Monday, 15 January 2018

Cable Congress 2018: Innovation in Action

Knect365 for Cable Congress
In a recent report commissioned by Liberty Global, ADL research posits that, “If the third industrial revolution leveraged the development of electronics, IT and automated production, the ongoing fourth industrial revolution is redefining the interactions between people, machines and the environment, and redefining the way we live and work.”

Coining the term ‘GigaWorld’ to describe this emergent era, the authors argue that the potential of ‘GigaApplications’ challenges network operators to raise their game, as they consider the timing of their investments.

“While some operators are actively investing, a significant number are only partially committed,” it suggests. “We are at an inflection point with a huge value at stake.”

That inflection point is front and central of the Cable Congress agenda. According to Phil McKinney, President & CEO, CableLabs, “together we will explore a vision of how future technologies will change the way we connect and interact with each other in the next three to eight years.”

McKinney, who will deliver one of the opening keynotes, adds, “The foundation of this vision is an ever-evolving network that stimulates innovation and speeds progress. We challenge you to re-imagine what’s possible at Cable Congress.”

CableLabs pinpoints embedded IoT devices which are able to monitor us anywhere, a critical outcome being the ability to keep us safe and healthy longer. “Technologies such as remote diagnostics, once thought of as science fiction, rely on the high speed, secure, reliable wireless connectivity and networking protocols enabled by the cable industry,” says McKinney.

This is just one aspect of Smart Cities and the way we use network infrastructure to deploy new technology-enabled services in the best interests of the community. Cable Congress goes further and asks how the social impact of such services should be measured and what are the implications of General Data Protection Regulation which comes into force in May.

Critical real-time two-way transmission characterizes GigaApplications like Virtual Telepresence and Automated Living. Yet to ensure sufficient Quality of Experience for consumers, the enabling infrastructures and networks must provide new Quality of Service features in addition to coverage and bandwidth. The industry is rapidly moving in this direction with a series of technology transitions which advance DOCSIS technology to bring Multi-Gbps broadband connectivity to the masses and which embrace SDN, NFV and other virtualization technologies.

In this way networks increasingly become the central enabler as they convey the data and interconnect devices and applications. Join the CEOs of Tele Columbus, Virgin Media Ireland and the COO of Vodafone Germany as they outline their technology roadmap and hear from Huawei about how video-centric network strategies will revolutionise the cable business.

From Facebook to Amazon to Waze, artificial intelligence (A.I) is changing the way we use and interact with technology. It’s also transforming customer service. For example, Comcast announced earlier this year that A.I and machine learning will be a priority in developing their next-gen customer care programme.

If there’s ever an industry that’s primed for collecting data and making it available to customers, it is cable. For years, quantitative and qualitative research helped the industry understand consumers so how profoundly could A.I and advanced analytics really benefit the customer experience?

Cable Congress also considers the impact that A.I is already having on our daily lives. In particular, how does AI - in the form of digital assistants like Alexa - influence our content discovery choices? How effective are algorithms at determining objective news stories from fake ones? The choices we make now impact our relationship with news organisations, with political discourse and public life in general.

A.I is one of many areas where smart technology and content is converging on the network. Indeed, the evolving dynamics between operators and content providers has become central to forward thinking business strategy, one represented at the heart of several conference sessions.

To enable rapid product evolution as well as to achieve economies of scale, cable operators find themselves in the midst of transition from DVB-C to all-IP as consumers look to curate their own bundled services of content across multiple personal devices.

Executives from Viacom, Endemol Shine, AMC Networks International among others debate whether it makes sense for pay TV operators to invest in original content and share exclusive insights into how direct-to-consumer OTT services from channels will impact the economics of pay TV. If the triple-play was yesterday’s competitive silver bullet what is the ‘secret sauce’ for operators to attract – and retain – customers today? Hear Comcast’s view on this.

A highlight is an interview with Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at  Formula 1 who explains the 360-degree reversal in approach to content from the world’s biggest motorsport which previously kept rights closely guarded. He is leading a reinvention of the fan experience using virtual reality and YouTube among other innovative tactics. The implications for the future relationship of cable operators and sports rights holders are not to be ignored.

If cable is to maximise it role in public life via the IoT at the same time as its revenue generating potential then government and regulators must provide an optimum operating environment. There is no wiser or more widely known advocate perhaps than Michael K Powell, President and CEO, NCTA (The Internet & Television Association). In a must-attend opening address, the former chair of the FCC will extend his argument that cable has a critical role in the Information Revolution, from the US to Europe.  In his keynote ‘Hands Across the Water: Our shared interest in cable’s success’ Powell reiterates that broadband networks require a light regulatory touch to grow and evolve rather than the “debilitating impact of utility-style” micro-management.

“The biggest threat to innovation and improving consumer experiences is not net neutrality, it is an internet that stalls and does not get better,” Powell argues. “Tech innovation and network innovation are symbiotic. Each depends on the other to keep up. Netflix could move from DVDs to streaming because the network had become faster. In turn, because of Netflix, consumers demanded and purchased faster speeds, which could justify new network investment. That virtuous cycle is critical.”

However, Powell also identifies piracy as a major challenge still to be tackled. A recent AT&T survey of more than 5,000 enterprises around the world, revealed that only 10% feel confident that they could secure IoT devices against cyber attack.

The cable industry has a number of initiatives under way including work with M3AAWG (The Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group) to improve how distributed denial of service (DDOS) information is shared. The industry is also working with the Open Connectivity Foundation to develop IoT security standards. Both efforts will help to combat cybersecurity threats to both their networks and their customers but is it enough to defend against increasingly sophisticated criminal cartels demanding ransom in hard to trace bitcoin?

According to Cisco, there are currently 4.9 billion connected devices today with an expected 12 billion by 2020. The fully matured result of this rapid growth is a $6 trillion industry. Liberty Global itself forecasts the GigaWorld innovation cycle to unlock a market of €250-660 billion per year by 2025 in Europe alone. At the global level, we are looking at a value of €1.3 - 3.5 trillion per year.

If even part of that value is realized then the industry looks to be in rude health as long as it widens its outlook way beyond that of the dumb pipe.

“Our vibrant and forward-facing programme for 2018 responds to the extraordinary and everchanging industry we’re all now a part of,” says Manuel Kohnstamm, President of event organizer Cable Europe. “No longer just about content and carriage, Cable Congress sets the agenda for discussion around infrastructure investment, content curation, innovation, consumer trends, big data and analytics, smart homes, competitiveness and IoT. There has never been a more invigorating or dynamic time to be in this industry nor at its heart - Cable Congress.”

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