TV Viewers Also Need to Feel the Freedom To Choose their Set Top Box Service Providers like Mobile Phone Users.
The Set Top Boxes (STB) for TVs which started much before the Mobile era are still facing the problem of incompatibility.
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TV Viewers / Subscribers really need interoperable Set Top Box (iSTB). With the availability of these Set Top Boxes in the market, a user can choose a feature loaded iSTB of his/her choice from the market to be used with his new LCD TV.
Interoperable Set Top Box
Like all the new age devices, an interoperable Set Top Box will also be an “internet device”. A user can simply plug his new iSTB into an internet connection and access the website of a national “Content Service Provider”. He can then instantly register his interoperable Set Top Box with the Content Service Provider (iCSP) over internet itself. Since the services will be offered on a prepaid basis, he can make the advance payment through the Payment Gateway on the web-site. Alternative modes of payment by the users can also be explored in the interest of the subscribers. The iCSP will provide the user with a unique iSTB-ID which like the Mobile Phone number will allow communication between the iSTBs and other systems across the interoperable Content delivery Network (iCDN). This iSTB-ID can now continue even when the user switches to another iCSP, ensuring continuity of video-mails, video-conference, VoIP calls etc.
Set Top Box (STB) for Television is facing the problem of incompatibility. As the service provider has to bear the upfront cost, he does not hesitate to provide the lowest cost box. Moreover, he has to lock the user in a service plan whereby he can recover the cost of the box over a year or two.
Interoperable Head Ends (iHEs)
Interoperable Set Top Box will bring about ecology of interoperable players much like the ecology of internet. iSTB will always connect to the nearest interoperable Head-ends (iHEs) for accessing the Universal contents. There will be a range of Content and Channel Aggregators who will provide their contents and channels to the interoperable Head-ends (iHEs). A Content Service Provider would be billing all the registered STBs by collecting their daily usage logs. He would be responsible for passing the amount collected from the interoperable Set Top Box to the designated Revenue Distributor of a region. The Revenue Distributor (iRD) would essentially be a bank which would keep accounts of all the players of this ecology. Every month it will automatically transfer the revenue shares to each ecology player based on the pre-agreed percentages. Interoperable Set Top Box will dramatically change the evolution path of the STBs and bring about an incredible paradigm in IPTV service in line with the NGN evolution.
One Interoperable Set Top Box for Multi-Purposes
The same Universal contents can be accessed irrespective of the networks which the Interoperable Set Top Box is connected to. Like the PC, only an appropriate “network adaptor” may be needed for connecting to a specific network. Alternatively, the interoperable Set Top Box can be equipped with different plug-in modules supporting different interfaces. The iSTB can be connected to several networks at the same time and thus be able to access contents simultaneously from several Headends. In today’s world, a user would like to have a single device connected to his TV and avoid the mess of multiple devices with multiple cables and multiple remotes. A single iSTB should obviate other devices for Music, Radio, DVD, Games etc. A common userinterface controllable through a single remote would give the much sought relief.
Like the PC, the interoperable Set Top Box should be able to operate even in a stand-alone way without being connected to any network. The user should always be able to play the audio/video contents stored in the internal mass storage of the interoperable Set Top Box. Apart from this, he should be able to play the contents stored/archived in externally attached USB/SATA drives. The iSTB should also function as a DVD player with the attachment of a DVD drive. It shall be possible to use the iSTB even in remotest places across the globe with the weakest of intermittent internet connection. The internet connection, even if it is of low speed and unreliable, would be helpful in intermittently conveying the usage records to the Content Service Provider.
Interoperable Set Top Box Connectivity
Interoperable Set Top Box will always be provided with an Ethernet port allowing connection to an internet and broadband networks of different Head-ends through ADSL modems. The Ethernet port can be used with a Cable-modem for fetching contents over the coaxial cable and also for connections to Fibre to Home networks, providing upto 100 Mbits bandwidth from the Head-end. An iSTB can also be connected to a wireless networks such as WiFi or WiMax through a modem connected to its USB or Ethernet port. As the iSTB can be simultaneously connected to more than one Head-end, seamless roaming would be possible between wireless networks. Besides this, an iSTB can be simultaneously connected to one or more traditional broadcast medium using add-on tuners. By adding a DVB-C tuner, it will be able to get digital channels from a coaxial cable. Similarly, with a DVB-S and DVB-T tuner, it will be get digital channels from a satellite and terrestrial transmission respectively. Using DVB-H tuner, it will be able to get LD resolution channels for mobile applications.
The iSTB ecology segregates content charging from content distribution. In fact, it allows the contents to be charged in a uniform way, irrespective of the manner in which it was collected. The charging happens only when the content is played, and is proportional to the viewing time, for Library contents. A Pay content will get charged for when it gets viewed for the first time in an Interoperable Set Top Box . The Pay content will get charged again once the rental period is over upon its replay. A user can now collect contents of his choice from various iSTBs in his USB stick for playing with his Interoperable Set Top Box. Before playing the, iSTB will fetch new keys for all the new contents and will account for them subsequently in the normal manner.
A user can now transfer a Universal content or a clip to another iSTB, through an email or even a SMS, since all that needs to be sent is just the ID of the content, and the start and end timing. The receiving STB will fetch the Universal content from its Head-end and play only the specified section of the content. In case the desired content is not available on a Head-end, the same will get fetched from the sending iSTB. Thus people can freely send their viewing recommendations to each other. These, however, will be fetched and charged only when a receiving person decides to view them.
Interoperable Set Top Box Features
Interoperable Set Top Box would allow the user to have a unified common way of handling all contents and channels. Like the PCs, the iSTBs will have a common human-interface with interoperable remotes so that a user will feel at home with any iSTB. It will follow the philosophy of “keeping simple things simple and tough possible”. Needless to say simple features of TV browsing, video playing etc. will not be compromised for the sake of more versatile features. Interoperable Set Top Box will allow VCR features to be used while playing any content including channels. Thus, it will be possible to Pause a Live channel and even Rewind through it. Any video can be played in slow motion and even stepped through frame-by-frame. Thus, instant slow-motion replays can be created in live channels. It would even be possible to shuttle between two Live channels, such that one doesn’t miss out any portion of interest while fast forwarding through the rest.
Interoperable Set Top Box will provide a flexible configuration option whereby he can set the primary and secondary language he is interested in. Channels and contents corresponding to only these languages will be shown to avoid the clutter. The user will also be able to configure the Censorship level such that content belonging to stricter censoring will not be displayed.
An Interoperable Set Top Box will also provide a slot for temporary insertion of a Smart Card. This Smart Card can be a credit card for making Payments or a Citizen Card for authentication of a user and secure logins. Although iSTB will initially handle the Universal Audio & Video contents, it need not be restricted to it. iSTB can handle the Web Audio and Video contents through a webbrowser in a manner akin to the PC. The iSTB can also act as a “Media Organizer” allowing a user to organize his personal contents in one place. iSTB will also be able to handle other types of contents such as Electronic Books and Video Games and provide them on a Pay or Library basis.
Universal Content Locator (UCL)
Like the Universal Resource Locator (URL) on the Internet, it now makes sense to have a Universal Content Locator (UCL) too, for all the Universal Contents. A UCL will show up as a clickable Hyperlink on a web-page, or documents. Unlike the URL, the UCL will identify only the Universal Content and not its location on any server. Unlike the URL, the UCL would also be usable for file naming providing tremendous convenience. The UCL, will have a unique preamble at the beginning (“iC” for interoperable Contents), allowing it to be detected in any context by a browser (like the URL). It will then have a few letters depicting the type of contents: Video/Audio, Contents/Channels and Ads/Spot-Ads etc. It will then be followed by a unique numeric ID for the Content/Channel Aggregator and then by a three letter mnemonic of the primary language of the content and then the serial number of the content/channel.
In the case of a recorded program from a channel, there will be a date-time (GMT) and duration suffixed to the Universal Content Locator (UCL) of the Channel. This would uniquely define the portion of the channel to be played. A user can now browse through movie reviews on the IMDB web-site and then click on a UCL hyper-link to watch the movie in full HD resolution. He can click on a UCL mentioned on a social-website and immediately watch the referred Channel Program. He can use the Google search to get a listing of all the title of programs/movies featuring his favourite actors and then he can click on an embedded Universal Content Locator (UCL) to see the program (it could be a movie or a channel program).
Universal Content Locator (UCL) will also have tags at the end, identifying some of the important attributes of the contents, which needs to be gleaned even before looking inside any of its file. These tags can be the Censorship tag, the Spot Ad category tag and a tag for indicating the non-encrypted content (by default they are encrypted). The serial number of content would be different for different prefixes but will not be affected by the tags, providing convenience in subsequent changing of the tags.