brand that is pitched towards young gamers. This will be primarily used to market monitors, headsets and other peripherals that are optimised for video gaming on consoles or regular computers.

At the moment, there are two 27” monitors that are optimised for gaming on computers or video games consoles like the PlayStation 5 or the XBox X. These are designed on a “horses for courses” basis to suit the kind of video games a particular gamer wants to play. The INZONE M9, which has 4K UHD resolution and 144Hz screen refresh will come in to its own with “massive multiplayer online” and strategy games that excel on visuals but are slow-paced. Then the INZONE M3, which has Full HD resolution and 240Hz screen refresh is optimised for fast-paced games like first-person shooters where it is critical that you can detect the enemies in the game. These screens automatically adapt themselves towards gaming-focused behaviour or movie-focused behaviour depending on what is played through them, allowing them to become entertainment screens for that bedroom or dorm room.

There are two wireless headsets along with a wired headset in the INZONE gaming product range. The H9 and H7 wireless headsets can work with Bluetooth or a dedicated 2.4GHz low-latency wireless link to the host. The H9 is based on Sony’s successful WH1000XM active-noise-cancelling headset platform which allowed Sony to answer Bose with high-quality value-for-money noise-cancelling headsets and kick off the “Headset Wars”. The H3 wired headset connects to the host device via a USB connection or an analogue 3.5mm audio connection. But they all support Tempest 3D AudioTech virtual surround as implemented in the PS5 console thus allowing for spatial sound.

I see the INZONE effort as being very similar to Sony’s XPLOD car-stereo branding. This is the creation of a sub-brand of products that are pitched towards today’s teenagers and young adults who don’t have children and put their money towards leisure pursuits. In the XPLOD case, this was about high-performance car stereo equipment that is installed in those cars that they like to trick out. INZONE would be about marketing a range of gaming-optimised peripheral devices so those young people out there who want to get the most out of video games.

But could I see this as Sony offering more INZONE-branded computer-peripheral hardware pitched towards gamers? An obvious case could be something like speakers or soundbars that have sound qualities that go well for video games. Or I would see something like a range of TVs with screen sizes of between 32” to 40” that have screen refresh rates and image responsiveness desired for “core” video gaming.

Ad-supported video-on-demand–could this be the way to go

Article

Apple TV 4th Generation press picture courtesy of Apple

Could ad-supported video-on-demand be the way to go on our smart TVs and set-top boxes like the Apple TV?

How Australians feel about advertising-supported streaming – AdNews

My Comments

Increasingly we are making use of advertising-supported video-on-demand services when it comes to streaming TV shows.

One form these services come in are “broadcaster video-on-demand” services run by private or public-service TV broadcasters that run advertising. The other form are video-on-demand services that are purely funded by advertising such as YouTube. This will also include the subscription video-on-demand services that are starting to offer ad-supported reduced-price or free-to-use plans in addition to their premium ad-free plans.

The AdNews article had found that Australian TV viewers are accepting ad-supported video-on-demand services. This is due to the user-experience for ad-supported video-on-demand being perceived to be better than the traditional experience associated with advertising-supported linear TV viewing.

This issue may be seen as being different from broadcaster video-on-demand services ran by advertising-funded TV broadcasters. But it may apply to TV broadcasters who offer a premium video-on-demand video service as an adjunct to their broadcast and BVOD offerings, with examples being Stan or Paramount+ ran by the Nine Network and Ten Network respectively.

How will the viewing experience come across for ad-supported services

Netflix official logo - courtesy of Netflix

.. what with Netflix lining up ad-supported low-cost subscription tiers

Here, you have fewer commercials per ad break compared to the traditional TV experience, As well, there is an increased chance of seeing shorter more succinct ads, something that may only have been ran later on in the same ad break as a prior standard-length ad to reinforce that ad’s message.

Some platforms may even allow the user to skip particular ads or may offer some form of interactivity so users can “act on” ads relevant to their needs. An example of this could be to support “telescoping” where you can choose to see a longer-form ad with more details if you are interested in the product or service concerned. Or it could be about being able to use your “companion-screen” device like your smartphone or tablet to act on the offer being advertised such as to book a seat at that movie or play whose trailer you saw.

Add to this the ability for ad-supported video-on-demand platforms to support targeted advertising options. This will be facilitated with the video-on-demand service providers subscribing to one or more adtech platforms or ad marketplaces and having these platforms “fill” at least some of the advertising inventory with campaigns provided by these marketplaces, in addition to the service selling its own advertising inventory directly.

Like with traditional commercial TV, the ad breaks that these advertising-driven video-on-demand services will also be about creating breaks during the viewing experience. This could be a chance to go to the kitchen or bathroom or, where applicable, to put more fuel on the solid-fuel fire. As well, most of us would be looking at our smartphones or tablets during the ad breaks to interact with social media or look for online resources about concepts that are highlighted in the content.

The increased appeal of advertising-driven video-on-demand has come about due to a saturated market for ad-free subscription video-on-demand services. Here, some users are even questioning whether it is worth it to subscribe to multiple subscription-based streaming services at the full price. This is more so if one service’s content appeals to them more than another service.

It will mean that users could sign up to many of these services through ad-supported low-tier plans or benefit from services that adopt a freemium business model where there is a free ad-supported service plan alongside a premium ad-free service plan. This could lead to users subscribing to one or two video-on-demand services that they value the most while watching content on other video-on-demand services that run a ad-based freemium approach.

Impact on video content offered

But there are questions that will come up about the increased acceptance of ad-supported video-on-demand. One of these would be whether this has an impact on the kind of video content offered through these services.

Here, it may be about producers being required to avoid taking risks in order to keep their content “brand safe” so as not to impact advertisers’ reputations. This would necessitate avoiding controversial topics and contexts being part of the content.

Or it could be content producers pandering to the lowest common denominator in order to attract advertisers that offer goods and services that “every man and his dog” wants. This can be more so where an advertising-driven video-on-demand doesn’t create its specific niche market.

Let’s not forget the issue where some service providers will offer a smaller selection of their content to those of us who sign up to the ad-supported service tiers. This may be of concern for those of us who have discerning content tastes, something that has become more prevalent thanks to Netflix and services offering “premium-grade” TV content.

In some cases, you may find that lower-priced ad-supported tiers may offer the content at a basic video and sound quality specification like Full HD or stereo sound. Or there is a limit on the number of devices that can be concurrently used to view different content.

Similarly, there will be questions raised about video-on-demand services who have content directed at children and youth as part of their content lineup. Here, it would be about a requirement to keep the amount of advertising down within this content and maintain a strong control over the goods and services advertised while that content is shown. This is in order for parents and educators to consider these services as being “safe” for children and youth to use.

Conclusion

The increased prevalence of ad-supported video-on-demand services, including subscription-based services offering free or low-cost ad-supported service tiers, will be expected as a way to answer the over-saturated online video marketplace.

Starlink to offer portability for their satellite platform

Article

Starlink satellite launch photo courtesy of SpaceX

Starlink to allow semi-portable use of their satellite terminal

Starlink Internet Will Now Let You Take Your Dishy on the Go (gizmodo.com.au)

My Comments

Starlink is offering the ability to use your Starlink dish terminal and Internet service in a transportable manner around the same continent.

Here, this will be offered as an extra-cost feature to your subscription with costing USD$25 per month. You can enable and disable this feature as required which can come in to its own with those of us who use Starlink when camping or caravanning during the holiday seasons, or when running a temporary remote worksite.

The requirements for Starlink’s portability feature include:

  • The device to be used within the same continent as the registered address of service and to be within Starlink’s coverage footprint
  • To change the registered address of service if you are away from your current service address for more than two months
  • To use the Starlink terminal in a stationary location rather than in a vehicle or craft that is in motion
Pleasure-boats at a marina in Melbourne

.. to come in to its own with caravans and boats and similar scenarios

You will expect best-case performance at the location you are temporarily using Starlink at because this low-earth-orbit satellite system is currently engineered to prioritise uses who have registered their Starlink service at that location.

The fact that the Starlink setup is not fully mobile and requires you to have equipment stationary while in use would come in to its own with certain use cases. For example, a recreational-vehicle or boat user who moves around would set up their Starlink setup when they have set up camp or moored their boat and only while they are at that location. Similarly a temporary mobile office would set up their Starlink terminal when they have arrived at where they want to work at.

There doesn’t seem to be any information about permanently installing a Starlink dish terminal in a vehicle, transportable building or boat. This approach may satisfy those of us who regularly take that vehicle, building or vessel to a particular location but want to reduce the number of tasks required to set oneself up at that location.

Another question that will come up regarding the “same continent” rule is whether islands that are located close to the continent but are politically separate from that continent are considered thus, even though they have Starlink service. This may be of concern where the island or islands are separated from the content by a day or overnight trip in a car ferry or, in the case of UK and France, a short train trip through a tunnel.

There is still the intent to offer a fully-portable service where the Starlink satellite Internet service can be used in a moving vehicle or vessel. This may have to be initially offered as an inland / coastal service relative to a continent which may satisfy most use cases like trains and coaches moving across a country or boats that are “under way” in inland or coastal waters.

I suspect that this will come about when Starlink is offered in more areas as an Internet backbone for general public-transport situations like air travel, cruise ships and long-distance trains.

G’Day! Alexa has been taught Australian slang

Article Australian flag

Alexa partners with The Betoota Advocate (mumbrella.com.au)

Betoota Teaches Alexa Aussie Slang – (smarthouse.com.au)

Alexa Looks To Expand Her Knowledge Of Australia By Teaming Up With The Betoota Advocate – B&T (bandt.com.au)

My Comments

Australia does have its own slang and culture which has been celebrated through Australian films and television like “Crocodile Dundee” or “Neighbours”; or the 1980s Paul Hogan “Throw A Shrimp On The Barbie” ad. There was even a book called “G’Day Teach Yourself Australian” (Amazon link) which conveyed the look of a foreign-language courseware book but taught Australian slang and culture to English-speaking travellers in a humourous way. Even the current popularity of “Bluey” amongst families in other countries is putting Australian culture increasingly on the map.

Amazon Echo press image courtesy of Amazon

Amazon Alexa is now learning Australian slang and culture

But the voice-driven assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant weren’t taught that kind of information. This made it difficult for Australians to use these assistants in a manner that is comfortable to them.

A previous approach to supporting dialects within a language including regional dialects was the BBC’s effort at a voice assistant. This responded to British English and even supported the various regional accents and dialects used within various parts of the UK. But it has been focused towards access to its own content and currently isn’t able to work with other voice-assistant platforms as a linguistic “module”.

Now Amazon have worked with the Betoota Advocate to “teach” Alexa about Aussie slang and culture. It is not just the slang and colloquial speech that she had to understand but items relating to Australian life and culture. For example, being able to answer which AFL or NRL club won their respective code’s Grand Final or to summon up the latest Triple J Hottest 100 as a playlist.

In the case of the football Grand Finals, there may be an issue about which football code is referred to by default when you ask about the winner of one of these penultimate matches and don’t identify a particular code. This is because of New South Wales and Queensland “thinking of” the NRL rugby-league code while the other States think of the AFL Australian-Rules code.

It could be even something like “How do I pay the rego on the ute” which could lead you to your State government’s motor registration office or, if they support it, instigate the workflow for paying that vehicle registration.

Australians and foreigners can even ask Alexa the meaning of a particular slang term or colloquialism so they can become familiar with the Australian vernacular. This would be required of Alexa anywhere in the world especially if you are talking with Australian expats or finding that a neighbourhood is becoming a “Little Australia”. Or if you are from overseas and show interest in Australian popular culture, you may find this resource useful.

A feature that may have to come forward for this Australian-culture addition to Amazon Alexa is to support translation of Australian idioms to and from languages other than English. This is more so where Australian culture is being exposed in to countries that don’t use English as their primary language or where these countries acquire a significant Australian diaspora. An example of the first situation is the popularity of MasterChef Australia within the Indian subcontinent and the existence of Australians within Asian and European countries.

This addition of Australian slang and culture to Alexa is available to all devices that support the Amazon Alexa voice-driven assistant. This ranges from Amazon-designed equipment like the Amazon Echo smart speakers to third-party devices that implement Amazon Alexa technology.

At least this is an example of how a voice-driven assistant provider can work towards courting countries and diasporas that are being seen as viable. It may have to be about encouraging the use of modular extensions to enable voice-driven assistants to work with multiple languages, dialects and cultures.

Bluetooth LE Audio–how I see this coming about

Bluetooth LE Audio

Sony WH-1000XM4 Bluetooth noise-cancelling headset press image courtesy of Sony

Bluetooth LE Audio and its multicast audio abilities will still have to factor in headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 to be considered worthwhile

As covered previously, Bluetooth LE Audio is considered as the next evolution of Bluetooth wireless audio for smartphones, tablets and computers.

It encompasses the LC3 audio codec that is more efficient than the traditional Bluetooth Classic SBC audio codec. This provides for increased power efficiency and battery runtime for portable setups thus leading to the design of very small hearable devices like earbuds or hearing aids, thanks to the ability to use a very small battery. There is also the ability to realise increased sound fidelity for Bluetooth audio links, something as good as at least CD-quality stereo audio.

Add to this reduced latency for Bluetooth-based audio links, which means that this mode of transmission can be seen as relevant for video-game sound or audio sent to multiple endpoint devices.

This codec is not bound to a particular device or chipset manufacturer which means that more devices can be legitimately built with Bluetooth LE Audio support without the need for a particular chipset for example. As well, Android 13 is expected to have this functionality built in to it if your Android phone can be updated to this newer version. I would also expect iOS and other operating systems to have support for Bluetooth LE Audio through an upcoming feature-level update.

Here I am talking about two features being introduced with Bluetooth LE Audio that will increase its market acceptance.

Audio sharing and broadcast audio

A potential killer feature for Bluetooth LE Audio is the ability to broadcast audio content to other devices. This could be in the form of you and a friend listening to the same audio playlist through your own headphones with the ability to have the sound level how you like it as well as hearing it in stereo. Or it could be multiple people hearing a common program source on their devices at their preferred sound levels.

Some of the use cases include providing assisted hearing arrangements in public areas without the need to use an induction-based loop that only works with telecoil-equipped hearing aids or proprietary stereo headsets. Or it could be about the “silent disco” where you can bring your own headsets to participate in the dancing. As well, it is also being seen as a way to, for example, provide audio from a particular TV set installed in a bar or cafe without needing to have a set of speakers associated with the venue’s audio system switched between the background music or the TV audio.

Even at home, it could be about enhanced audio setups for TV viewing where particular viewers could benefit from increased audio volume or access to audio description or dubbed foreign-language soundtracks. This is without impacting on what everyone else wants to benefit from and also facilitates access to stereo or “virtual surround’ sound for the same content.

The preferred Bluetooth LE Audio approach for establishing these setups is to use a control app or physical controller to “point” compatible audio devices to the shared audio content or audio stream. Typically such apps will be required to discover Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast streams and allow users to select their desired audio stream.

Use with legacy Bluetooth devices

This can’t be achieved with the large number of Bluetooth Classic Audio devices that are currently in use. It would be more of concern where there isn’t the possibility of manufacturers providing firmware updates to enable these legacy devices for Bluetooth LE Audio.

An example of this is the “headset wars” taking place between Bose, Sony, B&O and Apple where these manufacturers are outpacing each other with the best-value over-ear noise-cancelling Bluetooth headsets. You may find that the you bought that Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM4 headset but they won’t be compatible with Bluetooth LE Audio unless Bose or Sony offer a firmware update to fully support Bluetooth LE Audio.

Here, you don’t necessarily want to get rid of a set of perfectly good headphones just to benefit from Bluetooth LE Audio and its broadcast features. After I was reading material on the Bluetooth SIG site about this standard, I came across a suggested path for integrating this technology with wired headphones.

This was in the form of a Bluetooth LE Audio controller app or operating-system function which worked as a “sink” device for the audio-sharing / broadcast-audio features and stream what was received to the wired headphones. But this approach would also be about repackaging the incoming selected broadcast audio stream as a Bluetooth Classic (A2DP) audio stream for something like a Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-cancelling headset. That is although they reckoned that this approach may not be efficient due to “repackaging” the Bluetooth audio stream but would need to be achieved to allow the use of Bluetooth Classic Audio devices in this context.

This same app may also be required to provide software support for audio sharing especially where the device doesn’t have inherent support for Bluetooth LE Audio. It would be in the form of being a Bluetooth LE Audio source or target for audio-sharing setups.

Bluetooth speakers and car audio

Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker

Bluetooth LE Audio apps may also be required to bring Bluetooth LE Audio broadcasts to Bluetooth speakers like this Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker

The COVID-19 coronavirus plague gave drive-in movies a renaissance in some areas. This was because households could go out and watch the movies from the safety of their cars and reduce the spread of the virus. This had been extended to “drive-in” live entertainment like concerts except a stage for the live entertainment was used rather than a screen for showing films.

Even before, there has been some interest in drive-in movies as a form of “cinema al fresco” in countries that had balmy summers. This was about enjoying watching films in a cinematic experience while in an outdoor setting rather than going in to an air-conditioned cinema to watch films as a community.

But these setups would distribute the sound via FM radio so each household can hear the entertainment’s soundtrack through their car’s car radio or a portable radio tuned to a particular FM frequency. This was able to use the many-decades-old FM technology to deliver the sound in stereo to each vehicle. Bluetooth LE Audio could easily be seen as a logical successor to FM radio for this kind of use case.

As for Bluetooth speakers and Bluetooth audio-receive adaptors, these could be part of the Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast-audio concept. For example, Bluetooth SIG often suggested the TV, whether at home, in a hotel room or in a public place as a key use case for the broadcast-audio feature that Bluetooth LE Audio offers. This is in the form of assisted hearing or access to an alternate soundtrack at home, reduced volume for hotel-room TVs or the ability to hear the soundtrack for a show playing on a bar’s TV via headphones.

Here, a Bluetooth speaker could be about a group of people at a particular table in a bar hearing the call of a sports event shown on one of the TVs in that bar through one of these speakers. Or it could be about someone hearing the audio-described soundtrack for a show that everyone is watching through a small Bluetooth speaker while everyone else hears the standard soundtrack through the main sound system.

Firstly this could mean that there could be an incentive to support Bluetooth LE Audio functionality within newer speaker-equipped Bluetooth audio equipment or Bluetooth audio-receive adaptor devices. As for as legacy equipment is concerned, it may be about the previously-mentioned Bluetooth LE Audio controller app that repackages broadcast audio content delivered via this new standard as the legacy Bluetooth Classic Audio standards.

Announcement priority

A feature that will be wanted for Bluetooth LE Audio’s broadcast-audio feature is some form of “announcement priority” feature. Such a feature would be called for in relationship to emergency messaging but would also be desired for the transport sector.

Here, that would be akin to the traffic-announcement priority feature instigated with ARI and implemented primarily with RDS, where, with a suitably-equipped car radio tuned to a broadcaster supporting this feature, you can turn it down or have something else playing but you don’t miss out on the latest road reports. This is due to out-of-band subcarrier-based signalling that causes the radio to increase the volume to a particular level or pause the other program you were listening to while a traffic report is being broadcast.

If this was implemented in Bluetooth LE Audio, it could be set up to allow a transport-service announcement or building emergency announcement to override whatever you are listening to on your phone, but not override a phone call. Such a facility would have to have some form of “relevance filter” with metadata relating to the platform that you are waiting at or the vehicle you are riding on in a public transport system, or the language the announcement comes in. Like with the car-radio application, there would be a requirement to cancel the currently-playing announcement but be ready to hear the next one for further updates.

Multichannel audio

Another killer use case for Bluetooth LE Audio is to allow a single source device to deliver two or more audio streams relating to the same content as a multichannel audio stream to multiple output devices. This is with the sound in phase and in sync across all of the audio channels.

Here, it would be operated in a manner that doesn’t require vendors to reinvent the wheel when it comes to designing multichannel-audio equipment that exploits Bluetooth LE Audio technology.

The obvious use case is to have standards-based true wireless earbuds and hearing aids without manufacturers reinventing the wheel every time they design these setups. As well, the requirement would be to have the source device effectively stream each channel to each output device so that there is no retransmission involved thus assuring power efficiency for earbuds and hearing aids.

Bluetooth speakers

I would see the multichannel audio feature also benefit Bluetooth speakers. Here, a manufacturer could design their Bluetooth speakers so that if you buy two or more of these speakers, you could set up a pair for proper stereo-sound reproduction with increased separation.

There may even be a requirement to support multiple multichannel speaker clusters. This could be multiple pairs of speakers used to reproduce a stereo soundmix in different areas.

Use of subwoofers to pump up the bass

Some device manufacturers would be taking this further by having speaker setups involving speakers that have different frequency-response characteristics. The classic example is a pair of highly-compact speakers reproducing the stereo sound but not having much bass response while another larger speaker with a larger driver and housing like a subwoofer yields the bass notes. Such setups are desired as a way to have compact speakers yet be able to have that bit of bass “kick”.

This would require support within the standard for passing audio frequencies above or below a certain threshold to particular speakers that can handle particular audio frequency ranges. Most likely it may be facilitated through each speaker taking an audio stream that represents the full frequency range and passing it through low-pass or high-pass filter circuitry or its acoustic design doing the filtering.

Surround sound

Then there is the idea of using Bluetooth LE for multi-channel surround sound applications, typically associated with video content. This may be about a soundbar that represents the front and centre channels of a surround soundmix, a subwoofer representing low-frequency effects and two speakers representing the “surround” channels.

Most likely the source device will decode the Dolby or DTS surround-sound formats and allocate particular channels to particular speakers.

Speakers with own audio inputs or sources

There will be problems with this kind of setup where Bluetooth speakers typically have another audio input beyond the Bluetooth audio stream delivered by a smartphone or other device. This represents at least a stereo line-level analogue input with better setups offering one or more wired digital inputs of some form.

It may also extend to where a Bluetooth LE Audio speaker in a multichannel setup has its own programme source. Such sources can range from a traditional radio or TV broadcast source or packaged content medium like vinyl, CD or Blu-Ray. Or it could be file-based media on something like a USB device or simply receiving online audio or video content via the Internet. I would even encompass devices that are part of a network-based multiroom audio setup or smart speakers that have their own microphone and work with a voice-driven home assistant.

The common use case involving speakers and multichannel sound from a connected source would be a soundbar that is connected to a TV set via HDMI-ARC. This soundbar, expected to reproduce the sound from the connected TV, would typically work alongside a subwoofer that reproduces the bass frequencies, while it reproduces the midrange frequencies for the left, right and centre channels in an audio mix. Some setups may support additional front speakers for increased stereo separation or a set of rear speakers for full-on surround sound. Or it could be about extra speakers required to properly reproduce a Dolby Atmos soundmix.

Here, it will be about wanting to have one speaker that has the input or content source work as a Bluetooth LE Audio source device for these setups. This speaker will then be required to yield a multichannel Bluetooth LE audio stream to the other speakers as if it is a Bluetooth audio-transmitter adaptor. The other speakers would then pick up and reproduce the audio channel that they are assigned to.

This use case involving a Bluetooth speaker of some sort having its own audio input or source and working with a multichannel audio setup would be seen as the exception when it comes to having a Bluetooth source device stream each channel of a multichannel soundmix to different output devices.

In this case, it would be about streaming a stereo or multichannel Bluetooth LE audio stream from the connected or integrated audio source around multiple Bluetooth LE speakers. You would then have to set each speaker to receive the appropriate audio channel, most likely through the manufacturer’s app.

Conclusion

The broadcast audio and audio-sharing abilities of Bluetooth LE Audio will most likely appear in the form of mobile-platform “controller” apps that discover Bluetooth LE Audio broadcast / multicast streams and share them with audio devices associated with the mobile device. Here, there will be a reliance on these apps to “bridge” Bluetooth LE Audio multicast streams to the Bluetooth Classic Audio devices currently in circulation.

Most likely I would see the Bluetooth LE Audio multichannel support manifest in manufacturers who encourage us to buy two or more of a particular speaker product and set them up for stereo sound. As well, it could encourage in the short  term the supply of subwoofers and three-piece speaker kits that implement this technology to give that bit of extra bass kick.

What is the Declaration For The Future Of The Internet about?

Articles

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

Internet services now under a worldwide declaration

US signs Declaration for the Future of the Internet alongside 60 global partners | Windows Central

US Pledges to Keep an Open Internet With Dozens of Other Countries – CNET

Governments Pledge to Keep an Open Internet, Not Russia, China (gizmodo.com)

From the horse’s mouth

The White House, USA

FACT SHEET: United States and 60 Global Partners Launch Declaration for the Future of the Internet | The White House

Declaration-for-the-Future-for-the-Internet_Launch-Event-Signing-Version_FINAL.pdf (whitehouse.gov)

My Comments

The US, European Union, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries signed a declaration regarding the Internet. This declaration, called the “Declaration For The Future Of The Internet” is an effort by the Biden White House to reinforce what the Internet is to be about as an open network of networks with a fair playing field.

This is a response by these countries against digital authoritarianism that has been shown by authoritarian regimes like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. It encompasses domestic and international online repression efforts like censorship along with international political destabilisation efforts like election / referendum interference, disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks.

There is also the same fear that due to populist strongman politics taking place ins some Western and other countries not associated with that kind of politics, the Internet as a symbol of freedom of expression could be under threat in those countries.

It is a reference for public policymakers, citizens, the business community and civil society organisations, but is non-binding. This is seen as a sticking point amongst some because sone countries like the USA aren’t toeing the line when it comes to a free and open Internet with issues like civilian surveillance. But some policymakers in some governments, international organisations and civil society could see this as a “gold standard” for what the Internet should be about.

The goal in this Declaration is to maintain what the Internet was about when it came about in the 1990s – an open network of networks that is freely accessible to all.

It is about protecting fundamental human rights and freedoms for all people in the online space. As well, it is about the global Internet that facilitates the free flow of information for citizens and businesses. That also includes inclusive and affordable connectivity to the Internet, which also factors in access from rural and remote areas. As well, there should be an increase in our digital skills so we can work the Internet competently.

Trust in the global online ecosystem is also underscored, including protection of the privacy and confidentiality of end-users. This is about safe secure private Internet use. For businesses of all sizes, it is about allowing them to compete, innovate and thrive in their own merits.

This goal is to be facilitated using reliable secure interoperable and sustainable infrastructure around the world. Here it would be managed in a multiple stakeholder approach to assure common benefit.

An issue that will need to he looked at is how online services are operated by the private sector. This is with expectations regarding end-user privacy along with their operation as a social good. It may also have to include support for healthy competition between online service providers so as to support innovation and service affordability.

I do see a strong possibility that the Declaration For The Future Of The Internet as a “Gold Standard” for what is expected of the Internet as part of a democratic society.

Use of DVB-I and similar technologies to provide radio and TV over Internet-based infrastructure

ABC News 24 coronavirus coverage

Traditional TV and radio could be delivered via the same means as the Internet

A direction that we are expecting to see for broadcast radio and TV technology is to stream it via Internet-based technologies but assure users of a similar experience to how they have received content delivered this way.

It is about being able to use the agile wired and wireless Internet technologies like 5G mobile broadband, fibre-to-the-premises, fixed-wireless broadband; and Ethernet and Wi-Fi wireless local area networks to deliver this kind of content.

What is the goal here

The goal here is to provide traditional broadcast radio and TV service through wired or wireless broadband-service-delivery infrastructure in addition to or in lieu of dedicated radio-frequency-based infrastructure.

The traditional radio-frequency approach uses specific RF technologies like FM, DAB+, DVB and ATSC to deliver audio or video content to radio and TV receivers. This can be terrestrial to a rooftop, indoor or set-attached antenna referred to in the UK and most Commonwealth countries as an aerial; via a cable system through a building, campus or community; or via a satellite where it is received using special antennas like satellite dishes.

The typical Internet-Protocol network used for Internet service uses different transport media, whether that be wired or wireless. It can be mobile broadband receivable using a mobile phone; a fixed setup like fibre-to-the-premises, fixed wireless or fibre-copper setups. As well, such networks typically include a local-area network covering a premises or building that is based on Ethernet, Wi-Fi wireless, HomePlug or G.Hn powerline, or similar technologies.

The desireable user experience

TV remote control

It will maintain the traditional remote-control experience like channel surfing

It also is about providing a basic setup and use experience equivalent to what is expected for receiving broadcast radio and TV service using digital RF technologies. This includes “scanning” the wavebands for stations to build up a station directory of what’s available locally as part of setting up the equipment; using up/down buttons to change between stations or channels; keying in “channel numbers” in to a keypad to select TV channels according to a traditional and easy-to-remember channel numbering approach; using a “last-channel” button to flip between two different programmes you are interested in; and allocating regularly-listened-to stations to preset buttons so you have them available at a moment’s notice.

This has been extended to a richer user experience for broadcast content in many ways. For TV, it has extended to a grid-like electronic programme guide which lists what is showing now or will be shown in the coming week on all of the channels so you can switch to a show that you like to watch or have that show recorded. For radio, it has been about showing more details about what you are listening to like the name of that song you are listening to for example. Even ideas like prioritising or recording the news or traffic announcements that matter or selecting content by type has also become another desireable part of the broadcast user experience.

Relevance of traditional linear broadcasting today

There are people who cast doubt on the relevance of traditional linear broadcast media and its associated experiences in this day and age.

This is brought about through the use of podcasts, Spotify-like audio streaming services, video-on-demand services and the like who can offer a wider choice of content than traditional broadcast media.

But some user classes and situations place value upon the traditional broadcast media experience. Firstly, Generation X and prior generations have grown up with broadcast media as part of their life thanks to affordable sets with a common user experience and an increasing number of stations or channels being available. Here, these users are often resorting to broadcast media for casual viewing and listening with a significant number of these users recording broadcast material to enjoy again on their own terms.

Then there is the reliance on traditional broadcast media for news and sport. This is due to the ability to receive up-to-date facts without needing to do much. Let’s not forget that some users rely on this media experience for discovery of content curated by someone else like staff at a TV channel or a radio station rather than an online service’s content-recommendation engine. Even the on-air talent is valued by a significant number of listeners or viewers as personalities in their own right because of how they present themselves on radio or TV.

Access without traditional radio-frequency infrastructure

TV aerial and satellite dish on house roof

DVB-I and allied technologies may reduce reliance on RF infrastructure like TV aerials or satellite dishes

One of these goals here is to allow access to traditional broadcast radio and TV without being dependent on particular radio-frequency infrastructure types and reception conditions. This can encompass someone to offer a linear broadcast service with all the trappings of that service but not needing to have access to RF-based broadcast technologies like a transmitter.

To some extent, it could be a method to use the likes of SpaceX Starlink or 5G mobile broadband to deliver radio and TV service to rural and remote areas. This could come in to its own where the goal is to provide the full complement of broadcasting services to these areas.

It also is encompassing a situation happening with cable-TV networks in some countries where these networks are being repurposed purely for cable-modem Internet service. As well, some neighbourhoods don’t take kindly to satellite dishes popping up on the roofs or walls of houses, seeing them as a blight. Here, multi-channel pay-TV operators have had to consider using Internet-based delivery methods to bring their services to potential customers without facing these risks.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 tablet

Or a mobile platform tablet could run software to pick up TV broadcasts via the Internet

Let’s not forget that IP-based data networks are being seen as a way to extend the reach of traditional broadcast services in to parts of a building that don’t have ready access to a reliable RF signal or traditional RF infrastructure. This may be due to it being seen as costly or otherwise prohibitive to extend a master-antenna TV setup to a particular area or to install a satellite dish, TV aerial or cable-TV connection to a particular house.

In the portable realm, it extends especially to smartphones or mobile-platform tablets even where these devices may have a broadcast-radio or TV tuner. But broadcast reception using these tuners only becomes useful if you plug a wired headset in to the mobile device’s headset jack, because of a long-standing design practice with Walkman-type personal radio devices where the headset cable is the device’s FM or DAB+ antenna. Here, the smartphone could use mobile broadband or Wi-Fi for broadcast-radio reception if you use its speaker or a Bluetooth headset to listen to the radio.

Complementing traditional radio infrastructure

SAT>IP concept diagram

What SAT>IP is about with satellite TV – broadcast-LAN content distribution

In the same context, it is also being considered as a different approach to providing “broadcast-to-LAN” services where broadcast signals are received from radio infrastructure via a tuner-server device and streamed in to a local-area network. This could allow the client device to choose the best source available for a particular channel or station.

But even the “broadcast-to-LAN” approach can be improved upon by providing an equivalent user experience to a traditional RF-based broadcast setup. It would benefit buildings or campuses with a traditional aerial or satellite dish installed at the most optimum location but use Ethernet cabling, Wi-Fi wireless or similar technologies including a mixture of such technologies to distribute the broadcast signal around the development.

As well, some of these setups may be about mixing the traditional broadcast channels and IP-delivered content in to a form that can be received with that traditional broadcast user experience. Or it can be about seamlessly switching between a fully-Internet-delivered source and the broadcast stream provided by a broadcast-LAN server to the local network that is providing Internet service. This can cater towards broadcast-LAN setups based around devices that don’t have enough capacity to serve many broadcast streams.

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio

Pure Sensia 200D Connect Internet radio – an example bringing broadcast radio via RF and Internet means

Even a radio or TV device could maintain a traditional user-experience while content is delivered over both traditional RF infrastructure and Internet-based infrastructure. This could range from managing a situation where an alternative content stream is offered via the Internet while the main content is offered via the station’s traditional RF means. Or it could be about independent broadcast content being broadcast without the need to have access to RF infrastructure or spectrum.

Similarly, some digital-broadcast operators are wanting to implement networks typically used for Internet service delivery as a backhaul between a broadcaster’s studios and the transmitter. Here, it is seen as a cost-effective approach due to a reduced need to create an expensive pure-play wired or wireless link to the transmitter. Rather they can rely on a business-grade Internet service with guaranteed service quality standards for this purpose.

Even a master-antenna system that is set up to provide a building’s or development’s occupants access to broadcast content via RF coaxial-cable infrastructure could benefit this way. This could be about repackaging broadcasters’ content from Internet-based links offered by the broadcasters in to a form deliverable over the system’s RF cable infrastructure rather than an antenna or satellite dish to bring radio and TV to that system. It could be also seen as a way to insert extra content for that development through this system such as a health TV channel for hospitals or a tourist-information TV channel for hotels.

How is this approach being taken

Here, a broadcast-ready linear content stream or a collection of such streams that would be normally packaged for a radio-frequency transport is repackaged for a data network working to IP-compliant standards. This can be done in addition to packaging that content stream for one or more radio-frequency transports.

This approach is built on the idea of the ISO OSI model of network architecture where top-level classes of protocols can work on many different bottom-level transports, with this concept being applied to broadcast radio and TV.

The IP-based network / Internet transport approach can allow for a minimal effort approach to repackaging the broadcast stream or stream collection to an RF transport. A use case that this would apply to is using a business-standard Internet service as a backhaul for delivering radio or TV service to multiple transmitters.

It is different from the Internet-radio or “TV via app” approach where there is a collection of broadcasters streamed via Internet means. But these setups rely primarily on online content directories operated by the broadcasters themselves or third parties like TuneIn Radio or Airable.net. These setups don’t typically offer broadcast-like user experiences like channel-surfing or traditional channel-number entry.

At the moment, the DVB Group who have effectively defined the standards for digital TV in Europe, Asia, most of Africa, and Oceania have worked on this approach through the use of DVB-I (previous coverage on this site) and allied standards for television. This is in addition to the DVB Home Broadcast (DVB-HB) standard released in February this year to build upon SAT-IP towards a standardised broadcast-to-LAN setup no matter the RF bearer.

Similarly, the EBU have worked on the HRADIO project to apply this concept to DAB+ digital radio used for radio services in Europe and Oceania at least.

Another advantage that is also being seen is the ability for someone to get “on the air” without needing to have access to radio-frequency spectrum or be accepted by a cable-TV or satellite-TV network. This may appeal to international broadcasters or to those offering niche content that isn’t accepted by the broadcast establishment of a country.

What is it also leading to

This is leading towards hybrid broadcast and broadband content-delivery approaches. That is where content from the same broadcaster is delivered by RF and Internet means with the end user using the same user experience to select the online or RF-broadcast content.

One use case is to gain access to supplementary content from that broadcast via the Internet no matter whether the viewer or listener enjoys the broadcaster through an RF-based means or through the Internet. This could be prior episodes of the same show or further information about a concept put forward in an editorial program or a product advertised on a commercial.

For radio, this would be about showing up-to-date station branding alongside show names and presenter images. If the show is informational, there would be rich visual information like maps, charts, bullet lists and the like to augment the spoken information.

If it is about music, you would see reference to the title and artist of what’s playing perhaps with album cover art and artist images. For classical music where people think primarily of a work composed by a particular composer, this may be about the composer and the work, perhaps with a reference to the currently-playing movement. Operas and other musical theatre may have the libretti being shown in real time to the performance.

In all music-related cases, there may be the ability to “find out more” on the music and who is behind it or even to buy a recording of that music, whether as physical media like an LP record or CD, or as a download-to-own file.

For TV content, this would be about a rich experience for sports, news, reality and similar shows. For example, the Seven Network created an improved interactive experience for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics by using 7Plus to provide direct access to particular sports types during the Games.  A true hybrid setup on equipment with a broadcast tuner would allow a user to select Channel 7 or 7Mate for standard broadcast feeds using the 7Plus user experience with the broadcast feeds supplied by the broadcast tuner or the Internet stream depending on the signal quality.

Issues to consider

There are issues that will be raised where broadcast radio and TV are delivered over Internet infrastructure with the goal of a broadcast-like user experience.

One of these is to assure users don’t pay extra costs for this kind of reception compared to delivery by RF-based means. Here, these Internet-based broadcast setups would have to be “zero-rated” so that users don’t incur data costs on metered Internet services like mobile broadband. Add to this a common issue with rural areas where Internet service quality wouldn’t be reliable enough to provide the same kind of user experience as traditional RF-based broadcast reception.

As well, broadband infrastructure providers would need to assure transparent access to Internet-based broadcast setups so that users have access to standard broadcasters without being dependent on service from particular retail ISPs or mobile carriers. It may also be about making sure that one can receive broadcast content with the broadcast user experience anywhere in a typical local network.

Another factor to be considered as far as DVB-I or similar technologies are concerned is whether this impacts on content providers’ liabilities regarding broadcast rights for music and sports content. Here, some sports leagues or music copyright collection bodies consider Internet-based distribution as different from traditional broadcast media and add extra requirements on this distribution approach.

It can be about availability of content beyond the broadcaster’s home country, in a manner to contravene a blackout requirement or to provide a competing source of availability to the one who has exclusive rights for that territory. It is also similar to “grey-importing” of music rather than acquiring it through official distribution channels, that also leads to bringing in content not normally available in a particular country.

These issues may be answered through a framework of various legal protections and universal-service obligations associated with providing free-to-air broadcast content. It would be driven more so by countries who have a strong public-service and/or commercial free-to-air broadcast lobby.

Conclusion

Internet-based technologies are effectively being seen as a way to extend the reach of or improve upon the broadcast-media experience without detracting from its familiar interaction approaches. This is thanks to research in to technologies that are about repackaging broadcast signals for an RF transport in a manner for Internet use.