Come Along for the Ride: Innovation Boot Camp

Jason Rupe
Principal Architect

Jul 18, 2018

Innovation is difficult. A full 95 percent of consumer products fail. Plus, the innovation process is highly unreliable, so we need every advantage we can get. In just three and a half days at the CableLabs Innovation Boot Camp, my team and I found a way to change all that. Yes, they were long days, and we had to make efficient use of that limited time. But 95 percent? We considered that an opportunity!

You Might Think

My part of the project pitch—the ultimate goal of Innovation Boot Camp—started off with a statistic that was just as surprising as that 95 percent figure, which was the number of people who could seriously benefit from the use of autonomous vehicles—if they were made to be safe. About 15 percent of the world’s population is disabled, and many of them could benefit from autonomous vehicles in some way (but also could be more easily harmed by them). Then again, everybody could significantly benefit from automated vehicles, so that percentage rises to 100 with a little change in perspective! Doing a bit of research and framing a problem with real statistics is something I learned a long time ago in high school debate. But it’s a corner I often cut, as I think many of us do. Innovation Boot Camp reinforced that important aspect, which is critical to solving an important problem.

As for our pitch—it went very well! We got fantastic feedback, and the Q&A session afterward quickly generated further great ideas. A key feature of the boot camp was Phil McKinney teaching attendees about innovation antibodies. I listen to his podcast regularly, so I had heard of the concept before. But it was during Innovation Boot Camp that I realized those antibodies were real—and they were inside me! I’m not talking about autonomous bots in my system, and I’m not referring to the autonomous vehicles and robotics at the core of our focus at Innovation Boot Camp. Rather, to me, innovation antibodies mean that I could talk myself out of taking the needed risks to execute on innovation. Thankfully, I recognized their presence, so I could deal with them directly— an important step! I really came away with confidence that I could overcome those innovation antibodies. Our successful pitch demonstrated that nicely. But just the evening before, I wasn’t so sure.


I remember preparing for our final pitch. We had driven our project far in just a few days, and we had successfully followed the innovation process. We were coached on what elements belonged in our pitch to sell it well, and we were learning about the hard part: execution. Our idea had merit! (Of course, every team at Innovation Boot Camp could confidently say the same thing.) We knew to focus on the “why.”

Executive Director of UpRamp Scott Brown gave us great pointers; I’m sure he was proud of us! But even as the teams were getting ready to frame their pitches and were forming their use case stories, we were also learning from Ryan Wickre and Scott Thibeault about design practices, and how excellent companies like Frog Designs solve tough design problems.

Learning is a constant at Innovation Boot Camp. Our dinner one night was a live Q&A session at the Computer History Museum. After looking over the technology that touches our topic area for our innovation project (autonomous vehicles), we enjoyed a live session with a few seasoned entrepreneurs who shared a lot of wisdom with us:

That evening was all about gaining both knowledge and wisdom! When I first arrived at Boot Camp, I knew almost nothing about autonomous vehicles, but after that evening, I knew more than enough to innovate in that market space. And I was already learning the steps required to innovate well. We were motoring!

I’m in Touch with Your World

As my team prepared its pitches, I thought about the time we spent enjoying food and drinks with our target market: the early adopters. When it comes to focusing ideas on an innovation area, I learned just how important it is to know the target market. And that takes having real, frank conversations with those users. Our coaches and subject matter experts found actual early adopters in Silicon Valley and steered them to us so that we could ask them questions. What we learned that night heavily influenced our innovation project and convinced me that not knowing a target market is a highly significant innovation mode of failure.

Innovation Boot Camp

While talking with early adopters of robotics, drones, and autonomous vehicles, my team and I learned a great deal that helped us focus the chaos of ideas we’d brainstormed earlier. We spent most of that day learning how to innovate and rank our ideas. It’s amazing how quickly you can generate excellent ideas for problem-solving. Bringing our individual ideas to the team, grouping them, enhancing them, and developing them from that point resulted in some exciting opportunities! Although I had some experience going through this process, Innovation Boot Camp introduced me to concepts such as the scamper method, as well as proven methods for ranking ideas.

Idea generation and ranking were reinforced throughout the boot camp. Think of it as driver’s education for innovation. Each day, Phil McKinney told us to get our books out to generate and rank ideas about an identified problem. Framing the problem was also important, and having some skills reinforced on that first step was essential. This kind of daily practice takes only a few minutes, but it brings great value!

Let’s Go

Zero to sixty in no time! We were already talking to innovation experts on the first day of boot camp, even getting a presentation from Aditya Kaul through a remote presence robot. We toured autonomous vehicle research facilities. Time went by quickly, even though the days were long. Innovation Boot Camp started exactly the way you’d expect: a rapid learning experience that established a strong foundation from which to innovate. We saw:

  • The challenges of the autonomous vehicle space
  • Learned what companies were working on, and understood where their biggest challenges were
  • And at the same time, we were already learning about framing, ideation, ranking, and execution—also known as the FIRE process

When the Boot Camp began, I wondered what it would be like. Was I going to learn enough about autonomous vehicles to actually come up with a good idea? Was I going to learn anything new that would help me step up my innovation game? Could I find a way to take what I learned back to my team and bring more value to CableLabs and its members? Was I going to crash?

Just What I Needed

As I received my certificate on the final day, I knew my time wasn’t wasted, and the return on my investment was high. I had a wonderful time! But it wasn’t just because the food was great or because the location was right. The event staff were fabulous, the topic was interesting, the content was solid, and my team members were fantastic. Our coaches really drove us to success; Lori Lantz, Dan Smith, Christian Pape, and Lisa Warther were great leaders. And Michelle Vendelin was the event master; she guides us and made the whole experience highly valuable! Although the process alone was completely worth the investment, the project outcome was hugely valuable too. I grasped a few new skills, I learned a process I can reference later, and I got some great ideas worth pursuing after the event. I can confidently replicate what I learned, and in fact, I’ve already done that in my job and in my personal life!

Innovation Boot Camp 2018

That 95 percent failure rate for innovation is low-hanging fruit. I can now assuredly do my part to lower that failure rate. Off to the races!

Our next Innovation Boot Camp is September 25-28 in Louisville, Colorado. The topic is Connected in Extreme Weather and Natural Disaster. Register now and don't miss the opportunity to learn a framework and new methods for Innovation that is repeatable and has led to incremental and breakthrough innovation for past attendees. 


30th Anniversary

5 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About CableLabs

Jul 11, 2018

No matter if you work for or with CableLabs (or just thinking about it), we bet there are some things on this list that’ll impress you.

  1. Half a billion individuals (and counting) use CableLabs’ technology every single day.

Over the last 30 years, CableLabs has been releasing a steady stream of innovative technologies into the world. Today its projects span multiple industries, everything from medical equipment to cybersecurity to VR gaming and beyond, so chances are you or someone you know is using CableLabs technology. Not bad for a 30-year-old company.

Today, 345 million homes are serviced by cable technology. Guess how many homes had cable in 1988 when CableLabs was formed? Check your answer here.

  1. The modem in your house probably has Cablelabs’ stamp of approval.

Remember the dial-up days when your internet browsing sessions were routinely halted by someone picking up the house phone? You can thank CableLabs for rescuing you from that particular loop of disappointment. CableLabs’ DOCSIS® specifications have helped the industry develop cheaper, reliable and way more convenient cable modems that most of us have in our homes today. In fact, nearly 2.3 billion DOCSIS cable modems were shipped since 2000.

Do you know the year the first DOCSIS specification was launched? Find the answer here.

  1. Without CableLabs, you probably would still be stuck watching the same 10 channels.

Most people agree that the current variety of 500 or so digital cable channels is nice to have. This wouldn’t be possible without MPEG, the digital video encoding standard, enabled by CableLabs in 1996 and still used today. It allowed broadcasters to put 20 channels inside of one, so in a way, you can thank CableLabs for your channel surfing habits.

  1. CableLabs won an Emmy for DOCSIS.

Did you think the red carpet is rolled out only for the Hollywood elite? After the release of DOCSIS 3.0 in 2010, CableLabs won its first Technology & Engineering Emmy Award for enabling "the delivery of television via broadband data systems." And that’s not all. Many cable companies are planning to launch Full Duplex DOCSIS 3.1, the latest iteration that allows the use of the same spectrum for upstream and downstream traffic at the same time, by 2020.

  1. CableLabs is in the matchmaking business.

Over the years, CableLabs has helped transform the cable industry from video entertainment to broadband, digital delivery, wireless and fiber technologies. But it doesn’t have a monopoly on great ideas. Through unique programs like UpRamp, CableLabs can now seek out innovative startups and put them in touch with their bigger, more established counterparts to help bring more state-of-the-art technologies to market. Since the start of the program, CableLabs has introduced over 500 startups to the cable industry.

Unlike any other company out there, CableLabs splits its budget between R&D and long-term innovation. Find out why here.

For a more complete look at CableLabs’ history, be sure to click below and check out our brand new 30th Anniversary. It chronicles CableLabs’ contributions to the industry and offers a glimpse of what’s to come.

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Summer Conference 2018: Register For Our Game-Changing Event

Jul 8, 2018

This year marks our 30th anniversary here at CableLabs. Join us at our Summer Conference 2018 August 5-8 in Keystone Co and help us celebrate while you learn, mix with your counterparts from around the world and enjoy spectacular Colorado.

We’ve put together a special conference this year to mark our momentous milestone with some game-changing innovations, presentations, demos and an impressive line-up of speakers. We’ll discuss enormous efficiency increases, from both technical and business perspectives, to help the global cable industry join forces and become bigger, sharper and faster, together. Keynote speakers include:

Annie Duke: As a World Series Poker Champion, author and National Science Foundation Fellow, Annie leverages her experience in the science of smart decision making to excel at a variety of pursuits. She brings her background in cognitive science and poker together to understand how we make decisions, the obstacles that prevent us from making our best decisions and how to create practical solutions that make decision making more rational.

Brad Shaw: Chief Executive Officer of Shaw Communications and a 30-year veteran, Brad will share how his company has disrupted the industry and redefined how a cable company can thrive in a fast-changing environment. Brad sits on our Board of Directions and his valuable input contributes to many of our innovations.

Tim Urban: Creator of the stick figure illustrated blog, Wait But Why, Tim is one of the internet’s most popular writers. Elon Musk is such a big fan that he asked Tim to interview him about his companies, resulting in the in-depth Elon Musk Blog Series. His Why Procrastinators Procrastinate presentation was the most-watched TED talk of 2016.


We know many of you come to “take a peek at the future” and you'll be covered. Take a look at the agenda to get an idea of the hot topics, from 5G rollouts to crushing latency in networks to Micronets to Blockchain, and much more. Don’t miss our CTO Roundtable, with members from Europe and the US, giving their take on technologies from DOCSIS 3.1, IP video and next-generation architectures.

CableLabs subsidiary UpRamp works with some of the brightest emerging technology companies in the world. They will introduce you to 6 such companies who are changing the landscape of our industry. We know you’re a hard crowd to impress, but these 6 companies will grab your attention and get your creative wheels turning. We will also be introducing the companies in the 2018 UpRamp Cohort.

Connect with our Speakers

You told us you want to connect on a deeper level with some of our presenters, and we’re introducing a new app which will allow you to set up a 15-minute meeting with anyone on our schedule. It’s a great opportunity to form bonds and get all your questions answered by our expert presenters. Watch this space to get more info. Or better yet, sign up now for the conference, and get early access.

What’s a Party without a BBQ?

CableLabs subsidiary Kyrio will host a Colorado-style BBQ on Monday, August 6 at Keystone Stables, with transportation provided. Come out, meet your fellow attendees and help us celebrate our 30th.

CableLabs Member? Stay the Extra Day

On August 9, we are hosting our Behind the Curtain event at our Louisville, Colorado labs. Not a part of our regular program, but this event is something extra you shouldn’t miss. You’ll get a chance to see and hear about the disruptive technologies we’re working on behind closed doors. It’s a perfect chance to view demonstrations, get involved, and collaborate with us on positioning and rollouts of these exciting new technologies.

Register now to reserve your space for our special 30th anniversary Summer Conference 2018. We can't wait to see you in Keystone!



First Light for CableLabs® Point-to-Point Coherent Optics Specifications

Matt Schmitt
Principal Architect

Jul 2, 2018

On June 29th, CableLabs publicly unveiled for the first time two new specifications:

These two new specifications are the result of a focused effort by CableLabs, our members, and our manufacturer partners to develop Coherent Optics technology for the access network and bring it to market quickly. They also represent the beginning of a sea change for the way data is distributed into the network by:

  • Greatly expanding the capacity of existing cable operator fiber access networks,
  • While meeting ever-increasing capacity demands at the lowest possible cost.

The Drive for More Capacity

Have you ever met a customer that didn’t want faster speeds?  That didn’t want their broadband and wireless services to be quicker, faster, and more responsive? I didn’t think so.

To meet those increasing customer expectations, there are two fundamental changes occurring in the access network of cable operators:

  1. Operators are deploying remote devices using CableLabs Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) technology, which requires converting the fiber network from analog to digital transport.
  2. They are also pushing fiber deeper into the network, such that multiple remote devices are taking the place of a single fiber node.

These two changes together enable cable operators to increase capacity more cost-effectively than traditional node splitting, while improving service quality and opening the door to new service opportunities.

Today’s Technology Option

To be able to reach those remote DAA devices (such as Remote PHY Devices, or RPDs), today cable operators are deploying multiple 10 Gbps links that share a single fiber by operating at different wavelengths (known as DWDM, or Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) as in the figure below:

Point to Point Point Coherent Specs

There are limits to how many different wavelengths that can be placed onto a fiber, and the number of fibers available to use may also be limited, which together limit the growth of this option. Additionally, adding more and more wavelengths adds not only direct cost, but also operational complexity, which has its own cost.

Coherent Optics: A Brighter Solution

In order to transmit digital data – a series of 1s and 0s – across a fiber at 10 Gbps, today’s devices use On-Off Keying (OOK). In essence, devices turn the light on and off very quickly to transmit that data.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could add more information to each pulse of light?

That’s what Coherent Optics technology does:  it packs multiple bits of data into each “symbol”, allowing for more data to be transmitted in the same amount of time (a.k.a, more speed). It does this by manipulating the amplitude, phase, and polarization of that light to transmit multiple bits of data with each symbol duration, as shown in the following example for 16QAM modulation:

Point to Point Coherent Optics Channel

Now, instead of each wavelength carrying 10 Gbps, with Coherent Optics technology defined in these new specifications we can carry 100 Gbps (and more) on each wavelength. And this technology is also well suited to operating with multiple wavelengths on the same fiber, dramatically increasing capacity. Where before a 40 channel fiber network could have a capacity of 400 Gbps, now it’ll be 4 Terabits per second, a full order of magnitude increase.

Interestingly, Coherent Optics technology actually isn’t new. It’s been used in long-haul networks for several years. What is new is applying it to the access network and realizing that by optimizing this technology for these shorter distances, we could dramatically reduce the cost of the technology.

The advantage of applying Coherent Optics Technology to the Access Network

Let’s take a look at that network example above, but now using Coherent Optics technology rather than multiple 10 Gbps links:

Point to Point Coherent Optics

Now we can have just one or two wavelengths operating at 100 Gbps each taking the place of all of those 10 Gbps wavelengths, making network operation and management much simpler. While we still need 10 Gbps links to each of the remote DAA devices, we can use low cost, short reach optics rather than higher cost, long reach optics. This reduces overall cost and complexity compared to existing solutions, without the same limitations.

New Service Opportunities

The opportunities with Coherent Optics technology go well beyond improving service to residential broadband customers. By having a high capacity digital architecture that reaches deep into their networks, cable operators are not only able to support increasing demand for residential broadband services, but are ideally placed to support next-generation wireless services like 5G. These networks will place network endpoints right where wireless transmitters are needed, and with plenty of capacity to support wireless demand growth in addition to wired growth.

Coherent Optics

As we like to say, DAA isn’t just about DOCSIS services, and Coherent Optics is the key to opening up the capacity to unlock those services.

Why did CableLabs develop Coherent Optics specifications?

The number one objective for the CableLabs effort is to reduce the cost of this technology. The devices used today for long-haul networks are generally expensive, and therefore unsuitable for our objective of increasing capacity cost-effectively. However, much of that is driven by the fact that they have been designed for much longer distances than would be required for the access network. Our specifications reduce cost in 2 primary ways:

  • They define the minimum feature set necessary for an access network application, reducing complexity and therefore cost; and
  • They ensure interoperability, which increases competition and scale, thereby also reducing cost.

Through these efforts, we believe that the cost of Coherent Optics technology will be greatly reduced, making it both more economical and more future proof than existing solutions.

What do these specifications define?

The P2P Coherent Optics Architecture Specification: Defines the overall architecture for using Coherent Optics technology in cable operator access networks. It contains information about the technology itself, defines use cases for cable operators, and provides guidance on deployment scenarios. It should be seen as a resource for learning more about how to apply this technology to access networks, as well as assisting in preparing for its use.

The P2P Coherent Optics Physical Layer v1.0 Specification: Defines the requirements for coherent optics transceivers to interoperate with each other on the fiber network at 100 Gbps for each wavelength.  It contains the requirements that manufacturers will need to comply with in order to make their devices interoperate with each other at these speeds while keeping cost down as much as possible.  It should be seen as the guide for manufacturers to use in developing their products for this market.

What’s next?

As is implied by the Physical Layer specification being labeled as “v1.0”, there is more to come:

  • CableLabs, its members, and our manufacturer partners are already hard at work on future versions of the technology that will expand the capacity of each wavelength to 200 Gbps and greater.
  • We’re developing an OSSI or Operational Support Systems Interface specification to enable consistent management of Coherent Optics transceivers.
  • We’re also in the planning stages for interoperability events that will demonstrate device interoperability and specification compliance at 100 Gbps speeds.

The well-lit path ahead

Through the use of Coherent Optics technology – and devices built to be compliant with the CableLabs Point-to-Point Coherent Optics Specifications – cable operators now have a means of cost-effectively meeting ever-expanding consumer demand over their existing fiber access networks, and one which also provides the opportunity to provide new services like 5G small cell backhaul and enhanced business services.

The future of the fiber network is bright, so stay tuned!



Network Slicing: Building Next-Generation Wireless Networks

Omkar Dharmadhikari
Wireless Architect

Jun 28, 2018

Wireless communication growth has been on the rise, reaching newer industry segments such as the automotive and health industries. Each segment served by the wireless industry has different requirements, some needing ultra-high bandwidth while some requiring exceedingly low latency. With future wireless cellular Internet of Things (IoT) applications like 5G, Narrow-Band IoT (NB-IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications poised to offer diverse services with a mix of requirements, having dedicated networks that can perform dynamic resource utilization will be important.

Network slicing will play a pivotal role in addressing varied use cases by enabling dedicated virtualized network slices for each use case. This blog will emphasize how network slicing can help provide a cost-efficient way for Multiple System Operators (MSOs) to deliver differential services to the end user.

Why Should You Care About Network Slicing?

In the current one-size-fits-all approach implementation for wireless networks, most resources are underutilized and not optimized for high-bandwidth and low-latency scenarios. Fixed resource assignment for diverse applications with differential requirements may not be an efficient approach for using available network resources. Operators need a radical paradigm shift towards building smart dedicated networks that are ideal for providing differential set of services to the end user. However, building dedicated networks traditionally increases operators capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operational expenditures (OPEX). Network slicing will permit a more cost-effective implementation of dedicated networks.

Network slicing creates multiple dedicated virtual networks using a common physical infrastructure. Each virtual network slice is composed of independent logical network functions serving a specific use case. Each network slice can be optimized to provide the required resources and quality of service (QoS) with regards to latency, throughput, capacity, coverage and so on. Network slicing allows functional components to be shared among separate network slices while isolating each network slice, thereby avoiding interference. Thus, each network slice can be independently managed and orchestrated.

Network slicing is an efficient approach for simultaneously reducing OPEX and increasing revenue. Network slicing can act as a catalyst for adding flexibility, network scalability and efficient resource management. Network slicing will allow operators to analyze the OPEX and revenue generated on each slice independently. 

Types of Network Slicing

Network slicing can be broadly classified into two types: vertical network slicing and horizontal network slicing.

Vertical network slicing allows resource sharing between different services and applications to enhance QoS. In vertical network slicing, each network node implements similar functions within a specific network slice. Vertical network slicing will segregate traffic on a per-application basis, providing users on-demand bandwidth. The end-to-end traffic with vertical network slicing usually transits between the core network and the end device.

Horizontal network slicing allows resource sharing among different network nodes to enhance the capabilities of less capable network nodes. Thus, horizontal network slicing needs over-the-air resource sharing across network nodes. In horizontal network slicing, new functions can be added for a network node when supporting a specific network slice. Horizontal network slicing segregates computing resources, providing capacity scaling, offloading and edge computing. The end-to-end traffic with horizontal network slicing usually transits locally between the access network and the end device. 

The Role of NFV and SDN in Network Slicing 

With fully commercialized 5G networks expected to be launched by 2020, Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) will aid network slicing implementation. SDN and NFV will act as a basis for network slicing, allowing the efficient use of both physical and virtual resources.

SDN separates the control and user planes, providing a centralized architecture of the distributed network for efficient orchestration and automation. NFV decouples network functions from hardware elements to accelerate provisioning, optimize resource usage and increase operational efficiency.

SDN enables policy-based decisions to orchestrate the flow of traffic in a network. Thus, SDN benefits slicing by allowing dynamic configuration changes to subscriber policy for user, control and management planes. NFV ensures that the network’s capabilities align with the supporting virtualized environments. Thus, NFV benefits slicing by adding flexibility, allowing efficient scaling and allowing resource sharing across multiple network slices on a need basis. SDN enables the best path and moves more of the traffic processing on supported switches.

SDN and NFV commercial deployments are expected to grow, allowing network slicing to provide dynamic networks to meet the differential requirements of various applications and services. SDN and NFV will decrease CAPEX and OPEX, increase automation, reduce computational load and add dynamic scalability and flexibility. SDN and NFV are not dependent on each other, but there is synergy in combining the two.

Why Should MSOs Use Network Slicing?

Network slicing, although first applied to 5G networks, is now being applied to fixed network services such as fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). MSOs are currently offering quad-play services such as Internet, TV, home security and landline services. With the addition of cellular services to MSOs’ portfolios, network slicing could be an ideal solution. Each network slice can be optimized to provide the required resources and QoS to meet the diverse set of requirements for each service. Figures 1 and 2 show how the network slicing implementation would look when compared with the traditional network.

Network Slicing

Figure 1: Traditional Network


Figure 2: Network Slicing Implementation

Figure 2: Network Slicing Implementation

Vodafone and Huawei conducted a successful field trial of fixed-access network slicing by partitioning the physical FTTH network into multiple virtual network slices. Separate consumer and enterprise virtual network slices were created on a live FTTH network. The virtual network slices provide flexibility and full control to independently manage different customer bases using a single physical access network.

Network slicing will provide flexibility to optimize the operational processes on a per-service basis, allowing MSOs to independently manage the varied consumer base using a single physical access network. Network slicing will decrease OPEX by providing easy upgrades to virtualized software-defined solutions. Network slicing will provide scalability with horizontal slicing by using resources efficiently and will provide flexibility by vertically slicing the resources per application type. Network slicing will address varied throughput, latency, capacity and coverage requirements, with each slice tailored to meet needs on a per-service basis. Thus, network slicing will allow MSOs to independently manage the varied consumer base using a single physical access network.

Network Slicing Standardization

Network slicing standardization is in its early stages, with a focus on vertical slicing. Network slicing has been identified to play a pivotal role in 5G standardization. Currently, the wireless industry is focused on:

  • Standardizing the implementation guidelines for network slicing
  • Defining the ways and granularity of slicing
  • Understanding the impacts of network slicing on the core networks, access networks and end devices.

Some of the working groups that are actively involved in the standardization efforts of network slicing include:

  • Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN)
  • 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)
  • 5th Generation Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5GPPP) Co-Funded framework
  • Wireless World Research Forum (WWRF)

Fixed Access Network Sharing (FANS) architecture and equipment requirements have also been standardized by the Broadband Forum in Technical Report (TR-370).

How Can CableLabs Help?

CableLabs has done significant work addressing key technologies required for 5G around SDN and NFV. CableLabs has tried to explore:

  • Cable access network virtualization
  • Cable head-end low-latency edge computing
  • Rapid prototyping using emerging SDN toolkits
  • Developing a Virtual customer premises equipment (CPE) prototype

CableLabs is a leading contributor to the European Telecommunication Standards Institute NFV Industry Specification Group (ETSI NFV ISG). CableLabs SDN/NFV Application Development Platform and Stack (SNAPS) is part of Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV). CableLabs subsidiary Kyrio has built an NFV-SDN interoperability lab for vendors and operators to work together on their NFV and SDN solutions.

With the CableLabs TIP Community Lab, CableLabs is enabling deeper insights into the virtual RAN (vRAN) fronthaul interface. CableLabs has built a fully functional mobility lab with different types of Evolved Packet Core (EPC) architectures, including software-defined Cloud EPC and NFV-ready virtualized EPC (vEPC) solutions. The vEPC solutions have independent slices for management, control and user planes, providing utmost flexibility unlike physical node–based packet cores. CableLabs has also equipped the lab with virtualized solutions for IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and Evolved Packet Data Gateway (ePDG) to provide end-to-end network virtualization.

Network slicing is a vital component for deploying future networks

MSOs should look at implementing network slicing in their networks to add flexibility, scalability and resource usage optimization. Network slicing will allow MSOs to independently manage and orchestrate each network slice, tailored to serve specific use cases. Thus, network slicing will allow operators to provide differential services to the end user in a cost-effective manner.

MSOs can learn more about network slicing by actively participating in various standards groups. Alternatively, MSOs can reach out to CableLabs/Kyrio to test network slicing implementation to evaluate benefits and drawbacks. MSOs can leverage the existing virtualized and cloud-based infrastructures within CableLabs to enhance MSOs’ cellular offerings and build a 5G-ready network. MSOs can also use the infrastructure within CableLabs to test their own virtualized solutions. CableLabs is currently evaluating the functionality of virtualized solutions and in the near future plans to test the performance with respect to network slicing.



Should Artificial Intelligence Practice Law?

Simon Krauss
Deputy General Counsel

Jun 27, 2018

As in many other professions, artificial intelligence (AI) has been making inroads into the legal profession. A service called Donotpay uses AI to defeat parking tickets and arrange flight refunds. Morgan Stanley reduced its legal staff and now uses AI to perform 360,000 hours of contract review in seconds and a number of legal services can conduct legal research (e.g., Ross Intelligence), perform contract analysis (e.g., Kira Systems, LawGeex, and help develop legal arguments in litigation (e.g., Case Text).

Many of these legal AI companies are just a few years old; clearly, there are more AI legal services to come. Current laws allow only humans that passed a bar exam to practice law. But if non-humans could practice law, should we have AI lawyers? The answer may depend on how we want our legal analysis performed.

AI Thinking

Today, when people talk about AI, they often refer to machine learning. Machine learning has been around for many years, but because it is computationally intensive, it has not been widely adopted until more recently. In years past, if you wanted a computer to perform an operation, you had to write the code that told the computer what to do step-by-step. If you wanted a computer to identify cat pictures, you had to code into the computer the visual elements that make up a cat, and the computer would match what it “saw” with those visual elements to identify a cat.

With machine learning, you provide the computer with a model that can learn what a cat looks like and then let the computer review millions of cat (and non-cat) pictures, stimulating the model when it correctly discerns a cat, and correcting it when it doesn’t properly identify a cat. Note that we have no idea how the computer structured the data it used in identifying a cat—just the results of the identification. The upshot is that the computer develops a probabilistic model of what a cat looks like, such as “if it has pointy ears, is furry, and has eyes that can penetrate your soul, there is a 95 percent chance that it is a cat.” And there is room for error. I’ve known people who fit that cat description. We all have.

Lawyer Thinking

If a lawyer applies legal reasoning to identifying cat pictures, that lawyer will become well versed in the legal requirements as to what pictorial elements (when taken together) make up a cat picture. The lawyer will then look at a proposed cat picture and review each of the elements in the picture as it relates to each of the legally cited elements that make up a cat and come up with a statement like, “Because the picture shows an entity with pointy ears, fur, and soul-penetrating eyes, this leads to the conclusion that this is a picture of a cat.”

In machine learning, the room for error does not lie in the probability of the correctness of the legally cited cat elements to the proposed cat picture. The room for error is in the lawyer’s interpretation of the cat elements as they relate to the proposed cat picture. This is because the lawyer is using a causal analysis to come to his or her conclusion—unlike AI, which uses probability. Law is causal. To win in a personal injury or contracts case, the plaintiff needs to show that a breach of duty or contractual performance caused damages.

For criminal cases, the prosecutor needs to demonstrate that a person with a certain mental intent took physical actions that caused a violation of law. Probability appears in the law only when it comes to picking the winner in a court case. In civil cases, the plaintiff wins with “a preponderance of the evidence” (51 percent or better). If it is a criminal case, the prosecution wins if the judge or jury is convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt” (roughly 98 percent or better). Unlike in machine learning, probability is used to determine the success of the causal reasoning, and is not used in place of causal reasoning.

Lawyer or Machine?

Whether a trial hinges on a causal or probabilistic analysis may seem like a philosophical exercise devoid of any practical impact. It’s not. A causal analysis looks at causation. A probabilistic analysis looks at correlation. Correlation does not equal causation. For example, just because there is a strong correlation between an increase in ice cream sales and an increase in murders doesn’t mean you should start cleaning out your freezer.

I don’t think we want legal analysis to change from causation to correlation, so until machine learning can manage a true causal analysis, I don’t think we want AI acting like lawyers. However, AI is still good at a lot of other things at Kyrio and CableLabs. Subscribe to our blog to learn more about what we are working on in the field of AI at CableLabs and Kyrio.



Power your Product Roadmap with Perceptive Technologies

Anju Ahuja
Vice President Market Development & Product Management

Martha Lyons
Director of Market Development

Jun 21, 2018

Did you get it? Are you sure? Missed and mixed signals are common problems with human interpretation, and perceptive technologies have the power to correct both. New advancements in perceptive technologies can help you design and deliver more compelling and personalized experiences, from entertainment to engagement, which will not only track how your end users are responding in real-time but also adjust accordingly.

Why should you care? Because your competitors are already incorporating emotion detection and personalized responses into their experience design. Customer service long ago adopted heat maps for callers to prioritize and route complaints, but there are less obvious and more compelling ways in which perceptive technologies can help advance your brand and product roadmap.

Small but Mighty

Sensors are the foundation of perceptive technologies and generate signals for real-time or asynchronous analysis. Sensors fall into a basic dichotomy. The distinctions between sensor types and use cases are significant, and the rapid emergence of new classes of virtualized sensors will have a significant impact on applications.

Hard Sensors

Hard sensors measure the physical attributes of an object. They can measure weight, vibration, pressure, touch, movement and so on. Lights in a room might sense your presence, for example, and dim or brighten accordingly. Soap and paper towel dispensers that sense your hand are quite common. Parking sensors in congested areas alert drivers to open spots, and you’ve probably also heard your car chirp at you when an obstacle is detected as you try to change lanes.

Common functions of hard sensors include the following:

  • Environmental sensors measure light values, temperatures, air quality and so on
  • Chemical sensors measure allergens and toxicants in the air
  • Presence sensors measure the location and movement of objects
  • Biometric sensors measure physiological attributes such as heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels

Virtual Sensors

Virtual sensors, also referred to as soft sensors, allow for abstraction. Virtual sensors aggregate one or more sensor data streams and produce a derived output.  They are powered by simple software analytics, change detection algorithms, and other feature detection techniques. They can recognize well-known patterns, as well as, atypical behaviors. You can imagine that virtual sensors can be extended to analyze voice recordings in real time to “hear” anger in someone’s voice, or to analyze real-time video to “see” sadness in a detected frown.

Emotion Sensing—Powered by AI

The human emotional state is never static, which makes the task of sensing an evolving emotional state highly complex. Multi-modal signals derived via speech and image recognition, natural language understanding, biometrics and other AI techniques that detect abnormalities relative to established baselines are key. When combined in analysis, they provide the subtle cues about a person’s intention and state of mind as well as their physical, psychological and emotional well-being. Want to detect sarcasm in your teenaged children? New solutions might soon help you.

Multi-modal input data types include the following:

  • Spoken words (natural language processing)
  • Voice tone (prosody)
  • Facial recognition (emotion)
  • Hand gestures
  • Gaze and focus
  • Body language/posture
  • Dynamic physical behavior
  • Spatial proximity
  • Excitement and stress levels (heart rate, pupil dilation)

Emotion sensors are already on the market. Affectiva, for example, is a leading provider of “Emotion as a Service.” The company provides Software Development Kits (SDKs) that analyze facial expressions, word choice and vocal patterns to indicate emotions such as sadness, anger, happiness, confusion and so on. Affectiva has enabled the next generation of immersive experience developers to create authentic and emotionally rich games through its integration with the Unity platform.

Emotional Disambiguation  

Let’s go back to the notion of sarcasm. The same comment delivered in the same way could mean very different things from different speakers or even the same speaker in different moods. Context is critical. An individual’s life experience, use of vocabulary, implicit and explicit social cues, biases, psychology, cultural norms and non-universal nuances all shape context.

AI systems are getting smarter in matters of the human psyche. Automated systems will eventually be able to project empathy, and simple matters such as detecting a genuine versus a sarcastic “thanks” will be possible too. Keep in mind that although humans can exhibit defensive behavior, AI systems won’t. Think you adequately resolved a crucial disagreement? Sensors can help augment your understanding of the other party and eliminate interpretive error.

Applications of Perceptive Technologies

Conversational AI

The current era of communication with virtual assistants was ushered in with chatbots and the convergence of machine learning, speech recognition and natural language processing. Today’s commonly referenced voice assistants, Siri and Alexa, are one dimensional—designed for a specific kind interaction or task, such as finding directions, simple queries like weather forecast, order placement and so on. They are limited.

As perceptive technologies mature, expect new immersive experiences to incorporate conversational AI techniques that can sense intention and emotions in a real-time context and respond appropriately. New experiences on the horizon will include virtual scholars teaching seminars, virtual therapists that are available 24x7 and virtual personal shoppers who know your preferences and real-time body specifications.

Active Storytelling – Story-Specific AI Agents

Today, you might sit back and watch a story evolve. In the future, the story will choose its flow and finale based on how you respond and appear to be feeling. Sensors that read the audience will help direct an AI agent to alter the story experience. AI agents continue to evolve in their ability to mimic individuals (like actors and celebrities) and generate two-way conversation, although fidelity of impersonation is still work in process.

Perceptive Technologies

“What a Finale!”—A Personalized Surprise Twist

Game designers have been introducing AI agents as non-player characters for some time. Incorporation of emotional intelligence into character design is further evolving, and the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Expressive Intelligence Studio is at the forefront.

Intelligent Assistants and Companion Robots

Smart speakers hit their stride in 2017. Today, one in six Americans owns one. Although it was spoofed on Saturday Night Live, there is truth to Alexa helping seniors stay socially connected. The intuitive voice-first interface with its ever-evolving set of services—entertaining games and content, on-demand video collaboration, Alexa-to-Alexa messaging and helpful reminders—significantly enhances their daily lives.  Bloomberg has reported that Amazon is working on a mobile Alexa, a sort of social robot that would enable more personalized experiences.

The next generation of personal social companion robots are likely to sense your state of mind, learn your likes and dislikes, monitor your daily routines, perform basic household chores and even entertain you. In some markets, robots have been anthropomorphized by owners. Japan’s population has taken to “physical” robotic companions such as Paro and Kirobo, which can forge emotional connections with people of all ages and help avert feelings of isolation and depression. Cozmo, the charming and playful toy robot produced by Anki, was designed to change its behavior and grow with its owner as it forges an emotional attachment.

Perceptive Technologies AI

Forging Real Connections with Social Companion Robots

Predictive-Sensitive Homes

How are you feeling? Your house may soon be able to tell you. With an integrated array of sensors and cloud-based AI machine-learning algorithms, predictive-sensitive homes will monitor you and your loved ones’ baseline behaviors. Through a combination of sensor types, important changes such as reduced mobility, symptoms of the onset of dementia, anger and fear, anxiety and depression will be detected earlier and with greater accuracy than self-reporting or human observation. Environmental, floor and behavioral sensors will be able to mood wash the home to reflect or influence your state of mind. 

Product and Talent Implications

Missed signals won’t entirely be a thing of the past, but sensor-stimulated empathy will undoubtedly be a thing of the future. Building perceptive technologies into your product roadmap will require a considerable amount of user testing and adoption smoothing. Acceptance of these types of technologies and their implications ranges considerably across demographic and psychographic cohorts and use cases. It will be critical to articulate the value of monitoring and the uses of data generated as well, so that end users embrace new solutions.

Sophisticated product teams are already bolstering their roadmaps with sensors and sensor-driven data, powered by new networks and platform capabilities. Working with perceptive technologies early and training your systems to get smarter with them will give your company an early advantage. Seek out those experienced in AI, psychographics, mechatronics, human-robot interaction design, privacy-security, and futurists to power your product roadmap with perceptive technologies. Interested in collaborating with us on this topic? Reach out to the CableLabs' Market Development department.

Take a look at how some of these perceptive technologies will come to life here in this 2017 CableLabs' vision-casting video: The Near Future: A Better Place.

In the next installment of our Emerging Technology Timeline, we will discuss how professions will be reimagined in a world where emerging technologies are dramatically impacting companies, customers and employees.

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About the Authors
Anju Ahuja
Anju Ahuja
In our ever-evolving marketplace, Anju believes that taking a “Future Optimist” approach to solving challenging problems manifests solutions that benefit both the individual and the enterprise. Today Anju takes this approach to answer questions for emerging technologies like AR, VR, MR, AI and how they will work with traditional media, communications and the broader global cable industry. As Vice President of Market Development and Product Management, Anju leads the team whose charge is to enable transformative end user experiences, and revolutionize the delivery of new forms of content, while also unleashing massive monetization opportunities. Anju also serves on the Board of Directors of Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) as well as the President’s Advisory Council of Northern California Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT). She is a Silicon Valley Business Journal Women of Influence 2018 honoree.

Martha Lyons

Martha Lyons
Inventor, Futurist and Technologist, Martha Lyons is the Director of Market Development at CableLabs. With a wide-ranging career at Silicon Valley high tech companies and non-profits, Martha has over two decades of experience in turning advanced research into reality. A leading authority in the initiation and development of first of kind solutions, her current focus is the identification of industry-leading opportunities for the Cable industry. She is personally interested in how advances in the areas of intelligent agents, Blockchain, bioengineering, novel materials, nanotech and holographic displays will create opportunities for disruptive innovation, to the delight of end users, in industries ranging from healthcare, retail, and travel to media and entertainment. When Martha is not inventing the future, she enjoys disconnecting from technology and spending time outdoors, preferably near some body of water.


3 Tips on How to Make CableLabs Certification/Qualification Testing as Painless as Possible

Matt Schmitt
Principal Architect

Jun 21, 2018

In the previous two blog posts in this series, we talked about what CableLabs Certification and Qualification are, as well as what they mean to both cable operators and manufacturers. In this post, we pose the question: How does a manufacturer ensure that it can get through this process successfully?

In a word: preparation.

Although a manufacturer could do that preparation itself—obtaining all the equipment, and conducting all the testing needed to prepare for a submission—the good news is that it doesn’t have to: CableLabs and Kyrio have a number of ways to help manufacturers prepare, all as a part of our mission to get properly functioning devices into the field as quickly as possible.

1. Interoperability events

The first of these are interoperability events, which are sponsored by CableLabs and jointly conducted by CableLabs and Kyrio.

After the development of a specification, and while the development of products is underway, CableLabs will hold a number of free interoperability events in the Kyrio lab facilities. These events provide an opportunity for manufacturers to test their devices while they’re still in development, using Kyrio’s state-of-the-art lab facilities. Even more important is that they provide an opportunity for multiple manufacturers to come together on neutral ground and try to get their devices working with one another—to interoperate. And when issues are found (as would be expected early in the development process), CableLabs and Kyrio engineers are available to help figure out the issues, which can even lead to a clarification of requirements in the specification, if necessary.

2Pre-testing services

Although interoperability events can help accelerate product development and can provide some amount of pre-testing prior to a certification or qualification submission, they are not sufficient preparation in and of themselves.

For those who prefer not to purchase the equipment and dedicate the time necessary to perform that additional testing—or for those who simply prefer more privacy than an interop affords—Kyrio offers individual device manufacturers the opportunity to do flexible, customized, 1:1 testing. This is an opportunity to have the same engineers run the same tests that would be conducted as a part of certification or qualification testing—but privately, with the results going only to the manufacturer that submitted the device. The engineers can even help troubleshoot issues and validate fixes. All of this can be done before a device is ever submitted, providing an opportunity for that device to fly through testing quickly and easily.

3. A process designed to help

And what if a device does run into problems during certification or qualification testing? Even at that point, CableLabs and Kyrio have designed their process to help identify critical issues quickly and allow manufacturers the opportunity to update their devices. All of these opportunities are part of our mission to help get properly functioning devices into the field as quickly as possible.

For more information

In this blog series, we’ve looked at what CableLabs Certified and CableLabs Qualified mean, why they’re valuable for both operators and manufacturers, and how to get through the process as quickly and easily as possible. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the following individuals:

To learn more about CableLabs certification or qualification testing with Kyrio, click the button below.

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EasyMesh™ Brings Super Connectivity to Home Networks

John Bahr
Lead Architect, Wireless Technologies

Jun 19, 2018

How many times have you been enjoying an HD video in your home and right at the most thrilling point, the movie stops and throws you into endless buffering hell? Or, maybe you’re working from home, on an important Skype call with an overseas client, and your connection drops 2 or 3 times because your Wi-Fi connection gives precedence to your daughter, downloading a Game of Thrones episode in her upstairs bedroom.

Innovative, game-changing advances in home networking will change all that. CableLabs is working with the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA), and it's new EasyMesh™ certification program to solve these problems and provide extended, uniform coverage throughout your entire home.

Home Networks Today Lacking

Homeowners routinely experience home connectivity problems because home networks aren’t capable of broadcasting their internet signal adequately and uniformly throughout ever-larger houses as many networks were installed to deal with smaller homes. But the fact is, home sizes in the USA have grown over 60% in the last 40 years. Outdated networks, designed to handle smaller footprints, can’t meet the demands of these larger homes, with more devices running more bandwidth-hungry devices, present them.

Consider the typical layout in many home networks today. One access point (AP), typically a router located near the cable modem serving the home, is expected to broadcast its signal to all points in the home where users need access. When it becomes apparent a single AP won’t handle the load, the logical answer is to add more APs, but many houses lack the wired infrastructure to add additional APs.

Wi-Fi becomes the easy and cost-efficient way to add and connect these APs. Two technologies predominate today to accomplish this: Mesh APs (MAPs) and repeaters or extenders. While wireless mesh networking has been in the market for more than ten years, only recently has it been able to connect multiple APs, but these networks often lack the advanced intelligence to offer more than basic connectivity.

Intelligent EasyMesh Banishes Network Contention

 Wi-Fi EasyMesh™ is a standards-based certification program developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance and marks a leap forward in wireless networking. It defines multiple access point networks for homes and small offices. Easy setup, with automatic device onboarding and configuration, and easy use are just the beginning. EasyMesh™ offers much more:

  • Network intelligence. Intelligent controllers enable smart communication between multiple APs, sharing information which allows dynamic response to network conditions, such as client and band steering, and maximizes performance. This is huge. In the past, APs not only didn’t communicate, they actually contended and competed for bandwidth, resulting in the all-too-familiar buffering and agonizingly slow page loads.
  • Multi-vendor interoperability in networks. EasyMesh’s™ standardization frees customers from reliance on a single vendor’s technology. They will have the flexibility to choose the latest and best solution when adding APs, without having to replace all other network APs, as they do today.
  • Load balancing. Controller intelligence guides devices to seek out the best connection, avoiding interference.
  • Flexible design and scalability. Add multiple APs from any vendor, enhancing placement to accomplish use-specific AP functionality.

CableLabs’ Early and Continuing Involvement

Wi-Fi connectivity is key for CableLabs’ members, and CableLabs worked closely with the Wi-Fi Alliance from the start on this project. We were chosen to be the editor of the WFA test plan and worked with WFA staff to develop the certification program based on the test plan.

Early tests are encouraging. CableLabs Lead Architect, Wireless Technologies, John Bahr, reports impressive coverage results obtained in a 5000+ sq. ft. test house running two streaming videos, at HD bitrates, while simultaneously delivering over 50Mbps throughput throughout the house and even to some areas 20’ outside the house.

As Neeharika Allanki, Wireless Architect at CableLabs, points out, CableLabs continues to conduct research, working with vendors and MSOs on AP coordination, improved client steering and defining coordination protocol, all vital elements which will strengthen and enrich EasyMesh™. “AP coordination is a really important topic of research not only for the cable industry but for the Wi-Fi industry as a whole. And with really good AP coordination protocols in place, I think it’s going to be a really good experience for the consumer.”

On June 18, 2018, Wi-Fi Alliance announced that members may now submit their products for testing for the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED EasyMesh™ certification programWatch for more press releases and blog posts to follow the progress of this new wireless technology by subscribing to our blog. 



Why Should I Care? The Value of CableLabs Certification/Qualification for Manufacturers

Matt Schmitt
Principal Architect

Jun 14, 2018

In my previous blog post in this series, we talked about the process of becoming CableLabs Certified or CableLabs Qualified, and why determining whether a device has been certified or qualified is valuable for cable operators. But what about for manufacturers?

In the previous blog post’s example—in which a cable operator was having trouble with a cable modem termination system (CMTS) in his network—imagine that the CMTS manufacturer in question had submitted its device to Kyrio for testing and that it had become CableLabs Qualified. In that case, it’s extremely likely that the problems would never have occurred. Or if a problem had occurred, it would likely be originating from a cable modem rather than the CMTS itself.

Wouldn’t that knowledge have significant value for the manufacturer, rather than simply claiming that it was DOCSIS Compliant?

Enabling Sales

Which is also why many cable operators require that their devices be CableLabs Certified or Qualified before they deploy them on their network. It’s important to note that CableLabs member companies aren’t required to purchase only certified or qualified equipment: They can purchase whatever equipment they’d like. However, in many cases, they do see the value for their operations and therefore require devices to be CableLabs Certified or Qualified as part of their purchasing process.

There are even cases in which government regulation necessitates certification. As a result, obtaining certification or qualification can—in some cases—be a requirement for selling a particular product.

A Mark of Quality

But what if you already know your device is compliant? Why do you need someone else to test it to prove that?

Over the years, we’ve had numerous cases in which a manufacturer was convinced that its product was fully compliant with one of our specifications. However, there are tests that Kyrio is simply in a better position to execute; over the course of our testing processes, we’ve often uncovered issues that could have caused major problems once a given device was deployed in the field. Not only would that cause a problem for cable operators; it would also cause major problems for the manufacturer that supplied those devices because that manufacturer will be the one on the hook to get things fixed—and to do so quickly. Therefore, it’s much more cost-effective to discover those problems early, before things are deployed, and avoid those headaches.

In fact, to the best of our knowledge, no CableLabs Certified device has ever been the subject of a hardware recall.

As a result, the CableLabs Certified and CableLabs Qualified labels have become symbols of quality, ones that have often enabled sales into new markets for manufacturers, thereby opening up new business opportunities.

Sailing through the process

All of that said, the ideal scenario would be to never find failures during certification or qualification testing so that devices sail through the process as quickly and easily as possible. In the next blog post in this series, we’ll look at some of the ways CableLabs and Kyrio help to do just that, as part of our mission of getting properly functioning devices into the field as quickly as possible.

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