Today is Energy Efficiency Day, a collaborative effort of regional and national organizations working to promote energy efficiency. CableLabs has been a strong supporter of energy efficiency for many years and is involved in a number of related initiatives:
CableLabs leads the technical efforts for three highly impactful energy efficiency Voluntary Agreements (VA) in North America:
- The US Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement (US STB VA)
- The US Small Network Equipment Voluntary Agreement (US SNE VA)
- The Canadian Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreement (CEEVA) for Set-top Boxes
As an example of impact, the US Set-Top Box VA is estimated to have saved nearly 30 Terawatt hours of energy over the five years it has been in place. This equates to over $3.5 billion dollars in savings for consumers and avoids over 20 million metric tons of CO2 emissions (the same as 4.4 million passenger cars driven for a full year). The industry achieved these remarkable results while rolling out new, innovative features and capabilities such as voice-controlled remotes and 4K video.
CableLabs plays an active role in the SCTE•ISBE Energy 2020 Program, and I have the honor of being a judge in the SCTE•ISBE Adaptive Power Challenge later this month at the SCTE•ISBE Cable-Tec Expo where six finalists will present their innovative approaches to reducing network power consumption.
CableLabs designs energy efficiency into our specifications. As an example, the DOCSISÒ 3.1 protocol considered energy efficiency up front when developing the protocol, and designed DOCSIS Light Sleep (DLS). First generation DOCSIS 3.1 modems being deployed today offer five times the broadband speeds of DOCSIS 3.0 modems using no additional energy.
We are also focused on energy efficiency in our workplace. Our building in Louisville, CO has motion-controlled lighting throughout so that the lights are on only when we need them. We focus on decommissioning and turning off servers and equipment when they are not in use. We have installed eight electric vehicle charging stations at our office and there is constant competition for them. We also provide free bus passes to all our employees to encourage taking the bus whenever possible, and we have community bicycles that employees can use to run errands or simply to take a break and get some fresh air.
CableLabs is excited to promote energy efficiency around the world. Happy Energy Efficiency Day to all! #EEDay2018
How to Learn More
Read the CableLabs Inform[ED] Insights Paper - Energy Efficiency Through Industry Action
Read Energy Blog Topics at CableLabs Blog
Watch the Webinar on the Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreements
Webinar Recap: Energy Efficiency Through Industry Action
Last week, Mark Hess (Senior VP, Comcast), Doug Johnson (VP Technology Policy, CTA), and I jointly presented a webinar on the energy efficiency voluntary agreements (VAs) in place in the US and Canada for set-top boxes and small network equipment. This public webinar attracted attendance from across the industry and government organizations.
But don’t fret if you missed the webinar, because we are making the recording publicly available as well. Tune into the video below to learn:
- History, overview, and amazing progress made by the voluntary agreements over the past few years
- Insight from Comcast on the VA and how consumer video architectures have evolved to significantly reduce energy consumption in the home
- Benefits to consumers and what makes these particular voluntary agreements successful as effective alternatives to regulation
So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and learn how the Pay-TV industry is eliminating the need for four coal-fired power plants a year!
Subscribe to our blog to learn more about the energy efficiency voluntary agreements in the US and Canada in the future.
Another Year – Another Impressive Result for Voluntary Energy Initiatives
It’s that time again! Its annual report season for three very important voluntary energy efficiency initiatives in the US and Canada:
- The award-winning US Set-top Box Voluntary Agreement (US STB VA)
- The US Small Network Equipment Voluntary Agreement (US SNE VA)
- The Canadian Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreement (CEEVA) for Set-top Boxes
What are voluntary agreements and why are they important?
Voluntary agreements are a collaborative industry initiative to reduce energy consumption and impact sustainability that result in energy savings much faster than other approaches, including direct government intervention. Voluntary agreements provide the flexibility to innovate on the platforms, drive efficiency gains and improve consumer experiences. All three voluntary agreements demonstrate the industry commitment to sustainability both in the US and Canada.
Here are some highlights for each agreement:
US Set-top Box Voluntary Agreement
The US Voluntary Agreement (VA) for Set-top Boxes released its fifth annual report last week, and the independent administrator, D+R International, found that the VA has far exceeded the original $1 billion annual savings estimations for the VA.
- In 2017 alone, the VA saved 11 terawatt hours (TWh) and saved consumers $1.4 billion dollars!
- Over the 5 years of the VA, it has saved a total of 27.8 TWh of energy and over $3.5 billion dollars for consumers.
- 8 TWh equates to CO2 avoidance of 20.6 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, the same as 4.4 million passenger cars driven for one year!
It’s worth noting that back in 2013 the Department of Energy was also working on a regulation for STB energy consumption, but terminated those proceedings in favor of this voluntary agreement. A regulation would not have gone into effect until 2018, and the VA has already saved nearly 30 TWh of energy during that timeframe!
In March of this year, the STB VA was renewed for another 4 years and established a more stringent set of allowances (Tier 3) that will achieve at least another 20% in energy savings.
Small Network Equipment Voluntary Agreement
The US Small Network Equipment VA third annual report found that energy efficiency trends are continuing as well. The SNE VA doesn’t have a national footprint estimate, but rather tracks the average weighted energy consumption of device categories relative to the increasing average broadband speeds. The most impressive aspect of the SNE industry is the continued growth in broadband speeds as well as in-home network support (e.g. better Wi-Fi, faster internet speeds) while continuing to deliver energy-efficient devices.
The other big news is the SNE VA was extended for another four years, with the timeframe aligned with the STB VA. The renewed SNE VA will run through 2021 with a final report to be published in 2022. It also defined a more rigorous Tier 2 set of allowances for SNE that will go into effect in 2020.
Canadian Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreement
For 2017, STBs were required to comply with Tier 1 levels (the same Tier 1 as used in the US), and a full 100% of all new STBs purchased during the year met these levels.
The more demanding Tier 2 allowances went into effect for CEEVA at the beginning of 2018, but the report found that 86.4% of the 2017 units purchased already met Tier 2 levels. As this was the first year for the VA, the reported data will be used as a baseline for the following years’ reports.
CableLabs led the technical efforts for all of these voluntary agreements and is continuously innovating and researching new ways to reduce energy consumption in the network and consumer products. CableLabs and its subsidiary, Kyrio, are also ISO-17025 accredited to conduct the energy testing of set-top boxes and small network equipment and has supported this testing for a large number of signatories across the industry. We are proud to be part of these important initiatives which are saving energy, the environment, and money for consumers.
Want to Learn More?
CableLabs is hosting an Inform[ed] Webinar on this topic next week, August 22, at 11 AM EST. In our 2nd ever public webinar, Mark Hess, Senior Vice President of Comcast, and Doug Johnson, Vice President of the Consumer Technology Association, are joining me to discuss the details of the voluntary agreements above. We’ll demonstrate how collaborative industry-led initiatives have led to significant consumer savings, innovative new features, and a cleaner environment.
Set-Top Box Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreement: Extended, Expanded, and Exceeding Expectations
Last week, NCTA and CTA announced that the highly successful Set-Top Box Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreement (STB VA) has been renewed for another four-year term. This is great news for consumers and the environment because it includes new commitments and more stringent energy efficiency levels for Set-Top Boxes.
The original STB VA was established in 2013 and the commitments ran through 2017. This new voluntary agreement goes through 2021 with the annual report from the independent administrator to come out in 2022.
The 2013 STB VA included a number of commitments by all the signatories, including the commitment that 90% of all STBs purchased would meet specified energy efficiency levels. The first level went into effect in 2014. A more stringent set of levels (known as Tier 2) went into effect in 2017. This amended VA defines a third tier of efficiency levels, Tier 3, that will go into effect in 2020. On average, Tier 3 is 20% more efficient than Tier 2. In addition, the VA includes the exploration of additional reductions and efficiencies for a potential future extension.
A new requirement in the amended VA includes reporting on the availability and usage of applications offered by the signatories to view their content on Smart TVs, PCs, and mobile devices without the use of an STB.
In the first four reporting periods of the STB VA, it has already proven to be immensely successful. As I blogged when the 2016 annual report came out, the program has already saved consumers over 2.1 Billion dollars and avoided 11.8 million metric tons of CO2 over the first four years. The original VA estimated savings of $1B annually, but that was nearly achieved in 2016 and is expected to be greater than $1B when the 2017 report is released.
The extended VA, with its new commitments and stricter energy tiers, is expected to save an ADDITIONAL $600 million, for a total of $1.6B in annual savings. In emissions terms, this equates to avoiding 9.3 million metric tons CO2, which is the equivalent of eliminating the emissions of over 2 million passenger cars EACH YEAR.
The STB VA is recognized as an effective alternative to regulation. Just last week, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry stated:
“DOE supports the commitment from industry to improve energy efficiency and looks forward to the renewal of this voluntary agreement with our private sector partners. Reducing federal regulatory burdens is a priority for myself and this Administration, and voluntary industry standards such as this are an effective alternative to government regulation.”
In 2016, the STB VA was recognized as Top Project of the Year by Environmental Leader, a leading daily trade publication on energy, environmental and sustainability issues.
CableLabs has played a leading role in many areas of the STB VA since the beginning and will continue to support the VA for this next term:
- We led the efforts to define the Tier 2 and Tier 3 energy levels, researching opportunities for energy savings and reductions, and will continue in this role in ongoing discussions moving forward.
- In our spec work, we integrate energy efficiency into our protocols, such as DOCSIS Light Sleep in the DOCSIS 3.1 specifications.
- We also provide support for the implementation of the VA, with testing, modeling, and reporting STB energy consumption for the cable signatories.
- CableLabs and its subsidiary, Kyrio, are ISO-17025 accredited to conduct certified testing of energy consumption of set-top boxes and small network equipment, which enables us to support non-cable signatories as well.
CableLabs is committed to the success of the STB VA, and we look forward to working with the industry to save consumers money, improve the environment and continue to deliver innovative features and services.
You can read more about CableLabs’ work on energy efficiency in our blog posts here and more about the Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreements here. For more information, contact Debbie Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Debbie Fitzgerald is a Principal Architect in the Technology Policy department and leads the Energy Efficiency Program.
Savin’ Some Rosenfelds
Have you ever heard of a Rosenfeld? The Rosenfeld metric was created in 2010 and named after Art Rosenfeld, a former Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Scientist and former California Energy Commissioner known as “the godfather of energy efficiency”. It is a unit of energy savings representing 3 billion kilowatt-hours per year, which is also equivalent to the amount of energy generated by one 500-megawatt coal-run power plant. Why is this important? It is a term that is often used to quantify the savings related to energy efficiency initiatives.
I was first introduced to the Rosenfeld in 2011 when the Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that the pay-TV industry could save 3 Rosenfelds of energy annually by 2016 through the adoption of energy-saving technologies and practices. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) opened a proceeding to consider the development of energy regulations for set-top boxes (STB), but by law, DOE energy standards cannot take effect for five years after adoption. To achieve faster savings, the pay-TV industry and NRDC (along with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)) established a non-regulatory “Voluntary Agreement (VA)” in which all of the country’s largest pay-TV providers committed to the purchase of energy-efficient devices beginning in 2014.
The DOE was so satisfied with this agreement that it closed its proceeding. The Secretary of Energy at the time, Ernest Moniz, explained that the VA’s “energy efficiency standards reflect a collaborative approach among the Energy Department, the pay-TV industry and energy efficiency groups – building on more than three decades of common-sense efficiency standards that are saving American families and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars.”
I’m happy to report that in 2016, the VA saved approximately 33% more energy than NRDC had hoped for in 2011 - a savings of nearly 4 Rosenfelds! The 2016 Annual Report for the STB VA released earlier this month found that set-top boxes in 2016 used just over 8 Rosenfelds, compared to the 9 Rosenfelds that NRDC set as a goal for 2016 in its earlier report and the 12 Rosenfelds that NRDC had projected would be consumed in 2016 absent immediate regulation. The VA has therefore not only succeeded in delivering energy savings far faster than DOE regulation could have, but it has actually resulted in savings that greatly exceeded the expectations of the leading energy-efficiency advocates. And because the savings under the VA are expected to increase even more under its more rigorous “Tier 2” standards that became effective in 2017, the best is yet to come.
As stated in the most recent annual report, this program has been extremely successful in reducing the energy consumption of STBs and reducing the number of power plants required in the United States. Over the four years the signatories have been reporting, it is estimated that the program has saved 16.8 TWh of energy, saved consumers 2.1 Billion dollars in energy costs, and avoided 11.8 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.
The STB VA was established in 2012 as a five-year program, and 2017 is the last year for commitments with a final report in 2018. The VA signatories, including the energy efficiency advocates NRDC and ACEEE, are actively working on a renewal of the Voluntary Agreement to keep the momentum of this successful program going.
That’s great news for set-top boxes, but what about cable modems and routers?
There is also a Voluntary Agreement for Small Network Equipment (SNE) energy efficiency that was established in 2015, and 2016 was the first year that the signatories had to meet the commitment that 90% of their purchases or retail sales would be within the power limits established by the VA. The Annual Report for the SNE VA was just released this week, and it demonstrated progress as well. It found that 98.3% of the devices reported met the required levels, up from 89.6% last year. In addition, ten of the eleven signatories met the 90% commitment, and the eleventh fell just short at 88%. As per the VA, that signatory is working on a remediation plan to offset the incremental energy associated with its devices that exceeded its commitment.
Small Network Equipment has been evolving at a rapid pace, increasing network speeds from the Service Provider to the home, and also increasing networking capability within the home. Many of the newer SNE products integrate multiple functionalities that had been supported by separate devices, including broadband modem functionality, high-powered WiFi, MoCA, multi-port routing, and even IoT controllers. In spite of this evolution, the energy consumption of the devices has decreased relative to broadband speeds, as depicted in this chart taken from the annual report:
Energy Usage by Equipment Type, Weighted by Broadband Speed
These trends demonstrate that the service providers and manufacturers are making energy-conscious decisions in their design and purchasing decisions, and saving Rosenfelds in the process!
Debbie Fitzgerald is a Principal Architect in the Technology Policy Department and leads the Energy Efficiency Program at CableLabs.
Canada Launches STB Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreement
CableLabs is excited about a new initiative announced today in Canada to address energy efficiency of set-top boxes, much like the voluntary agreements that have been established in the US and Europe. The Canadian Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreement (CEEVA) for Set-top boxes includes the 5 largest Pay TV service providers and covers over 88% of the Pay TV market in Canada. Modeled after the successful Voluntary Agreement (VA) in the US, the Canadian service providers signed up to a very similar set of commitments:
- Beginning in 2017, at least 90% of all new set-top boxes purchased must meet ENERGY STAR version 3 levels (referred to as Tier 1 in the agreement).
- Beginning in 2018, at least 90% of all new set-top boxes purchased must meet more stringent Tier 2 levels as defined in the agreement.
- Signatories are required to submit an annual report by April 1 following each calendar year reporting period to a third-party data aggregator including STBs purchased and received during the reporting period along with their energy consumption.
- All service providers must provide public-facing energy information for the STB models within the scope of the agreement.
- Like the US VA, CEEVA also allows for innovation in the marketplace through a new feature process.
This agreement was the result of collaboration among competitors in the Pay TV space encompassing the cable, satellite, and telco markets, as well as manufacturers, regulators, and utilities. The signatories to date are:
- Cogeco Communications Inc.
- Rogers Communications
- Shaw Communications Inc.
- EchoStar Technologies
As mentioned, regulators and utilities were also involved in the discussions and negotiations. This was initially driven by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and also included the Ontario Ministry of Energy, the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines, Quebec’s Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles, and Manitoba’s Department of Growth, Enterprise and Trade. Provincial utilities included BC Hydro, Independent Electricity System Operator, Manitoba Hydro, SaskPower, and Hydro Québec. It was a full house!
Four of the five service provider signatories are cable operators and CableLabs members, and CableLabs provided significant input and support into making this voluntary agreement come to fruition. We were able to contribute our experience with the highly successful Voluntary Agreement Programs in the US, as well as align CEEVA with the US VA to realize an even larger overall benefit to the environment on both sides of the border.
In the first three years of the STB VA in the US, CableLabs has been instrumental in helping the US Pay TV industry reduce energy consumption by 9.3 TWh and avoid 6.5 million metric tons of CO2, and we look forward to helping CEEVA succeed as well!
More information about CEEVA can be found at www.energyefficiency-va.ca.
Voluntary Agreement Will Reduce Total Annual Energy Consumption and Avoid over 100,000 Tonnes of CO2 Annually
Annonce d’un accord relatif à l’efficacité énergétique des décodeurs des fournisseurs de service de télévision par abonnement et des fabricants
Debbie Fitzgerald is a Principal Architect in the Technology Policy department and leads the Energy Efficiency program at CableLabs. You can read more blogs about the Energy Efficiency initiatives at https://www.cablelabs.com/category/energy/.
Getting Better Every Year!
Last week, the Pay-TV Industry released two very important Annual Reports related to Energy Efficiency initiatives in the United States. And the results were very good!
The Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement released its third Annual Report. In 2015, the report estimated that the Voluntary Agreement reduced national set-top box annual energy consumption by 5.1 TWh when compared to the 2012 baseline case, saving consumers approximately $646 million dollars and preventing 3.6 million metric tons of CO2 emissions during 2015. But the more impressive statistic is the trend, shown in the graph above. The savings are getting better every year! Over the three years that the STB VA has been in place, consumers have saved nearly 1.2 billion (with a ‘B’) dollars, and avoided nearly 6.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions! As stated in the annual report, the energy saved over the first three years is the equivalent of the energy used by all the homes in both Washington, DC and San Francisco combined for one year!
The Small Network Equipment Voluntary Agreement released its first Annual Report, and the results are promising. Although in the first year the signatories were not obligated to meet their 90% procurement or sales commitments, seven of the 11 signatories required to report already met them. And the data provided by the signatories reinforces the estimates that the SNE VA will save between 10 and 20% in energy consumption once the commitments are in place.
Along with the release of these reports, the signatories also stood up a consolidated web site at www.energy-efficiency.us, where you can learn more about the voluntary agreements and find the annual reports.
The manufacturers and service providers are continuing to make great strides in energy savings even as they innovate and deploy exciting new features and services. And these energy savings also translate to higher reliability and reduced truck rolls for the service providers. The voluntary agreements are proving to be a win for service providers, consumers, and the environment.
Read more about the energy efficiency voluntary agreements.
Industry Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement Initiative Wins Environmental Leader Top Project of the Year Award
Last week, at the 2016 Environmental Leader Conference, the Set-Top Box Voluntary Agreement (STB VA) received special recognition to reduce energy consumption related to set-top boxes in consumers’ homes. The Environmental Leader Top Project of the Year Award is a program recognizing excellence in projects that provide companies and consumers with environmental, sustainability and energy management benefits. The winners are selected by a panel of distinguished judges with experience in environmental management, headed by an unbiased judging coordinator from an outside Environmental Leader.
This is a team win for all the participants in the Voluntary Agreement: service providers - AT&T, Cablevision, CenturyLink, Charter (including Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks), Comcast, Cox, DirecTV, DISH, Verizon; manufacturers – Arris, Echostar Technologies, and Technicolor; energy conservation advocates – ACEEE, ASAP, and NRDC; and supporting organizations – CableLabs, CTA, and NCTA.
Established in 2012 and expanded in 2013, the STB Voluntary Agreement (VA) includes many commitments. First and foremost, each service provider commits to ensuring that at least 90% of their STBs purchased each year will consume less energy than the allowances set forth in the VA. The VA enlists an Independent Administrator to evaluate annual reports from each signatory to ensure compliance, and aggregates the information into a public annual report. Every year, an independent auditor tests STBs in nearly 100 homes across the United States to verify the service providers’ reported values. And, for consumers, each service provider must publicly report the energy usage of each STB model purchased since the beginning of 2014. In addition, service providers are deploying whole-home DVR solutions and upgrading software on fielded models to enable light sleep to further reduce the energy usage.
CableLabs is proud to be a part of this historic initiative and to support all the signatories in the agreement. CableLabs runs technical working groups to update the VA with new features and energy allowances, and works with specification teams and manufacturers to identify new ways to reduce energy consumption. The CableLabs Energy Lab supports testing and reporting of STB energy consumption, and CableLabs hosts the required public information for all of the cable signatories. CableLabs also works on advanced home networking solutions to reduce the complexity and number of STBs required in a home.
The STB VA has already saved consumers over a billion dollars in energy costs and avoided over 6 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. We are honored to receive this prestigious award and will continue to strive to make a difference in this industry.
Receiving the awards at the Environmental Leader 2016 conference are, from left to right: Doug Johnson (CTA), Gary Langille (DISH/Echostar Technologies), Paul Nastu (Environmental Leader), Debbie Fitzgerald (CableLabs), and Steve Mace (NCTA)
A New Voluntary Agreement for Energy Efficiency: Home Internet Equipment
For a couple of years now, cable operators, along with other pay-tv service providers and manufacturers, have been working diligently to improve the energy efficiency of set-top boxes in the home through the set-top box (STB) Voluntary Agreement. And they have already demonstrated energy savings, even in the first year.
But set-top boxes are not the only devices that service providers install in our homes. Other typical devices include high-speed data modems, gateways that provide phone service, and even wireless home routers. Now the service providers are working on reducing the energy footprint of those devices as well.
Today, 10 service providers and 8 manufacturers just announced the Small Network Equipment Voluntary Agreement (SNE VA), modeled after the successful STB VA. This Voluntary Agreement is expected to improve the energy efficiency of SNE by 10 to 20 percent and cover more than 90 percent of U.S. broadband households. The service providers are: AT&T, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, DIRECTV, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon; and the manufacturers are: Actiontec, ARRIS, Cisco, D-Link, EchoStar Technologies, Pace, NETGEAR, and Ubee Interactive.
Similar to the STB VA, the SNE VA commits service providers to purchase at least 90% of their SNE products that meet energy consumption targets outlined in the SNE VA. But in addition, manufacturers that sell products into retail (such as home WiFi routers) also commit that at least 90% of their products sold into retail will meet the targets. Service providers are also required to publicly report SNE energy use and submit to an annual verification audit. CableLabs will likely host the SNE public energy use information for the cable operator signatories, similar to this site that contains STB energy use.
CableLabs is proud to have played a significant role in the development of the SNE VA. CableLabs led the technical working group that developed the energy consumption targets mentioned above. The energy consumption targets are defined for devices under test that are connected, able to communicate, but operating in a state with “no user-generated traffic”. It was determined that this was the best state to characterize the energy targets, because as device manufacturers strive to reduce consumption in this “idle” state, the active consumption is also reduced. In addition, most network devices always need to be on and ready to transmit within milliseconds, but are often in this idle state throughout the day and especially at night. And, “idle state” can be consistently tested across devices.
In addition to defining the technical components of the SNE VA, CableLabs was actively involved in the development of the ANSI/CEA 2049 test procedure that is cited in the VA as the mechanism to determine the energy consumption.
As consumers are adding more and more “Internetworked things” and small networking equipment to their homes every day, it is important to get out in front of the energy consumption concerns in all development phases of these products. As already demonstrated with the STB VA, a Voluntary Agreement approach is a great way to make low energy consumption a priority while maintaining the ability to rapidly innovate in this fast-paced environment.
Debbie Fitzgerald is the Director of Client Application Technologies at CableLabs.
Interactive TV Ads – Is There a Demand?
Recently, Coke aired an interactive advertisement during the NCAA Final Four basketball games. I thought I would try it out. When the ad starts, it declares “This is a drinkable commercial,” then prompts the user to “Shazam now to drink it.” I launched Shazam on my smartphone, it picked up the audio, and launched a Coke Zero ad on my phone.
The ad depicted a Coke glass full of ice with Coke Zero being poured into it.
Pressing that button took me to another page that prompted for my birthdate and phone number. About 20 minutes later, I received a text message with a URL to a barcode to redeem for one free 20-oz. Coke Zero. Pretty Cool! You can try it out using the ad on this Youtube link.
But it wasn’t quite as easy as I made it sound. By the time I had dug through the screens on my smartphone to launch Shazam, the commercial was over. Luckily, I was using my Xfinity X1G set-top box which includes a time-shift buffer feature, so I could just rewind 30 seconds and re-run the commercial. It would have been MUCH EASIER if I could have just picked up the remote and clicked the “OK” button to have Target send me the coupon!
The Quest for Interactive Ads
For years, advertisers, cable operators, and television manufacturers have sought the best way to engage viewing audiences with interactive ads. The cable industry went down the path of EBIF and tru2way, and for a while there was a flurry of second screen apps. Although there were over 25 million EBIF-enabled set-top boxes deployed in the US at one time, the promise of interactive ads never really materialized.
Another platform for interactivity is the smart TV. Since 2011, some smart TV manufacturers have been embedding Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) in various television models to enable HTML5-based applications to launch on the TV. LG has their “Live Plus” feature based on Cognitive Networks engine, several other manufacturers use Cognitive or Samba ACR engines. Showtime has “enhanced” their original content with interactive applications (SHO Sync) based on this platform on LG TVs. Ensequence has enhanced advertisements with the Samsung platform.
Smart TVs with embedded ACR can support synchronized interactive applications, but it can also cause some problems. What happens when the set-top box displays a graphical overlay, such as a menu or even an interactive application, and the Smart TV does the same? This is known as “app collision,” and is a problem recognized by the industry.
Interactivity in the Future?
The fact that advertisers are still seeking ways to engage audiences through interactivity makes me optimistic that the issues discussed can be resolved and consumers will have simple ways to interact with advertisements. With 4K and 8K televisions coming out with much higher resolution, the real-estate for interactive applications is even more compelling. I am looking forward to the ability to pick up my remote (or better yet, respond with voice control or other simple interface) to get my free Coke Zero.
Debbie Fitzgerald is the Director of Client Application Technologies at CableLabs.