Power your Product Roadmap with Perceptive Technologies

Martha Lyons
Director of Market Development

Anju Ahuja
Vice President Market Development & Product Management

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 2016 CableLabs' vision-casting video: The Near Future: A Better Place.

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

Subscribe to our Series

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.

Visit Kyrio


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.

Visit Kyrio


The Golden Gigabit Internet Age

Ike Elliott
Chief Strategy Officer and Senior VP, Strategy and Innovation

Jun 13, 2018

Over the past year, a quiet revolution in broadband services has been happening, thanks to investments cable operators are making around the globe: gigabit services are available to tens of millions households for the first time ever. Already, over half of households in North America can buy a 1 Gbps service from their cable operator, and the percentage is growing rapidly. This shift is driven by a new technology making it economically feasible for operators to provide gigabit services in most areas. And the technology is not limited to a single gigabit – it is capable of much higher speeds over time.

The technology? DOCSIS® 3.1. This innovation is now being quickly deployed by operators.

While the broad availability of gigabit services may have escaped notice, there is even less awareness of the potential for DOCSIS technology to provide higher speeds. With existing DOCSIS specifications and comforming vendor gear, operators could use DOCSIS to:

  • Provide shared, downstream capacity of over 15 Gbps
  • True downstream speed tiers of 10 Gbps or more for individual households

How can DOCSIS provide that much speed?

The technology is actually already in the DOCSIS 3.1 specifications. However, getting to these speeds will require an evolution of DOCSIS silicon, along with some outside plant improvements. Here is the roadmap:


As you can see, the first generation of DOCSIS 3.1 silicon has been available for deployment for over a year, and it enables downstream speed tiers of roughly 1-2 Gbps. As demand materializes for higher speed tiers, operators may ask silicon providers for a second and third generation of DOCSIS 3.1 silicon. Each new silicon generation supports broader frequency ranges for DOCSIS, possibly up to the full DOCSIS 3.1 limit of about 1.8 GHz. At the 1.8 GHz range limit, over 1.5 GHz of spectrum can be used for downstream DOCSIS 3.1 channels. At 10 bits per Hertz that is more than 15 Gbps of total capacity.

Expanding Spectrum

Most operators are using 1 GHz of spectrum (or less) in their networks today. If an operator wanted to use spectrum as high as 1.8 GHz in a high-demand neighborhood it can push fiber to within 800 feet of many homes, and install taps that can pass the full 1.8 GHz of spectrum.

Thanks to the work of our CableLabs members, homes in the tens of millions are gaining access to 1 gigabit services for the first time ever. With more homes enjoying gigabit and even higher speeds, there will be a growing market for application developers and artists to develop immersive entertainment and interactive network services such as those in our Near Future video series. Radiologists working from home will be able to move massive files back and forth from medical centers. Grandparents will join their grandchildren in virtual family rooms for a game of virtual Uno. Immersive holographic movies will stream to a new generation of entertainment devices. And this is only the beginning.

If you have been yearning for a gigabit service at your home, check with your local cable operator – gigabit services may already be available to you. And, if you want to learn more about the DOCSIS roadmap to 10 Gigabit services, please subscribe to our blog.


  A Journey Back in Time: CableLabs 30th Anniversary Documentary

Jun 12, 2018

It's our 30th anniversary and half a billion people have a reason to celebrate with us—that’s how many people depend on our technology every single day. But since we can’t throw a party for that many people, we’ve decided to put away the confetti and celebrate another way—by creating a documentary about CableLabs that we can all enjoy and share with the world.

Since CableLabs first opened its doors in 1988, we have always looked ahead, trying our best to predict the world's technological destiny. This documentary gave us an opportunity to take a look back at how we got where we are today. In the process, we spoke to many individuals whose lives were touched by CableLabs throughout the years, including some of the former and current members of the senior leadership team. We hope their stories inspire a new generation of technologists and innovators who are working on shaping the future at this very moment.

We hope you enjoy our documentary as much as we enjoyed making it.

Big thanks to the folks who took the time to share their memories with us. Our documentary would not have been possible without them.

Click below to find out more. 

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CableLabs is Celebrating the Big Three-O

Jun 6, 2018

Happy anniversary, CableLabs!

Thirty years is a respectable milestone. So what makes it so special? While gathering material for the CableLabs anniversary site, we were fortunate to spend some time with the people who know it best— its founders, employees and members. Their leadership helped grow CableLabs into a global innovation powerhouse and laid a strong foundation for its future. Let’s look at the last 30 years through their eyes.

The CableLabs Pitch

Dick Leghorn came forth and said, "Look, this is silly. We've got an industry where proprietary standards are largely driven by manufacturers and suppliers, who are making it subscale.”

Dr. John Malone, Founder, CableLabs

In 1988, the cable industry was experiencing a rapid, but poorly controlled growth. At one point there were 11,000 cable providers dividing the country into tiny markets. While the bigger players may have been able to afford some R&D work internally, the little guys didn’t stand a chance. If cable were to remain competitive against telcos and broadcasters, something needed to be done. CableLabs provided a way to plan and fund critical R&D projects and bring together the scale needed to drive the industry standards. Plus, it facilitated the transfer of relevant technology to its member companies. This kind of collaboration was unheard of in the United States and a critical turning point for the cable industry.

Defining and Driving Industry Standards

“It started with the agreement that we would all get together and use a digital compression standard and that CableLabs guys would be defining and driving that standard. We were really, at that point, taking over television technologically in America.”

Dr. John Malone, Founder, CableLabs

The nineties brought in a tsunami of innovation. Breakthroughs like hybrid fiber coax boosted Cable’s bandwidth capacity and laid the groundwork for the expansion of the internet. Around the same time, compression technology came into play. Suddenly, cable companies could put 20 channels inside of one, bringing the total number of channels to a whopping 500! CableLabs was instrumental in defining and driving MPEG, the video encoding standard still used around the world. This marked a pivotal point in time when broadcasters finally conceded technological leadership to CableLabs.

Bringing the Industry Together Like Never Before

“CableLabs pulled the industry together—the vendors and the operators—and came up with a standard, the DOCSIS standard, that really drove us to be able to scale our cable modem business.”

Nomi Bergman, Former Member of CableLabs Board of Directors Technology Committee, Former President of Bright House Networks

Before DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification), cable modems were launched in a proprietary fashion, lacking the scale to make them affordable to the average consumer. DOCSIS changed all that. It was a true shining moment for CableLabs. Not only did DOCSIS help bring the scale and the price of cable modems to where they needed to be, it turned the cable industry into a digital machine. This would not have been possible without the kind of collaboration CableLabs facilitated.

Adapting to Change

“The meeting that really turned the industry, in my opinion, was the one with Bill Gates. Bill had told us that he was ready to have me drag people up there [Silicon Valley] and tell them that he could build a digital set-top box that would fully comply with the standards that we were looking for in volume for under 300 bucks.”

Dr. John Malone, Founder, CableLabs

As the industry matured, skeptics emerged. Cable could not wait any longer—it needed to make a digital set-top box. There was just one major hurdle: the price. Today, $300 seems like an astronomical number, but back then, creating a digital box at this price was a herculean task. Most manufacturers quoted double this amount. Despite the sticker shock, CableLabs heeded Gates’ advice and moved ahead with the project. Microsoft’s involvement gave cable the additional credibility it needed to transition to digital delivery and quiet the skeptics for good.

Bringing Everyone to the Table

“One of the more memorable CableLabs meetings was about 15 years ago. Ted Rogers, then the CEO of Rogers, was telling us with great passion that it was critical that every operator in this room embraced wireless and got into wireless. I really do think he might've stood up on the table. I caught that bug from Ted Rogers and had been passionate about it ever since.”

Nomi Bergman, Former Member of CableLabs Board of Directors Technology Committee, Former President of Bright House Networks

By providing a platform for lively discussion, CableLabs was able to facilitate collaboration among a wide range of member companies of different size, interest, scale, and circumstance. Some of them hardly did anything technical without consulting CableLabs or collaborating with other industry members through CableLabs. This exchange of ideas and knowledge was and still is instrumental to CableLabs’ success.

Spreading Out to Other Industries

“Kyrio's mission is to help expand and bring the technologies of CableLabs to other industries. We've worked with the smart goods industry. We've worked with the medical industry. We've worked with IOT lighting manufacturers. As the technology evolves, we will continue to bring our expertise and our knowledge to those other industries as well as cable.”

-Mitch Ashley, President & GM, Kyrio

As a nonprofit, CableLabs’ main purpose is to serve the interests of its members within the Cable industry. But a few years ago, CableLabs’ leadership decided it was time to think bigger. The launch of Kyrio marked a monumental shift in strategy, allowing CableLabs to take its innovations and expertise to other industries beyond cable. It provided a path to commercialization and quick deployment of cutting-edge technologies that impact millions of lives all around the world.

So, why is CableLabs special?

In the words of John Malone, “CableLabs is a unique animal.” Not many companies are able to respond and adapt to rapid change while still staying true to their mission. Even fewer can serve the interests of an entire industry and unify it in a way CableLabs has. Over the last 30 years, CableLabs has solidified its reputation as the engine of innovation. Let’s keep this engine running for the next 30 years and beyond.

To learn more about CableLabs’ history and its impact on billions of people around the world, please visit our 30th Anniversary website.

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A Letter to our Members on our 30th Anniversary

Jun 5, 2018

Dear CableLabs Members,

Beginning this week and throughout the rest of this year, CableLabs is celebrating 30 years of innovation and we wouldn’t be here without you.

On June 9, 1988, John Malone sent a memorandum to all U.S. cable operators inviting them to be founding members of Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. with the following objectives:

  • To provide a central source of timely, evaluated information about technical developments of interest to the industry
  • To plan and fund critical R&D projects that are likely to be supported only on a cooperative basis, and
  • To facilitate the transfer of relevant technology to member companies and suppliers to the industry.

In a memorandum written 30 years ago, Malone outlined the need for a Cable Industry R&D Consortium, saying:

“The cable industry needs a sustained, long-range, integrated R&D effort to exploit technological opportunities, to avoid being overwhelmed by technological challenges, and to attract supplier initiatives to cable’s needs in the face of competing demands. This kind of strategic R&D must be supported on a cooperative basis because no single company can fund a comprehensive R&D effort. In addition, the industry needs a central clearinghouse for monitoring, evaluating and reporting current and prospective technological issues.”

In the 1990s, we developed technology that is now instrumental for the Mobile LTE industry. Fifteen years ago, we were laying the groundwork for technology that now enables high-speed fiber around the world. For three decades, we’ve shaped the conversation around technology, from strategy and innovation to policy and industry standards. From DOCSIS, Coherent Optics and facilitating the MPEG standard to developing more secure networks around the world, we work on technologies that have become the bedrock for the entire industry.

After 30 years of research, development and innovation we have already created technology required to support people and networks years from now. Through our innovation funnel, we will continue to identify needs ahead of the market to help create technology that not only disrupts the industry but becomes the foundational basis for the future.

  • Over half a billion people are touched by CableLabs technology every day.
  • More than 200 patents have been granted to CableLabs employees.
  • Over 50% of U.S. households have at least one CableLabs technology in their home today.
  • Over 500 startups have been introduced to the cable industry via CableLabs’ accelerator UpRamp. 
  • CableLabs subsidiary, Kyrio, works with some of the world’s largest companies and provides exclusive access to the newest technologies in R&D, innovative ideas, product testing and competitive intelligence.
  • Over 700 million devices are now sporting the CableLabs logo

When CableLabs started in 1988 the World Wide Web was just a concept, cell phones were the size of bricks, the first T1 backbone was added to ARPANET, MS DOS 4.0 was released, Linksys was founded, personal computers had found their way into about 15 percent of U.S. households and CompuServe dial-up started at about $6 per hour for 300 baud rate.

What are things going to be like in 30 years? Nobody really knows, but our job at CableLabs is to conceive and design the future. The work we do has global impact, not just for our members but for the lives of their customers. We are researchers, scientists and innovators who are looking to the future and collectively we are a key piece of the fabric of society.

With participation and collaboration from our members, we’re looking forward to shaping the future of the industry in the next 30 years and beyond. To our 60 members across the globe, thank you for being a part of the CableLabs team. 

Click below to read more about our global impact. 

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What’s in a Name? The Value of CableLabs Certification/Qualification for Cable Operators

Matt Schmitt
Principal Architect

May 31, 2018

An industry colleague recently reached out to a few of us with a problem: A cable operator was having trouble with a cable modem termination system (CMTS) in his network. The manufacturer of that CMTS had claimed that it was “DOCSIS® Compliant,” and therefore this operator apparently had assumed it would just work.

We checked the posted list of CableLabs Certified® and Qualified devices (available on the CableLabs® website) and were quickly able to determine that the CMTS in question had not received CableLabs qualification. Although the manufacturer in question claimed that its CMTS was compliant with the DOCSIS specifications, that had not been verified by CableLabs.

What does CableLabs Certified and CableLabs Qualified mean?

This incident caused us to realize that it would be valuable— through a series of blog posts—to help clarify what the terms “CableLabs Certified” and “CableLabs Qualified” actually mean, why they’re important to both operators and manufacturers, and how both CableLabs and our Kyrio subsidiary help get products into the field rapidly.

That is a differentiating aspect of CableLabs: We not only help develop new innovative technologies, we also help bring them to market as quickly as possible. We do this through a variety of activities, such as interoperability events where we invite manufacturers to work together collaboratively on neutral ground to promote interoperability, as well as 1:1 private testing through our Kyrio subsidiary.

The ultimate check of compliance to any CableLabs specification, however, comes in the form of our Certification and Qualification programs—that is, certification for customer premise equipment (CPE) devices and qualification for network devices.

The process of becoming CableLabs Certified or Qualified

The road to becoming CableLabs Certified or Qualified:

  • Begins with a manufacturer applying for that status and submitting multiple samples of a device to Kyrio to conduct independent testing of that device.
  • Kyrio executes a series of tests to verify various requirements from the relevant CableLabs specification(s)—essentially an extensive compliance audit—and generate a test report regarding those results.
  • That report is then presented to a Certification Board made up of experts from several CableLabs member companies, who then determine whether to award CableLabs Certification or Qualification.

Only after a manufacturer has successfully completed this process will it be able to state that its device is “CableLabs Certified” or “CableLabs Qualified,” and have that product listed on the CableLabs Certified/Qualified list on our website.

Checking the list

So, the next time you see a manufacturer claim that its products are DOCSIS compliant, you may want to ask whether those products are CableLabs Certified, and check our list of certified devices as a way to ensure that they really are compliant with the specifications.

Don't forget to subscribe to our to receive the next blog post in this series where we will look at the value of CableLabs Certification and Qualification for manufacturers. Visit Kyrio to learn more about their testing services.

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DOCSIS Technologies for Mobile Backhaul: Download our White Paper

Jennifer Andreoli-Fang
Distinguished Technologist, Wireless Technologies

May 30, 2018

As the small cell densification wave is becoming a reality, mobile operators are faced with the complex task of searching for suitable backhaul solutions. This is where the hybrid fiber coaxial (HFC) networks rise up to the challenge.

DOCSIS networks provide three main elements critical to backhaul solutions; location, power and capacity. Mobile operators are faced with the challenge on deciding whether DOCSIS networks can meet the backhaul requirements (such as capacity, latency and synchronization) of future mobile technologies.

These are the questions we address in our recently published white paper “DOCSIS Technologies for Mobile Backhaul,” coauthored by me and my colleague Belal Hamzeh. In the paper, we provide an overview of recent advances in the DOCSIS technology that CableLabs, in collaboration with some of our industry partners, have been working on to support backhauling 4G, 4.5G and 5G mobile technologies.

Of course, there is a lot more to writing specifications and designing architectures when it comes to deploying a high-quality backhaul. To that end, we are establishing a Mobile Backhaul R&D Lab to support the industry in the development of mobile backhaul over DOCSIS networks.

Click below to download your copy of our white paper. 

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