This year’s SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies opened Tuesday morning with a keynote address by Futurist.com Founder and Owner Glen Hiemstra.

An academic who focused on communications, Hiemstra bought his Web site in the early 1990s and hasn’t – so to speak – looked back. "There’s an advantage to looking further ahead than we usually do in our planning cycles," he said. "From time to time, you ought to look a decade ahead."

The conference itself aims at the three-to-five year time horizon. Hiemstra kick-started his efforts to get attendees to look further out in part by describing the so-called Millennial generation, Americans between the ages of 1 and 19.

Here are a few of the associations to this cohort that Hiemstra listed:

• War (constant, since Gulf War I)
• Helicopter parents
• Teamwork
• Global awareness
• Little expectation of job permanence
• No distinction between off-line and online
• Instant messaging (37 buddies vs. 17 average for all others)
• User-generated video downloads (50 percent vs. 20 percent all others)

Honing in on these "digital natives" – especially the notion of being constantly online – gave the futurist a chance to underscore his notion of a burgeoning "data flow culture." To bring it back home, enabling that kind of culture will be service providers who provide always-on, real-time access, or a condition further suggested by the acronym AORTA.

How do cable operators fit into that vision of a conduit or pipe (or aorta) constantly pulsing with live content? That more or less reflects the thematic question that this year’s conference poses: "Integrator or Pipeline?"

Not the first time that industry thinkers or gadflies have wondered and worried about whether cable operators, or even telcos, will be "cut out of the distribution chain," as Conference Chair and Nortel VP and GM Global MSO Solutions Tom Buttermore put it in his introductory remarks on Tuesday morning.

"It’s a problem that continues to elude us today," he said.

The challenge that Buttermore gave this year’s attendees was to face directly the real or potential over-the-top threats of Sony, Apple, Google, Microsoft and their equivalents. Placing this strategic thinking within a brutally practical context was this year’s lead-off session on advanced advertising technology.

As it happens, advertising was another theme in both the keynote and Monday’s second annual Paul Kagan conference on "The QAM Before the Storm." The demographic-minded Hiemstra sketched the shift from advertising to what he called "convertising," something enabled by a more personalized message.

The last of four sessions in the Kagan pre-ET event focused on the future of targeted advertising. Looking at a nearer-term horizon than the parallel ET session, the Kagan key practitioners including Comcast’s Paul Woidke and Time Warner Cable’s Glen Hardin. Discussion often reverted to DVS 629 (soon to be SCTE 130), a closely watched, two-phased standard that promised to inaugurate this new era.

The other three Kagan sessions covered the industry’s need for additional bandwidth, switched digital video and edge QAM modulator technologies.

For more coverage on the four main sessions of this year’s ET conference, tune in next week or our Web site, www.cable360.com/ct.

– Jonathan Tombes

The Daily

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