Access all areas, as Smart TVs become communication hubs

This year’s CES show in Las Vegas saw the TV battle with mobile for the media spotlight. It appears that the TV won. Although the TV industry has still to abandon its 3D nonsense (they are even trying to flog sets with two simultaneous 3D images – totally nuts), it’s focusing more attention on the Smart TV sector. Many have tried, and failed, to create viable home communication hubs, but it appears that the planets are aligning to give TV sets the best chance of making it happen.

Now that we have faster and more prolific broadband, coupled with an affinity (desire, even) to use as many ‘apps’ as we can, Smart TVs are catching on. Japan-based Access Co, a provider of software and services for connected devices, is one such company that is looking to bridge the gap between the TV manufacturers and communications providers. Says Kiyo Oishi, chairman and CEO, Access Systems Americas and Access Europe:

“Access is delivering connected confidence for operators. Our ‘studio confident’ DLNA solutions provide the extra security content owners and studios need to safely allow their content to be shared throughout the home. All these solutions will be underpinned by new innovations across all multiscreen media-sharing, HTML5 and OTT/social TV platforms.”

One of its novel approaches is a joint venture with the Dutch-based Metrological Media Innovations to provide TV operators and manufacturers with a white-label cloud-based TV App store, which is already in use with an unnamed cable operator. The solution provides a cloud-based environment populated with apps that run on the ACCESS NetFront browser on a connected TV or other device. As Albert Dahan, Chief Technology Officer of Metrological, explains:

“The acceleration in TV-app take-up is an important development for the TV industry globally. I look forward to the collaboration with Access to further drive the app revolution that has already changed the face of mobile and is about to do the same for TV.”

The App-Store is cloud based, and fully hardware and software agnostic. According to the company, it can run on legacy set-top boxes and any connected device with a browser and integrates linear TV and online content – offering contextual apps running within the TV experience. The HTML5-based browser enables it to also provide support for DTV extensions such as HbbTV and BBC iPlayer.

Will consumers want to download apps on their Smart TVs? Most likely, if smartphone usage is anything to go by. What will also be important though will be the ability to do the same on second screen devices, such as tablets – ones that work seamlessly with their TV counterparts. Do you really want separate apps that aren’t linked? Ideally, you want the same app on the TV as on your phone or tablet, but the reality is that Smart TVs currently have their own OS. Until Apple launches its long-awaited (and as yet unconfirmed) TV set, and Android breaks into the market on something better than Google TV… Then we’ll see Smart TVs really take off.

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