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Connected Homes March 2017 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Michael Gold

Next-Generation TV Broadcasting

Why is this topic significant?

Broadcasters in North America (and a few other places) will need to collaborate if they wish to deploy proposed new key technologies—including technologies that could deliver pay services via VHF and UHF channels.

Description

Recently, South Korea adopted—and US regulators proposed that broadcasters voluntarily adopt—a new version of the Advanced Television Systems Committee standard, namely ATSC 3.0. In some respects, the new version enables nations that use ATSC standards (which also include Canada and Mexico) to catch up with some European and Asian nations' standards efforts and deployments—hybrid broadcast-broadband services, for example. Such services deliver diverse types of content to compatible TV sets, increasingly including recently aired shows, and the supporting standards enable road maps for further improvements.

ATSC 3.0 promises to help North America achieve a measure of technological parity with other regions, including support for road maps toward over-the-air transmissions of ultra-high definition, high dynamic range, and wide color gamut pictures, as well as concurrent transmissions of TV and mobile-video signals on a single channel. ATSC 3.0 also offers the possibility of greatly improved reception in sprawling and rural parts of North America through the use of distributed transmission systems. In theory, the new standard also enables up to 57 Mbit/s transmissions per 6 MHz TV channel (25 Mbit/s may be a more realistic expectation).

But ATSC 3.0 also introduces a whole new bag of tricks, with attributes tailored to enable radically new business models for broadcasters. Regulators propose to allow multiple broadcasters to combine spectrum resources and to make creative use of combined resources to transmit varying mixes of broadcast and on-demand video and data. Regulators are also seeking comments about the possibility of pay services over VHF and UHF frequencies, as long as each licensee continues to broadcast a free over-the-air channel. Final rules could appear by the end of 2017.

Implications

ATSC 3.0 requires new transmitters and in-home receivers; thus, a transition could be complex. Initially, broadcasters seem likely to use ATSC 3.0 to boost revenue by means of targeted advertising, but they may need stronger incentives to engage in a potentially costly technology transition. Like some satellite services, over-the-air broadcasters might pre-cache on-demand videos in set-top boxes that contain much storage. In theory, broadcasters could also transmit many live broadcast channels, each at low data rates. Considering that Netflix defaults to some 600 kbit/s for many mobile video streams, each of several 6 MHz TV stations could carry a multiplex of dozens of channels (though not in high-definition formats).

Impacts/Disruptions

Whether broadcasters will collaborate to repack their spectrum in creative ways is highly uncertain, even in the long run. But such self-organizing activity seems vital to sustaining a transition during which broadcasters will need redundant broadcasts—simulcasting today's digital-TV signals on one channel and ATSC 3.0 signals on another. Whether broadcasters will introduce premium pay-TV services over VHF and UHF channels is highly uncertain at this point, and could depend on reactions to such a proposal by the public and by incumbent cable and satellite services. In the long run, if broadcasters cannot sustain their business models in the face of broadband competition, they may need to deploy cellular-type architectures to support custom video and data streams for large populations in existing broadcast service areas.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 5 Years to 10 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Broadcasting, video production and distribution, electronics manufacturing and retailing

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

Smarter Homes, Less Security

By Sean R. Barulich
Barulich is a research analyst with Strategic Business Insights.

Why is this topic significant?

Homes have become increasingly connected with smart devices, and in turn have become vulnerable to a variety of hacking methods, exploits, and malware.

Description

In October 2016, Mirai malware flooded website host Dyn with bogus data requests, effectively slowing or denying broadband services for millions of people. Mirai had wormed its way onto at least 100,000 IoT devices, including cameras, DVRs, home routers, and other connected devices. Similar botnet attacks hit targets across the globe, causing widespread outages even when Mirai's attempts to infiltrate failed. Five months later, Mirai and its variants are still active and still effective at guessing weak passwords that users have chosen as well as unchangeable passwords that manufacturers unwisely hardcoded on IoT devices.

In March 2017, Wikileaks published what it says will be the first of many documents that appear to describe a range of tools and exploits that the CIA developed to compromise IoT devices. Targeted devices included iPhones, Android phones, routers, and Samsung smart TVs. Wikileaks reportedly pledged to help tech firms fix the security holes by providing them with a trove of contraband code. With a growing ecosystem of smart devices that suffer from inherent security flaws, adversaries have a growing opportunity to orchestrate even more disruptive attacks.

Many connected-home devices rely on communication protocols, such as ZigBee, Z-Wave, and even Wi-Fi, which have known vulnerabilities, potentially allowing adversaries to access security systems, smart door locks, home networks, webcams, and baby monitors. Security researchers continue to discover worrisome security gaps in IoT technology.

Implications

Increased production and use of smart-home products is expanding a vulnerable ecosystem of connected smart devices. If companies fail to take initiative to implement strong security into their products, then no one will. History has shown that general users will not adopt good security practices independently as they continue to use default credentials and weak passwords.

Most likely, both users and suppliers will be put at risk of data theft, mischief, and even home break-ins. Vulnerabilities might cause users to lose faith in smart-home devices. Different vulnerabilities impose either greater or lesser risks; when devices are exploited, some lose function entirely, and others continue to operate while acting as a resource for future attacks. Some manufacturers have responded by effectively forcing users to change default passwords. Nevertheless, end users will still need to practice proactive "security hygiene" to reduce risks from new and persistent cyberattacks.

Impacts/Disruptions

Collective botnet attacks via IoT devices will most likely remain a common attack vector given that the smart-device industry in general lacks a security-by-design mentality. Attacks will continue to vary in severity but will continue to increase in frequency as more smart devices provide online connectivity and use new communication protocols. Manufacturers can employ proactive security practices by removing hardcoded default credentials, enforcing strong user passwords, and providing safe and regular updates to products. Similar responsibilities fall on other stakeholders, including communications services, security services, cloud-computing services, and software developers. Although not a cure for all cybersecurity issues, improved security practices adopted by both suppliers and users can reduce risks as well as the frequency of incidents that exploit connected-home devices.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now to 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Electronics manufacturing, software design, home automation, cyber security

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: