When it comes to an innovative technology that seems most likely to succeed, the cable industry wants something that saves money and looks pretty good to shareholders and nontechnical readers of the Wall Street Journal.

That’s one explanation as to why Harmonic‘s "cable IPTV solution which leverages the M-CMTS architecture and delivers state-of-the-art digital and on-demand video" walked away with top honors at CableLabs‘ Innovation Showcase this week.

To take nothing away from the product, its merits really leaned less toward offering a new way to deliver video to any IP device and more toward demonstrating "to the cable operators that the amount of infrastructure investment, the financial investment, the human investment that has been made in the DOCSIS infrastructure and the digital video infrastructure is … very well-suited to support new applications such as the explosion in broadband-delivered video," as Tom Kennedy, director of cable strategy and business development at Harmonic, put it. Taking advantage The Harmonic technology doesn’t reinvent the wheel on which cable is rolling.

"It takes advantage of the DOCSIS infrastructure," Kennedy said. "It is similar in what has been presented previously down that front, but we’re intending to work with the operators to leverage the existing DOCSIS infrastructure, leverage that digital video infrastructure and provide a really efficient and cost-effective means utilizing the standards that are in place to deliver this video downstream."

Harmonic’s take focuses on the ability to leverage its universal edge QAM modulator inside the DOCSIS infrastructure and the digital video infrastructure to "really deliver a more customer-compelling and more cost-effective solution to the existing video that’s being delivered over the network in a best-effort case today."

The term "cost-effective" in nearly every description is the really telling point. Tremendous innovation "Part of the reason that we do this showcase at our conferences is that we want our members to walk away with a sense that there’s a tremendous amount of innovation that is occurring for the benefit of the cable industry … and we want them to walk away with two or three new ideas that they didn’t have before," said Dick Green, CableLabs’ CEO.

The showcase featured 12 companies that presented 10-minute pitches during a plenary session. Others who took a shot at being the most innovative were 4HomeMedia, ADZILLA New Media, Ambit Microsystems, Arris, Digeo, Nortel, Oberon Media/PixelPlay, Pure Networks, Scopus Video Networks, Sereniti and Tzero Technologies.

Harmonic walked away with the prize, having garnered the most votes in a poll conducted among cable operators attending the event.

"It’s not a new idea, but it’s a unique way of capitalizing on the architecture. There’s a significant growth of video on the Internet that uses our network … and we can take that and make it a better experience for our consumer using our architecture for the DOCSIS and HFC to provide better quality and provide the right type of video streaming that the consumer sees vs. the best-effort that’s out there," said Marwan Fawaz, CTO of Charter Communications.

Steve Craddock, senior vice president of new technology at Comcast, added that the Harmonic innovation was "in my top three" and "goes to a lot of the concepts that we’ve been working within the industry for some time, such as reducing the complexity and reducing the cost of the traditional IP and M-CMTS infrastructure and taking advantage of the M-CMTS and edge QAM."

Enough said. It’s innovative, and it uses what’s there. No need to build new networks; no need to invest more money; no need to worry about the telcos and fiber and FiOS. We get it. – Jim Barthold

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