Category: Current and Future Trends

Apple to support security keys as a means to protect your Apple ID

Articles

You can use security keys as a second factor for authenticating with Apple ID on your iPhone

iOS 16.3 Lets You Use a Physical Key for Added Security When Logging Into Your Apple Account (gizmodo.com.au)

Apple iOS 16.3 arrives with support for hardware security keys (bleepingcomputer.com)

Security Keys Are Now the Best Way to Protect Your Apple ID (lifehacker.com.au)

From the horse’s mouth

Apple

Apple advances user security with powerful new data protections (Press Release)

About Security Keys for Apple ID (Support article)

Use security keys to sign in to your Apple ID account on iPhone (Support article)

My Comments

Apple is making it feasible to use hardware security keys in iOS as an authentication factor for their Apple ID logon.

This is being desired as a “phish-proof” approach for secondary authentication or sole authentication due to a physical device not being easily coerced or fooled. As well, this “machine-to-machine” approach allows for stronger passkeys.

It is even seen as a preferred secondary authentication factor for online services used by journalists, human-rights defenders, the public service within democracies and others working with high-stakes information. This avoids such users being fooled in to releasing their online accounts to highly-targeted spear-phishing attacks.

Apple supports this on iPhones and iPads through the iOS/iPadOS 16.3 major feature update. This is also being written in to MacOS Ventura 13.2 for the Apple Mac regular computers whereupon you just use the security key as the secondary authentication factor. They primarily implement this as an alternative secondary authentication means to transcribing a six-digit number shown on your iPhone when it comes to two-factor authentication for your Apple ID.

In the context of the Apple Watch, Apple TV and HomePod devices, you use your iPhone that you set up with the security key authentication to provide the secondary authentication factor when you set these up for your Apple ID. Here, this is easier for limited-interface devices because another device is managing some of the authentication work with your Apple ID.

FIDO-compliant hardware security keys are supported with this update but they have to have an MFi Lightning plug or NFC “touch and go” interface to work with the current crop of iPhones in circulation. USB-C is also supported but you would need a USB-C to MFi Lightning adaptor for iOS devices except newer iPads that have this connector. You also may find that newer iPhones that are to come on the market soon will have the USB-C connector due to pressure from the European Union and some other jurisdictions.

There will be a requirement to set up two hardware keys with the same iOS device when you implement this feature. This is so you have a backup key in case the one you lose the one you regularly use or that one is damaged such as being laundered with your clothes.

Add to this that support does exist for app-level or Website-level verification with security keys within iOS. But it may allow Apple to build in and refine the necessary application-programming interfaces for third-party app developers who want to support this form of authentication.

What I see at least is the implementation of hardware security keys in the mobile platform context when it comes to multi-factor or password-free authentication for the user’s primary platform account. Who knows when Google will offer this feature for Android. Could this also be about leading towards the use of hardware security keys as a hardening factor for user account security?

Big Tech works with the Linux Foundation to compete with Google Maps for geospatial information

Articles

OpenStreetMap seen as a viable alternative to Google Maps

Big Tech Companies Join Linux in Effort to Kill Google Maps (gizmodo.com)

There could finally be a solid Google Maps alternative on Android – SamMobile

From the horse’s mouth

Linux Foundation Project

Overture Maps Foundation – Linux Foundation Project

My Comments

Major tech firms like Microsoft, Meta (Facebook, Instagram), TomTom, Amazon Web Services and the Linux Foundation to build an open-source mapping and geolocation project to compete with Google Maps. It is to complement OpenStreetMap as a major competing navigation and geospatial data pool.

As well, they are pulling in data from public sources like government urban-planning departments to create the “shape” of cities and towns. Here, this allows for factoring in new property developments that are given the green light along with government-planned urban-renewal and similar projects. It could also encompass government roads departments who are laying down new roads or upgrading existing roads for new needs.

The idea is to support true interoperability when it comes to information about places and areas. Here, it is about using data from a plurality of data sources which leads to better data quality and richer data.

An issue that I would see coming about is whether the Overture Maps Foundation project and OpenStreetMap will present this effort as a consumer-facing mobile platform app or desktop program pitched for general use like HEREWeGo Maps. Or whether it could be focused towards various third-party Websites and software that exploits this data such as e-government, vehicle-dispatch, hotel-booking or similar use cases.

But one area this could affect is your vehicle’s integrated GPS sat-nav feature, especially if a vehicle is intended to be positioned for the so-called “value-price” market. The combination of the Overture Project and OpenStreetMap could be about providing a line-fit sat-nav setup at a price that is affordable to the manufacturer. It could also be about automotive infotainment equipment sold as an aftermarket add-on that has sat-nav functionality where such equipment is to be sold at a price affordable for most people.

Similarly, there will be issues like assuring support for and access to real-time data such as weather, traffic and transit, or emergency-situation information. This could be facilitated through open-frame database APIs associated with weather services and the like who maintain this kind of data, something that could be pushed by the public service achieving the “open source” attitude.

When use of multiple public accounts isn’t appropriate

Article

Facebook login page

There are times where use of public accounts isn’t appropriate

The murky world of politicians’ covert social media accounts (sbs.com.au)

My Comments

Just lately there have questions raised about how Australian politicians and their staff members were operating multiple online personas to disparage opponents, push political ideologies or “blow their own trumpet”.

It is being raised in connection with legislative reforms that the Australian Federal Government are working on to place the onus of responsibility regarding online defamation on whoever is posting the defamatory material in a comments trail on an online service. This is different to the status quo of having whoever is setting up or managing an online presence like a Website or Facebook Page being liable for defamation.

Here, it is in the context of what is to be expected for proper political communication including any “government-to-citizen” messaging. This is to make sure we can maintain trust in our government and that all political messaging is accurate and authentic in the day and age of fake news and disinformation.

I see this also being extended to business communication, including media/marketing/PR and non-profit advocacy organisations who have a high public profile. Here, it is to assure that any messaging by these entities is authentic so that people can build trust in them.

An example of a public-facing online persona – the Facebook page of Dan Andrews, the current Premier of Victoria

What I refer to as an “online persona” are email, instant-messaging and other communications-service accounts; Web pages and blogs; and presences on various part of the Social Web that are maintained by a person or organisation. It is feasible for a person or organisation to maintain a multiplicity of online personas like multiple email accounts or social-media pages that are used to keep public and private messaging separate, whether that’s at the business or personal level.

The normal practice for public figures at least is to create a public online persona and one or two private online personas such as an intra-office persona for colleagues and a personal one for family and friends. This is a safety measure to keep public-facing communications separate from business and personal communications.

Organisations may simply create particular online personas for certain offices with these being managed by particular staff members. In this case, they do this so that communications with a particular office stay the same even as office-holders change. As well, there is the idea of keeping “business-private” material separate from public-facing material.

In this case, the online personas reference the same entity by name at least. This is to assure some form of transparency about who is operating that persona. Other issues that come in to play here include which computing devices are being used to drive particular online personas.

This is more so for workplaces and businesses that own computing and communications hardware and have staff communicate on those company-owned devices for official business. But staff members use devices they bought themselves to operate non-official online personas. This is although more entities are moving towards “BYOD” practices where staff members use their own devices for official work use and there are systems in place to assure secure confidential work from staffer-owned devices.

But there is concern about some Australian politicians creating multiple public-facing personas in order to push various ideologies. Here, these personas are operated in an opaque manner in order to create multiple discrete persons. This technique, when used to appear as though many vouch for a belief or ideology, is referred to under terms like sockpuppetry or astroturfing.

This issue is being raised in the context of government-citizen communication in the online era. But it can also be related to individuals, businesses, trade unions or other organisations who are using opaque means to convey a sense of “popular support” for the same or similar messages.

What I see as being appropriate with establishing multiple online personas is that there is some form of transparency about which person or organisation is managing the different online personas. That includes where there are multiple “child” online personas like Websites operated by a “parent” online persona like an organisation. This practice comes in to being where online personas like email addresses and microsites (small Websites with specific domain names) are created for a particular campaign but aren’t torn down after that campaign.

As well, it includes what online personas are used for what kind of communications. This includes what is written on that “blue-ticked” social-media page or the online addresses that are written on business cards or literature you had out to the public.

Such public-communications mandates will also be required under election-oversight or fair-trading legislation so people know who is behind the messaging and these are important if it is issues-based rather than candidate-based. If an individual is pushing a particular message under their own name, they will have to state whether an entity is paying or encouraging them to advance the message.

This is due to most of us becoming conscious of online messaging from questionable sources. It is thanks to the popular concern about fake news and disinformation and its impact on elections since 2016 thanks to the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s presidential victory in the USA. It is also due to the rise of the online influencer culture where brands end up using big-time and small-time celebrities and influencers to push their products, services and messages online.

Wi-Fi Sensing is now given some real use cases

Article

Monitoring of breathing irregularities

An algorithm can use WiFi signal changes to help identify breathing issues | Engadget

In-vehicle presence detection

From the horse’s mouth

Wi-Fi Alliance

Lisbon demonstration showcases how Wi-Fi Sensing can assist in a critical scenario | Wi-Fi Alliance

My Comments

The Wi-Fi Alliance is extending the Wi-Fi network technology beyond a local data network technology towards a presence and movement sensing technology.

This can exploit newer Wi-Fi technologies like Wi-Fi 5 onwards which implement MIMO multiple-RF-frontend technologies; or the increasingly-common multiple-access-point Wi-Fi networks. Here, it is about sensing disturbance in electromagnetic wave patterns that are the basis of radio technology whenever people or things move about.

A viable use case that has been demonstrated is a “child presence detection” setup for motor vehicles. Here, this detects the presence of a baby, small child or dog within a motor vehicle’s interior and alerts the driver to child’s or animal’s presence. This is to avoid incidents like the toddler who was “forgotten” in a childcare facility’s minibus where the child was at risk of overheating for example due to it being asleep and out of sight in the vehicle.

This approach doesn’t just sense the presence of the child in a closed vehicle but also monitors biometric signs like breathing so it is a live person or animal. As well, it is based around two Wi-Fi access points within the vehicle – one on the driver’s side of the dashboard and one under the front passenger seat to create the sensing envelope. This is typical for most passenger cars with the front seat row and the back seat row but could be reworked for larger vehicles like station wagons or minibuses.

Once proven in a real world situation, this use case could be about a feature that is mandated by motor-vehicle safety standards bodies as part of a vehicle’s safety rating or as a mandatory feature for vehicles to have before it is on the market.

It is also being seen as a technology to identify whether someone in the house has breathing issues along with simple use cases like presence and motion sensing within the house for energy efficiency, security and convenience functionality in the smart home. I would also see it as a boon towards independent ageing at home by detecting falls for example.

What is happening is that Wi-Fi technology will come in to play for more than just a backbone for a home network. Here, it would be about safety or in-home healthcare that assures some form of independence. This is while it can still serve that role of a data network backbone.

Legal attempts to pry open app stores have come to fruition

Articles

Google Play Android app store

There is action taking place that is prying open the app-store marketplace for mobile platform devices

Spotify and Google Give You Choice in Paying Them (droid-life.com)

Apple will allow third-party app stores, because the EU mandates it | Mashable

Apple is reportedly preparing to allow third-party app stores on iOS | Engadget

Previous Coverage on HomeNetworking01.info

USA to pry open mobile-app-store market

My Comments

Thanks to the “Fortnite” saga where Google and Apple were accused of slugging Epic Games with commissions for selling in-app commodities via their mobile-platform app stores, there has been a shake-up regarding how these app stores are run.

This has also been intensified with various jurisdictions instigating work on or passing legislation and regulation regarding a competitive market for online app stores. One of these is the European Union with the Digital Markets Act which targets large online services that have a gatekeeper role, along with the USA with its Open App Markets Act which targets app stores appearing on mobile and desktop computing platforms and other devices like games consoles or smart TVs.

The Europeans see their effort not just to pry open app stores but also search engines, social networks, video-sharing sites, digital ad platforms, public cloud platforms, even so-called intermediary services like AirBnB, Uber, Uber Eats and Booking.com. There are similar efforts also taking place within UK and Australia with this effort resulting in codes of practice being established for online services.

What has happened so far

Google has taken steps to enable user-choice billing for in-app purchases normally made through their Play Store.

Firstly, they allowed people who use Bumble online-dating apps to subscribe directly with Bumble or via the app store. Now they have enabled Spotify subscribers to pay for their subscription either through the Play Store or direct with Spotify. Of course, some online services like Netflix and Britbox allow for direct payment for their subscriptions by requiring you to manage your account through the service provider’s Website.

But Google will implement this feature at the checkout point in your purchase by allowing you to select payment via Google Play or directly with the software developer. When you pay directly, you will see the online service payment user-experience provided by the developer including the ability to redeem their service’s gift vouchers, pay using PayPal or pay using a payment card platform they have business relations with. Or you pay using Google Play Store’s payment user interface that you would be familiar with.

When your payment-card statement arrives, you will see a reference to Google if you paid for the online commodity through them or a reference to the software developer / online service if you paid directly.

Paying directly would mean that software developer or online service gets your money without having to pay a “cut” to Google for accepting payment via the Google Play Store. As well, the software developer or online service is at liberty to sign up with other payment means like PayPal, other credit cards like AMEX or Discover / Diners Club, or national account-linked payment platforms like EFTPOS, Carte Bleue or EC-Karte. There is also the ability for them to offer gift vouchers that go towards their offerings.

Another benefit that will come about if you pay for a subscription directly is that if you change to a different mobile platform, your subscription is kept alive rather than you having to reinstigate your subscription with the new platform’s app store and payment mechanism.

It also positions the Google Play Store’s online payment arrangement in competition with the software developer or online service thus improving the terms of business for accepting payment from customers. An example of this is both service providers providing a link with payment-anchored loyalty programs as a way to incentivise customers towards payment through their platforms.

Another direction being taken towards prying open the app stores is Apple baking  support for third-party app stores into iOS 17 which is the next major feature release of iOS. This is in addition to offering newer versions of the iPhone with USB-C ports rather than MFi Lightning ports for external connectivity. Here, this is due to intense European pressure to open themselves up to open markets by the European Union. But the support for third-party app stores would also come down to the Open App Markets Act that is being pushed through the US Congress.

Issues to be resolved

One issue that will have to be resolved is how the average smartphone or tablet user can install a competing app store to their device.

This is more about where a smartphone manufacturer or mobile operating system developer can get away with burying this option behind a “developer mode” or “advanced-user mode”. Or it could be about onerous requirements placed on software developers by mobile platforms when it comes to creating or publishing their software such as access to application-programming interfaces or software development kits.

The app stores will also have to be about selling good-quality compelling software and games. This is so they don’t end up as the equivalent of bulletin boards, download sites and optical discs attached to computer magazines where these resources were full of poor-quality software, known as “shovelware”.

Then there is the appeal of competing app stores to consumers and software developers. Personally I see these stores have initial appeal in the gaming sector with the likes of Steam or GOG existing on mobile platforms. Also I would see some software developers operate their own app stores as a way to maintain end-to-end control of their apps.

Conclusion

There are steps being taken by Google and Apple to liberate their mobile-platform software ecosystem even though it is under pressure from competition authorities in significant jurisdictions.

Where to go now that Elon Musk has taken over Twitter

Recently Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, had bought out Twitter.

This takeover has been seen not as the kind of takeover where one wants to invest in a company but more of a political move. It came about in the runup to the 2002 Midterm elections in the USA, an election cycle that impacts members of Congress and significant state-level officials like governors and secretaries of state.

This is because this Midterm election cycle is a “do-or-die” moment for American democracy due to whether state officials or members of Congress that support Donald Trump and his election-denial rhetoric come in to power, with it being the first Midterms after the January 6 2021 insurrection on the Capitol which was about denying the legitimate result of the 2020 Presidential election.

The goal of this takeover was to convert Twitter in to a so-called “free-speech” social media platform like Parler, Gab or TruthSocial including to reinstate Donald Trump’s Twitter presence. This included the laying off of at least 4000 staff especially those involved in content moderation.

Here, Twitter has lost it as far as brand-safety and social respect is concerned with a significant number of household names removing their advertising or online presence from Twitter. As well, increasingly most of us are considering or taking steps to limit our presence on or remove ourselves from Twitter.

As well, this takeover has ended up in a spat between Elon Musk and Apple about the possibility of Apple removing the Twitter native mobile app from the iOS App Store. This is part of Apple’s effort to make the iOS App Store a clean bouse with content and apps that are fit for work and the family home. Lately, this has manifested in Apple destroying their Twitter account and removing its posts.

Competing social platforms

Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Hive Social

The Meta-run social-media platforms i.e. Facebook and Instagram are acquiring new appeal as a business-to-consumer social-media presence. This is in addition to LinkedIn acquiring a stronger relevance in the business-to-business space. It is because these social networks are maintaining some form of proper content moderation that keeps them brand-safe and with some form of social licence.

For example, these platforms are being used by brands, public figures and the like as a means to distribute information “from the horse’s mouth” like press releases. This is in addition to them buying space on them to run their campaigns. Similarly, the established media are maintaining their presence on these platforms, typically as an “on-platform” presence for their news services.

Another network being put on the map is Hive Social which is being run as an alternative to Twitter with the same user experience. This is yet another platform with a centralised user experience but is facing some early problems due to its success as a Twitter alternative. Here, you may find that the service availability may not be strong and there will be some security issues.

Mastodon and the Fediverse

Another platform that has gained a lot of heat over the last few weeks is Mastodon. This is a decentralised Twitter-style social network where each “Instance” server works similar to a small bar or café where the staff have the finger on the pulse as far as the patrons are concerned. But each Mastodon Instance is linked to each other via the Fediverse which works in a similar way to email.

The Fediverse uses the ActivityPub publish-and-subscribe protocol and relies on interconnected servers and decentralised networking protocols. It is used by Mastodon and other services like PeerTube and Pieroma. In this space, each server for a platform is called an Instance and these link or “federate” with other servers to give the appearance of a large social network. But the Instance owner has the upper hand on what goes on in that Instance server.

These setups could also be seen as being similar to the bulletin-board systems that existed before the Internet was popular where most of them were interconnected using FidoNet as a means to store and forward messages and emails between the BBS systems.

When you create an account on a Mastodon Instance, you can add a link to a Website you run and this is used as a way to authenticate you. But you also have to add a link on your Website to your Mastodon presence for you to be authenticated, which then leads to a blue tick.

At the moment, there is support for only one user account per Mastodon Instance server so you can’t really run a “private” and a “public” account on the same Instance. It could work for people who use a particular Mastodon Instance associated with their work for public-facing posts as well as a private account for personal posts on a community Mastodon server. There doesn’t seem to be support for “group” accounts that can be operated by multiple users at the moment.

But with other open-source software efforts, Mastodon will be subject to continual tweaks and revisions to bring it to what people will want out of it. There may also be activity taking place to improve the establishment of Mastodon Instance servers such as porting to popular business server environments or integration with business-computing account datasets.

Other technologies worth considering

Online forums and similar technologies

Old-school “pre-social-media” technologies like online forums of the phpBB or vBulletin kind, or email-list platforms like listservs may have to be used. As well, the group functionality offered by Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, Signal and Telegram come in to their own here as a limited-circulation Twitter replacement.

Blogs and news Websites

The traditional blog and the regularly-up;dated news Website or “update page” are becoming more relevant in this time. Here, these will be augmented with an RSS Webfeed or an email update offered by the site that comes out on a regular basis.

What can organisations, content authors and public figures do?

Organisations, content authors and public figures can keep a Website alive with the latest information if they aren’t already doing this. This would work really well with a blog or news page that is always up-to-date and these resources are best augmented with at least one RSS Webfeed that reflects the updates that are made.

The RSS Webfeed can be used to feed a reputable email-publishing platform like Feedblitz or Mailchimp so that people get the updates in their email inbox. Your LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or other brand-safe social-media presences can come in to their own here as well when you post a link to your latest posts there and are worth maintaining. As well, you could consider setting up shop on Hive Social which is becoming a viable alternative to Twitter.

Small-time operators should work with a Webhost that offers a range of online services at reasonable prices. These should include email, Website hosting and hosting one or two online services in a secure manner.

If you can, you may have to investigate creating a business-wide Mastodon instance. This is about having your own space that you control and is something that your IT staff or Webhost can offer, especially if they are familiar with Linux. Here, you could have usernames that reflect your workgroups or staff who want to have a public Mastodon account.

Let’s not forget creating online forums using the likes of bbPress, phpBB or vBulletin for your company or industry. Even vertical-market software that suits your organisation’s type or the industry it works in like religion or education could come in to its own.

Conclusion

The takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk as a political affair is showing that there is the risk of online services falling in to the wrong hands. Here, an emphasis is being placed on a plurality of social media and other online services that can be moderated to preserve sanity on the Internet.

Google to provide privacy-focused object blurring as an open-source tool

Article

Google is making its internal video-blurring privacy tool open source | Engadget

My Comments

There are objects you have to be careful of when you photograph them for the public Web. What I mean by that is public-facing social media accounts, blogs or similar use cases where the general public would see the content; or images being offered as stock photos for anyone to illustrate material with.

Such objects are things like vehicles with their registration (license) plates or documents that lie in the scope of a picture and they can easily be considered personally-identifiable information. Even tattoos on a person could be considered identifiable unless they are a common design.

What Google has done and is publishing as open-source is a software algorithm that follows an object like a vehicle’s number plate and blurs that object. This could happen not just in photos but in videos where that object is moving. Here, it avoids the risk of that kind of information being indexed by a search engine with optical-character-recognition abilities.

This can also come in to its own where an email address, Web link or QR code is part of an image and there is the desire to control the use of this data by people who see the image on the Internet or on TV.

It is being pitched towards creators or journalists who want to blur out personal-identifying information whether that be of themselves, their premises or people they know for content destined for the public Web. Typically this workflow will be in the form of creating and editing a “public copy” of the image they took and using that on the Website or social-media account.

But there may be some use cases where an identifier is required to be visible in the published photo. For example, when a vehicle is put on the market, having a visible registration number in the accompanying images of that vehicle in the online ad is an asset for buyers when it comes to checking that vehicle’s provenance.

What I would like to see with this software is for it to be repackaged as a free plugin for photo and video editing software. Or, better still, more photo/video editing software developer being encouraged to “bake” the privacy-blurring code in to a major version of that software.

Free-to-air TV in the online age

Article

ABC News 24 coronavirus coverage

Traditional TV will maintain relevance but is to integrate Internet as a means of delivery

Industry group to lead access of Free to Air on connected TVs | TV Tonight

My Comments

Free-to-air TV is still seen as highly relevant. This is more so in countries like UK, Europe and the Asia/Pacific regions due to a well-known and well-loved public-service broadcaster funded primarily by government line-funding of some sort of a public-service-broadcasting levy like a TV licence fee. In most of these countries, commercial private free-to-air TV came later while some of these countries don’t place value on cable or satellite pay-TV services.

As well, in those countries that value free-to-air TV, single-family houses have a TV aerial installed on their rooftops. Or multiple-premises buildings like apartment blocks along with buildings like hotels and hospitals have a subsystem based around a common TV aerial that effectively services each TV within the building with the broadcast signal from the free-to-air broadcasters. In some geographical areas like Europe, the satellite dish or cable-TV infrastructure is used as an alternative means of delivering free-to-air TV with Germany adopting an “RF-medium” agnostic approach to delivering free-to-air TV. Let’s not forget that the TV set’s own tuner or a tuner integrated in a retail-supplied set-top box is preferred as the device to watch TV with.

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 even for free-to-air TV

In most countries, the free-to-air TV channels are considered a “sacred cow” where they are guaranteed frequency allocations on the VHF or UHF TV wavebands. As well, there is a legal guarantee to assure availability of these channels through cable, satellite or IPTV platforms such as through “must-carry” requirements or a platform-independence mindset for running TV services. This typically assures access everywhere or allows “one-remote” operation for your TV viewing experience.

There is also legal protection in most of these countries for access to the sports and cultural events that matter via free-to-air TV. This is in the form of “anti-siphoning” regulation that proscribes pay-TV providers from gaining exclusive broadcast rights to these fixtures, with some countries wanting to apply the same prohibition to subscription-driven online streaming providers as well.

Let’s not forget that the free-to-air channels in most of these countries work on a unified platform like Freeview which provides common technical, marketing and advocacy support for the free-to-air TV experience.

Watching TV, especially free-to-air TV, has been associated with a known and loved user experience. This includes channel surfing with the “up” and “down” buttons on the remote control, keying in a channel number commonly associated with that channel on a numeric keypad or using a button to flip between the last two viewed channels.

In the online era

Traditional free-to-air TV has had to implement online strategies in order to stay relevant. This is more so as younger people are drifting away from traditional media to whatever media is being served up on the Internet, especially social media or YouTube videos.

10Play with MasterChef as an example of a BVOD service offered by a free-to-air TV broadcaster

Could this also open up an extra feature for gaming-ready 4K TVs?

The connected-TV experience in most countries has been augmented through free-to-air TV broadcasters running an online video-streaming platform of their own, known as a “BVOD” (Broadcaster Video On Demand) service. This typically provides “catch-up” viewing of prior shows and has lately provided for binge-viewing of TV series and even has provided supplementary video content for some shows.

This service is currently furnished through a Website ran by the TV broadcaster themselves in addition to native apps for mobile or connected-TV platforms. They are also extending the BVOD apps towards providing “free streaming TV” channels which don’t exist on the TV broadcaster’s RF platforms. These channels are also known as “FAST” channels, short for “Free Ad-supported Streaming TV” because most such operators are in a position to sell advertising time on these channels. It allows them to provide supplementary traditional linear TV content without needing to license extra RF spectrum.

In most countries, free-to-air TV broadcasters who run advertising have been considered a brand-safe area for advertisers to advertise within. This is because of long-time legal and social expectations associated with the privilege of using the airwaves to broadcast. It is an issue that has come forth thanks to issues like fake news, disinformation, propaganda and hate speech and advertisers don’t want to tarnish their brand image by being associated with that kind of material. These values also extend to the BVOD platforms that these broadcasters run.

Technically, standard have been released to allow for hybrid Internet-and-broadcast TV with the goal of providing the same traditional TV installation and user experience. The first of these is the DVB-I and DVB-HB standards that allow reception of TV content via a local-area network whether from the Internet or a broadcast-LAN server device.

Let’s not forget that these standards are also about providing a seamless user experience between broadcast and broadband TV experiences thanks to HBBTV, ATSC 3.0 NextGenTV and DVB-I TV. This brings with it the idea of interactive TV or access to supplementary content on TV. There is even research in to companion-screen integration for editorial and advertising content so as to provide seamless access to relevant services on your smartphone or tablet when you watch TV.

Issues with free-to-air TV in the connected age

Issues currently seen with free-to-air TV are that all services aren’t consistently available across the country with a desirable consistent quality of service. This can apply to countries that have large rural areas like Australia or countries that have a lot of mountainous terrain like Switzerland.

Add to this that not all areas have access to a decent standard of Internet service, whether via a fixed-broadband or a mobile-broadband means. This is typical primarily of rural areas but can also extend to poorer urban areas where there has been some “redlining” taking place.

As well, not every room in a house would have its own conveniently-located TV-aerial socket to assure reliable reception of free-to-air TV around the house. This typically leads to the use of indoor antennas that aren’t really reliable for TV reception, especially antennas that are offered at the cheap end of the market.

An issue of concern to the free-to-air TV community is that TV manufacturers and smart-TV platforms give priority to subscription video-on-demand or advertising video-on-demand services that offer the most money to the platform or manufacturer. It can also include electronic programme guides not featuring the local free-to-air TV channels in a prominent position. This causes free-to-air content including BVOD services to be placed at the bottom of the pack.

Chromecast and similar devices are being used as an alternative to smart TVs

You can do more with your Chromecast with Google TV if you use a USB-C hub or dock that offers Power Delivery pass-through

Then there is the popularity of Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and Amazon Fire TV as set-top-based alternatives to the smart-TV approach. Such platforms are being valued as a way to add this kind of functionality to any TV with an HDMI socket no matter its age. This is more so about the integration of those platforms with a user’s desktop, mobile or smart-home computing environment and brand loyalty. As well, these devices cater to the reality that older TVs are moved to secondary lounge areas or bedrooms when you buy a newer TV that has the latest technology.

Even the broadcaster video-on-demand services don’t really understand “multiple adult households” easily when they ask for user login details to create a personalised user experience. This is something I have previously covered in a separate article about supporting many different user logins on online media services when used on smart TVs and the like.

Lenovo Yoga Tab Android tablet

Tablets like this Lenovo Yoga Tab Android tablet are an example of a screen-based device that could show TV but doesn’t have a TV tuner for this purpose.

Not all screen-equipped devices have TV tuners and may have to support Internet / LAN delivery of TV content with standards like DVB-I and DVB-HB. Such standards could provide for a traditional TV user experience and access to free-to-air TV. This doesn’t just relate to regular desktop and laptop computers or mobile computing devices but is encompassing a new breed of computer monitors and small lifestyle TV-type devices that have “smart-TV” functionality but don’t have a broadcast-TV tuner of any form.

What can be done

Mobile and desktop software for free-to-air TV

Free-to-air TV platforms could work on mobile-platform apps and desktop software that provide access to this kind of TV content, including “broadcaster video-on-demand” services from the Internet through a single interface. This could include a “virtual-remote” interface to allow channel surfing or direct-entry channel selection along with the electronic programme guide so you can know “what’s on”.

Increased support for TV via your home network

Samsung M7 Smart Monitor press image courtesy of Samsung

The new Samsung M7 and M5 monitors also double as Internet TVs with direct access to Netflix & co and are in a position to benefit from TV delivered by the Internet

TV via your home network or Internet service could be encouraged in may ways.

For the ATSC 3.0 NextGenTV standard used primarily in North America, there has to be work on standardising free-to-air-TV via the Internet and home network. There was some work being achieved for the North American market as far as “broadcast-to-LAN” is concerned, mainly as a way to achieve market competition for cable-TV set-top boxes. But this was effectively scuttled during the presidency of Donald Trump thanks to him installing FCC commissioners who protect the established pay-TV companies.

Smart TVs of or greater than a certain screen size like 32”  could be required to receive TV via a broadcast tuner and Internet / home network facilities. For Europe, Asia, Australia and the like, this would mean support for DVB-I and DVB-HB standards alongside DVB-based RF-delivery broadcast TV standards.

The “broadcast-LAN” product segment could be developed further with more companies offering such server devices to the market. Here, this would be about making sure that such devices are working to particular standards like DVB-HB. Value-priced “broadcast-LAN” devices could be offered with multiple tuners so that multiple household members can receive TV content from different channels concurrently.

As far as UK, Europe, Australia, Asia and other countries who value the DVB TV standards go, they could place importance on DVB-I as an important part of the free-to-air TV broadcast platform. This would include a requirement to simulcast “socially-protected” free-to-air TV channels through DVB-I as well as traditional RF technologies.

Examining interactive TV technologies and making best use of them

Where the TV platforms support interactivity, this feature needs to be exploited and developed further.

This could be about working on a quick-to-operate simplified link to the “supplementary screen” like your smartphone, tablet or computer. Or it could be about facilitating transactions in a 10-foot “lean-back” environment including knowing what would work well in such an environment. It may even include the ability to use driverless printing to obtain hard copy from interactive TV resources.

Add to this things like targeted advertising so that it underscores local relevancy without being too invasive or threatening. This includes establishing policies for political advertising that is targeted towards specific electorates or neighbourhoods.

Redefining broadcast-TV market-area policies

Broadcast policies would also need to factor in situations where metropolitan economic areas that are a broadcast market in themselves sprawl in to neigbbouring communities that are part of other broadcast markets.

This is facilitated when urban areas build or upgrade transport infrastructure to bring the city’s periphery closer to the main economic centre as far as travelling time is concerned. It makes the city’s periphery or neigbbouring city attractive to commute to the other area for work, study or to benefit from what that area offers.

Or it can be the creation of additional attractive economic hubs on the outskirts of the city in order to increase more varied economic activity there. This can include adding commercial and industrial activity to what was a commuter town to diversify its economy.

In the same context, there are the neighbouring country towns with tourist attractions that are up to three hours’ drive from the metropolitan area being considered attractive for holidays, remote working or retirement. This leads to strong interest from the town’s community and the government in investing in these towns.

Examples of this include two or more cities facing conurbation or towns and cities on the edge of a city’s metropolitan area forming part of that area’s commuter belt. In a significant number of federation countries like Australia or the USA, there are alt least a few of these conurbations or commuter belts that straddle at least one state border and some countries with land borders may face this situation.

Typically, the TV broadcasting for the different geographic areas may be different as far as news content or advertising is concerned. As well, some areas may benefit from different programming of local interest like sports fixtures or rural-interest programming that is shown in its own time window. In a significant part of continental Europe, this is also represented by the public-service broadcasters running a TV channel such as a “third channel” that is dedicated to programming local to a particular geographic region.

But for those communities, there has to be some support where users can select content pitched at a neighbouring area especially where there is a significant difference in the content available. This could be facilitated through IP-based technologies like DVB-I that allow the creation of channels and channel lineups relevant to areas like commuter-belt communities.

Here, there has to be a willingness to re-examine broadcast market areas where it is noticed that one or more towns and cities are growing significantly or becoming “closer together”. This may also include providing special support when it comes to handling broadcast services for commuter belts and similar neighbouring regions while preserving programming peculiar to particular areas.

Conclusion

Traditional free-to-air TV will still be relevant in the online age in many forms. This could be about using the Internet as a complementary means to distribute the broadcasts. Or it could be about using online services to augment the editorial or advertising broadcast material.

Google Nest video doorbell could introduce the concept of custom sounds to this product class

Articles

Google Nest Doorbell press image courtesy of Google

Google Nest video doorbell – to support season-specific custom sounds

Special Ringtones Coming to Your Google Nest Doorbell for Halloween, Diwali, Oktoberfest – CNET

More festive doorbell chimes arrive on Google Nest | ZDNET

From the horse’s mouth

Google

Learn how we fine-tune the Nest doorbell ringtones (blog.google)

My Comments

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Ultrabook at Rydges Melbourne

Desktop operating systems started using audio customisations since the late 1980s

From the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, regular computers and their desktop operating systems introduced various multimedia abilities including file-based audio recording and playback. This came along with various user-experience customisation options like background wallpapers and interface elements that can be set to a user’s preferred colours.

These functions came together in the form of the ability for users to determine what kind of sound the computer makes for particular events like the startup sound, error sound or new message notification.

This kind of customisability was extended in the 2000s with mobile phones supporting ringtone customisation including downloadable ringtones. This feature was seen as important as a way for people to know if it is their phone that is ringing when it rings.

But Google has added this kind of customisability to their Nest Doorbell which is a video doorbell that works via your home network and Internet. Here, they have started offering special ringtones for this product that people can use for particular occasions like Halloween, Thanksgiving or Diwali. This goes hand-in-glove with you decorating your house in particular ways for particular seasons.

These devices would support the seasonality of particular occasion thus allowing the customised sound to play for the duration of that occasion. This avoids the audible equivalent of leaving decorations up beyond the applicable season which can look tacky.

I most likely would see a lot of companies who sell network-connected doorbell / intercom systems start investing in ringtone customisations for these devices. This could include user-supplied ringtones usually in common audio file formats, enabling ringtones to be applicable for particular seasons or user-defined periods, or bringing in brands and talent to create custom ringtones.

You just never know what other “Internet-of-Things” devices and platforms will end up with user experiences that are customisable by the end-user in the same way that computers and smartphones have been customised by their users.

Digital key management and sharing to be part of mobile operating systems

Article

August Smart Lock press picture courtesy of August

Apple to lead the way with having smart lock and digital key management as part of a smartphone’s operating system.

Apple to add digital key sharing to iOS • NFCW

My Comments

Apple is the first mobile-operating-system developer to integrate the management of digital keys for buildings or cars within its iOS operating system. This includes the ability to share keys to others or revoke shared keys within your iPhone’s user experience.

It is because of an increasing number of security solutions for buildings, vehicles and the like that use your smartphone as a virtual keyring for digital keys.

Previously, what happened with digital keys was that they were dependent on apps specific to a vendor, hotel or similar smart-lock platform and you had to work these keys from that app’s user interface.

This could lead to confusion about apps that you need to use and can get very messy when you have multiple places to think of and you aren’t sure which platform they are associated with. It can also lead to screen clutter associated with the apps and you may find that they take up too much internal storage space especially if you are responsible for many places.

The approach now is to implement the digital wallet functionality offered by Apple Wallet and is part of iOS. As well, you use what the operating system offers to share out keys or revoke shared keys. That means you can use first-party messaging software like Apple iMessage or Apple Mail to share the keys; or you could use third-party messaging software like Signal, WhatsApp or Outlook Mail to share these keys.

Most likely this will be facilitated with the “share / take-further” function offered as part of the operating system, represented in iOS with a square and triangle symbol.

The problem with this functionality is whether there is the ability to limit the shared key’s functionality when you share it out. That is to limit the number of times one can use the key or the time period they can use it for, or even to limit the doors or cars that the particular digital key can open. In some cases, it may also be about implementing multi-factor authentication for these keys.

hen there is the question about what kind of interface that this Apple Wallet key-management ability will support. That is whether to use NFC “touch-and-go” operation, Bluetooth LE wireless-link or similar techniques to link with the door lock or car.

The other issue that will come about is whether Google will integrated this kind of digital key management within Android, whether as part of the digital wallets available as apps for that platform or simply within the operating system. Also it can be about whether regular computers that run desktop operating systems could have this kind of digital key management built in to their operating systems, which can be of benefit for people who manage buildings or vehicle fleets.

It can also include allowing apps and Websites to add or remove digital keys to the smartphone wallet. This will be seen as important for corporate, hotel and delivery use cases where interaction with smart locks is part of a transaction, such as registering the delivery / collection of goods or as part of a time and attendance requirement for home care and allied workers.

What this will be essentially about is to provide a one-stop shop for managing digital keys for locations or vehicles you are responsible for using your smartphone.