The TM Forum is leveraging recent Content Encounter demos as it positions itself as a broker of best practices and open interfaces in a world of converging and increasingly personalized content and multimedia services.

The latest such demo – a sort of moveable feast – occurred at NAB in Las Vegas. TM Forum Chief Strategist Jim Warner dubbed the Vegas demo version 1.8 of what appeared at the TM Forum’s Management World Americas event last November in Dallas and said that next month’s TM Forum event in Nice, France, would show version 2.0. The Forum’s event next fall in Orlando would move then into the equivalent of 3.0.

"The core of the demo itself … isn’t that different," Warner said. In its current incarnation, the demo involves content from the Westwood One radio network as well as technology participants from Cognizant, Motorola, Microsoft and IBM. The service provider partner in both Dallas and Vegas was AT&T. Value chain The focus so far is on links downstream from content creation through the value chain to end consumption. In one instance of the demo, Westwood One provides news, weather and traffic information, pre-selected from 12 U.S. cities.

"Then it goes through the IBM Media Hub product," said Warner. Digital rights and transcoding requirements are read here. For the purposes of this demo, that’s also where metadata is assigned, although that would ideally happen at the origination point.

The next point is the content manager – in this case, the Leapstone platform that Motorola acquired last July – which enables a service provider to package, bundle and price the product or service.

Then it’s off to Cognizant and Microsoft. "Those two work together to create what we call the ‘storefront’ and actually enable the user to select, depending upon what device they’ve got, to browse a catalog, make a selection and pay for it," Warner said.

Given that those devices could be any variants of mobile handsets, PCs or TV monitors, this effectively becomes a "three-screens" demo. The analogy Warner suggested was that of clothing. It’s not enough to buy a jacket (digital content) that fits; you need to be able to wear (view it) it in any location.

The TM Forum’s primary interest, however, is in the interfaces that enable successful handoffs across this chain. On to advertising Emphasizing the TM Forum’s interest in a "least number" or "cardinal set" of standards, Warner identified three such desired, open interfaces in the areas of content commerce, metadata and content catalog.

Warner said that neither the metadata nor catalog interfaces are likely to be standardized in a formal sense. "What there needs to be is a framework that allows my catalog to talk to your catalog," he said, "or metadata A talk to metadata B."

Some of the additive pieces in the Content Encounter series to date have been management elements. "We’ve certainly added a lot in terms of advertising, policy-based advertising," Warner said. "We’ve added billing and settlements, revenue management."

"When you look ahead to phase three in Orlando, I think that’s when you’ll start to see us add in probably another step change in advertising," he said. "How do you really add personalized advertising?"

In the advertising area, the TM Forum is moving in potentially overlapping ways with the cable industry. To overlap however, is not necessarily to compete.

"I’ve never seen a problem yet where you couldn’t say that two minds are better than one," Warner said.

– Jonathan Tombes

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