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Nicolas Bry is Senior VP at Orange (Innovation Group - Orange Vallée)
Going through the rise of Collaborative Innovation we discovered how Intelligent Things embrace open innovation paths and collaborative design approach: actually Intelligent Things become clever by operating socially.
Last mile in our journey brings us to Smart TV. If TV becomes smart, does it metamorphose into an Intelligent Thing? And how can it leverage on collaborative innovation and harness the intelligence of the many?
What is Smart TV?
Smart TV is bringing the Internet over TV through devices such as connected TV, latest generation set top boxes, and connected game consoles: Smart TV connects your TV to the Internet.
By analogy with Smart Phones and the way demonstrated by the iPhone and Android phones, you can imagine your TV will not look what it used to be, just like your mobile phone is just not for voice calls anymore. Internet on your TV opens the door to Web browsing, and to an infinite range of applications, content and services.
Already there, TV applications delivering video content like Hulu Plus, Netflix and Wal-Mart’s Vudu streaming service, among others, are built into Internet-enabled televisions, as described by the NY Times. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the streaming video player Roku let viewers watch apps that mimic channels. New sets by Samsung, LG, Sony powered by Google TV software come with built-in apps loaded with television shows, movies and sports. Apple has a video player called Apple TV with apps to Netflix, Major League Baseball and other content.
Not limited to video content, applications are versatile and touch many domains:
Considering the many devices TV could communicate with, Connected TV might act like a hub in the Connected Home, an “augmented home” full of connected objects. Some envisage that the future Smart TV designed by Apple, the iTV, might well be a Hub, a fifth screen playing the central role in the connected life of the household.
TV Apps ecosystem impacting business model
Considering the rise of TV Apps, a first question is whether television viewing will consist of a single app that substitutes the pay TV bundle or of a series of different apps that together form a content experience: will the viewer subscribe to a bundle of content services like nowadays he subscribes to a channel bouquet, or are we moving to an A la carte model?
Currently NBC Olympics Live Extra app complements traditional TV viewing and is available only on tablets and mobile devices, and NBC Sports allow subscribers to stream every Olympic event from London this summer only on iPads, tablets and other mobile devices.
But HBO Go app does allow subscribers to have access to the pay channel’s library of almost every series, movie, documentary and heavyweight fight directly on the TV screen, via the Xbox. The HBO Go app is seen as a doorway into the entire world of HBO programming.
TV applications can go far beyond content distribution. If technology makes possible a myriad of apps on the Smart TV, the economic model drives in the same direction. Thanks to iTunes, the App Store, and to the Android market place, this is now common sense: the leading innovator has to come with an extended and consistent offering to the end-user: content + service + device; it involves an ecosystem that is fed by third party editors and developers. The power to negotiate premium content deals, and the commitment of developer’s community, are essential.
You have to build an attractive leadership platform, both for end-users and partners, and create a virtuous cycle, driving end-users to your offering thanks to the help of third party assets, the latter will then be attracted by your market place audience. We are back to the challenge faced by Intelligent Things, design a great customer experience, and shape a purposeful platform for developers.
Your TV might well turn out to be “an unknown object“, not a TV anymore, not a bounded Internet enabled device, but an enhanced device, powered by multiple apps, benefiting from both TV and Internet worlds.
Smart TV and Social TV Companion Apps
Social TV illustrates TV apps potential: Social TV connects viewers to both content and to each other.
The claim “while we watch, we Tweet” turns increasingly truer, as the penetration rate of TV viewers using Twitter to comment a TV show is drawing up to 8%. “Listening” to the social conversation adds value notices Strategy Analytics: for one “transmitter”, there is between ½ or 1 “listener”.
Social TV is actually not mainly developing on the TV screen, but takes advantage of the emergence of Smart Phone & Tablets, to feature a Companion App.
Tablet device in particular brings many benefits: it is convenient (“big picture on TV, Facebook on second screen”), intuitive, frictionless, personal, it is directly paid by the consumer, and can be monetized! Tablet can extend TV viewing brightly on content discovery, participation, control, and give access to broadcast TV, VoD, catch up, and streaming media as well: Tablet is the next remote control!
While Social TV meets high growth, competition is fierce: more than “50 apps currently socialize your TV“! Some players like Miso's start-up CEO estimates that, leveraging on easy technology to craft apps, “there have been more than 100 second screen apps developed“. The game is not over as significant players like Facebook raise their nose: Social TV is a powerful use case for accessing a social network via a mobile device.
Social TV uptake is challenging several business models:
Social TV is a perfect combination of strong usage, easy technology and a game changer in the business model: will other trending TV applications follow the path?
Turning Connected TV into a Smart TV
Smart TV as I dreamt it in Christmas 2010 definitely meets some characteristics of Intelligent Thing: enrichment of the interaction and of the service, multiplication of content available “anaytime”, streamlined worldwide deployment, emotion, simplification of set-up and upgrade, …
Nevertheless, there is one thing Smart TV is missing to make it really” Intelligent”: it is not enticing collborative innovation through data producing. We’ve seen that Intelligent Things become clever when they operate socially. It is all the more necessary here if we consider that TV Apps ecosystem is the main vector for innovation and value creation.
To be an Intelligent Thing, Smart TV should capture data provided by our TV viewing and our interactions in the “augmented home”, make them available and let developers make value out of them
Bringing collaborative design through TV data sharing would nurture creative TV applications, turning your Connected TV into a Smart TV.
It would include second screen apps, providing value back to the viewers, and benefiting globally to the TV ecosystem of manufacturers, networks and advertisers, production companies, and operators.
For example, Smart TV could share a history of channels watched by a household: crossed with TV listings, a third party would identify what are the preferred shows in the household, and suggests similar programs picked out from VoD catalogue. To achieve this recommendation app, data covering TV usage, TV listings, VoD programs have to be made available to developers.
Designing a collaborative framework for Smart TV should cover an extended range of functional domains. Let’s focus a moment in the field of data syndication related to content:
Things are starting to change as shows last MIP TV which organized a TV Hack day giving teams of developers 48 hours to build “fresh, innovative digital products, something new for the TV industry”, working on a lot of data to make TV more sociable.
One of the competitors, Grab Magic! by Aral Balkan, used Kinect technology to recognize your movements, and allow you to ’grab’ screenshots from a TV with hand and place them onto an iPhone screen.
Industrial players are starting to capture the potential derived from TV data:
Until there is a breakthrough startup that will become the “Facebook of the Smart TV”, or a manufacturer popping-up dominantly as the “Apple for the Smart Phone”, driving all companies standardize on a single solution, there is strong need for standardization in a fragmented Smart TV market. The newly created Smart TV Alliance designed to create a single platform making it easier for customers to share apps across multiple TVs and encourage more developers with a common framework (SDK), is a wise move. A complementary strategy would be to build pipes that power the TV apps ecosystem with data.
Though it is a natural strong focus, TV data are not limited to TV viewing behaviour, but enclose other activities e-shopping, automation, healthcare, home security…: industrials' in these domains can be as much creative regarding the generation, exploit, and share the information flow.
Based on a recent survey by connected TV monetization technologies provider MPP Global Solutions, James Eddleston, head of marketing, said:
“This inconclusive result reflects the content of the discussion; that the connected TV market is still coming out of the early adopter phase, and even major players such as Apple, Google and Netflix are still trying to identify the best approach for success”.
At a time where Connected TV players seem in search of sense, building an open platform to share real-time data captured by Smart TV sensors, and enabling communities to create innovative TV apps for viewers, broadcasters, advertisers, would have a strong meaning.