Enriching the customer viewing experience through interactivity was the focus of this session on Interactive Television and Advanced Advertising presented by Steven Riedl, principal architect, Time Warner Cable, and Roy Hasson, customer solutions architect, Motorola. These presentations explored the use of Enhanced [TV] Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) in supporting interactive TV applications and also discussed possible future directions by drawing similarities to that of the evolving Internet. Process Riedl explained the process of creating an interactive experience that involves creating and transmitting overlays down to set-top boxes based on the SCTE 130 (formerly DVS629 parts 1-8) specification. Briefly, the process was described as sales tooling that involves defining the asset, asset ingest, use of EBIF publishing tool to create the application and test it, add custom graphics (there are several publishers available for this process), combine app and overlay, target apps including the rules that dictate the types of content where the asset should be displayed, send the app to a set-top or mux, render the app on the set-top user agent, and finally perform reporting and fulfillment as required by the organization requesting the app.

Four new applications govern the implementation of interactive TV. They are the ad management (ADM) service and ad delivery service (ADS), which together identify insertion opportunities and orchestrate the insertion of the correct asset based on the sales criteria and the proxy and app server, which handle the routing and back-end process of the applications once run on the set-top. The future Hasson’s presentation focused more on the future of interactive TV by comparing television with what is possible on the Internet. Today’s TV interactivity was explained as more experimental, only beginning to emerge, and perhaps too new to effectively gage vs. the Internet where the technologies currently exist and are scalable, and interactivity has risen to the level of advanced maturity such that commercially available software as a service (SaaS) has developed.

Potential future growth areas for TV interactivity include continued openness, hackability and social graph. Openness and hackability seemingly go together to allow operators and third parties freedom to innovate around the given capabilities to exploit new ways for users to interact as well as new revenue opportunities for operators. Social graph centered on the innate capability of the TV interactivity to permit users to interact as well as experience content together. Hasson said, "Next generation set-tops will be the platform for delivery of interactivity," especially as he points out that these new set-tops will be less constrained by memory or out of band (OOB) data limitations, which challenge many currently deployed set-tops.

A short Q&A session produced some interesting questions, such as which keys on remotes are most commonly used for interactivity. Riedl said, "Arrows and the Select key have been more popular than letter keys A, B, C, etc." He went on to say, "The user agent on the set-top will need to adapt to whatever input device ultimately becomes most popular, whether that device is a traditional remote control or something more advanced such as a Wii gyroscope remote."

– Bruce Bahlmann

Read more news and analysis on Communications Technology‘s Web site at http://www.cable360.net/ct/news/.

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