According to a recently published white paper, cable boxes have the potential to become protocol-agnostic Internet-of-Things (IoT) hubs and in the process begin to address the competing protocols and closed systems that continue to hold back the IoT industry.
The paper was written by Susan Crouse, director of product management for Alticast, which sells products and software for multi-screen viewing and TV interactivity. In the white paper, Crouse suggested tying the many IoT hubs from makers including Belkin, Lowe’s, Quirky and Philips into a single ecosystem with the living-room TV as a notification center.
Crouse reasoned that since cable operators, including Comcast, have already started selling security and other home-automation features, they could each gain an advantage by tying together disparate IoT devices — thus also controlling the “smart pipe” into users’ homes. The smart pipe is the actual pipe cable providers own that provides the service.
Since the user has a box in the household that is already connected to the smart pipe, a central gateway is already in place, Crouse said. As operators continue to provide more video and data gateways for consumers, those boxes will be ideally situated for IoT management, according to Alticast.
The operator is already getting paid by the household and could potentially have business-to-business relationships with the entities that want to provide additional services to the hub, Crouse said.
“The billing infrastructure is in place, so new services can be aggregated into the existing billing structure, alleviating the consumer from being billed by a number of IoT providers,” she said. “The operator can provide add-on services whether they are energy, security, or health related, and can provide billing settlement to the various providers. This creates a single point of billing, reduction in hardware controllers, and a single point of interface for the consumer.”
In one scenario, a TV could put up a video feed from a security camera in the user’s garage that’s set off by a connected garage door opener. That could happen if the user’s cable or set-top box aggregated all the home’s devices into one system that not only allowed the user to control his home, but also lowered the risk of cyberattack since all the home’s access points are reduced to one device — a factor that could be one main drawback of the plan if that hub isn’t sufficiently secure.
The Engadget Web site originally reported on the Alticast white paper. According to Engadget’s analysis, cable operators could turn IoT set-tops into a hedge against “cord cutting,” or the trend toward cancelling cable service. Cable companies could also use this idea to battle against so-called “over-the-top” (OTT) Internet-delivered content and the devices that facilitate them. The tech blog also asked Roku if it might enable such technology into future OTT boxes, but the streaming device maker said it had no plans to do so.
“Cable operators provide broadband service to a majority of their customers, and the ‘smart pipe’ to the house may be the most important thing an operator provides going forward,” Crouse said.
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