The Evolution of the Connected Home
We are likely to see some further, major changes to how we watch television over the next decade. Photograph: Shutterstock
Many television reception products now not only receive an off-air signal from an antenna but also require an internet connection to enable full operation. The retail stores are awash with Smart Televisions and STBs with "Catch Up" television facilities that require an internet connection and most homes are now "broadband enabled" with the ability for their internet ready equipment to be connected to the household broadband router and received streamed video and audio content from an OTT, IPTV or iPlayer source.
For all those television installers and engineers out there who remember C&G 224, the typical large screen television installation a couple of decades ago usually involved connecting to a VCR and receiving four or five television channels; back then "Catch Up" TV was when you pressed the fast forward button on a recording that you were watching! Now, we have to be smarter, not just the televisions.
But it is not rocket science is it? We still need a conventional RF signal (for now) to be received by an antenna (for now) to receive the bulk of the signal. Whether this will be the case for the next couple of decades is a matter of conjecture with the possibility that more content will be streamed via the internet. It is not inconceivable that at some stage, all content may be received this way.
This means that we are likely to see some further, major changes to how we watch television over the next decade and beyond and that we need to develop our skills and knowledge and to be better aware of what is in store; and let us be clear, where we are at the moment regarding the connected home is likely to be just the beginning! As things develop further, the consumer (and probably ourselves) may require some distinction and definition between products regarding operability, connectability and installation.
With this in mind the RDI have devised and are proposing that we start to adopt and implement a tiered structure regarding advanced CE products to enable them to fall into one of the following three categories: Connected Home Products, Smart Home Products and Ultra Home Products with proposed definitions for each below;
A product that can be part of the Connected Home can be defined as a consumer electronic HD product that has built in internet capability and the ability to digitally communicate with other CE products via a computer network in a hassle free and accessible manner. This would cover all high definition television viewing products that have network capability including; HD televisions, STBs, games consoles, Bluray players, PVRs etc.
A product that can be part of the Smart Home can be thought of as an Innovative, Connected Home product that has advanced capabilities including monitoring, operation and/or control of other networked products, wifi capable and able to seamlessly connect to smart gadgets such as cameras, smartphones, tablets etc. This would cover products such as; Smart Televisions, 8th generation games consoles (PS4, Xbox One etc), basic home automation systems etc.
The final category is only just emerging and really does not need an introduction as the title of Ultra Home Products gives it away! A product that can be part of the Ultra Home is a Smart Home product that is mega screen, Ultra HD capable and encompasses emerging, future ready technologies. Typical products obviously include UHD televisions (4K and 8K mega wide screens) and other UHD devices but could also include THX audio systems, advanced automation systems, Telehealthcare and other high-tech, high-spec equipment.
These categories are formative at the moment but we want to get the ball rolling as, in a few years time when UHD hits us (and probably many other high tech products!), consumers and installers will have even more products to purchase and install and clarity will be required on the functionality of these products and how to install and operate them.
The last 10 years or so of watching television has been described as a revolution, but it is not revolution now; it is evolution!