Why a hybrid approach is vital to future-proofing your in-car entertainment system

The pace of change in software development is incredibly fast, and it’s becoming increasingly complex. As cars become more software-focused, the need to update car software regularly will increase. It will become as natural as updating software on a smartphone. This need will be even more acute in in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and in-car entertainment, which are growing in influence on purchasing decisions. In this blog, I’ll outline what this means in practice.

Evolution of in-car entertainment

The evolution of in-car entertainment is progressing rapidly, which is a new experience for automotive OEMs and Tier 1s. For decades, a fixed FM radio device was the only form of entertainment they needed to install. Then cassette players came to the fore, and they lasted a decade or so before CD players, then DAB radio became commonplace. All these examples required installation of the relevant piece hardware when the car was manufactured, but after that, OEMs and Tier 1s didn’t need to do anything – there were no updates required once the car left the production line.

But now we’re in a connected world which brings great opportunities for services, but also some threats that were not a concern before. The priority is streaming audio, with video waiting in the wings to take centre stage when every car comes with one or more multi-use screens.

The car lifecycle clashes with connected services

Meanwhile, operating systems have been through their own evolution and at a much faster pace than in-car entertainment. From Windows CE and QNX, to Linux and now Android (with fragmented variants based on AOSP, the open-source variant that OEMs can take, adapt and modify as they need). Streaming is becoming a key buying criterion for cars, with 63% of drivers rating in-car entertainment as one of the car’s most important features, according to The PwC Digital Auto Report in 2020. For OEMs and Tier 1s to meet this demand, automotive and software development timelines need to come together.

But car development is very slow, especially when compared to software and streaming services. For example, take the projected lifecycle of an electric vehicle (EV). Batteries are expected to last around 7 years once the car hits the road. However, the development phase of the vehicle typically takes 2-3 years before that. So, OEMs are preparing cars today that will be on the road in 10 years’ time. This is a long time in the world of connected services, and the software and content landscape could look completely different by then.

To put this in perspective, 10 years ago, you probably hadn’t heard of Spotify – and Android was at version 3 – or Honeycomb – with API level 9. September 2020 saw the release of Android 11with API level 30! 10 years from now, Spotify may not be the dominant audio streaming service it is today. OEMs need to plan for this type of scenario now and ensure they can support the next great content app that comes along.

Hedging your bets with a hybrid approach

A hybrid approach is the most sensible route to take as cars enter the connected world. There are simply too many unknowns for OEMs to place their eggs in one basket now. We don’t know what the future of in-car screens and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) use will be like. Today, broadcast content (including data) from DAB radio, and even FM radio depending on coverage, is still the main consumed content in-car. Mobile coverage varies drastically, so OEMs must be able to smoothly switch from one to another when needed. And mirroring from mobile devices must be supported as car users transition to connected cars via their smartphones and then embedded apps. Car users are moving to connected services at different paces, so OEMs must support them wherever they are on their journey.

Security is another crucial factor for OEMs to consider, especially as the car is now connected to the outside world. If mobile and connected TV worlds are anything to go by, then regular software updates will be become the norm – and possibly even more frequent due to the additional personal safety concerns within a vehicle. OEMs must have the flexibility to support regular updates, whatever the circumstances.

Leave content to the experts

It doesn’t make sense for OEMs to take on the mantle of managing relationships with rights-holders and navigating multiple complex rights deals themselves when it comes to content services. Instead, they should really use an aggregator to do it for them. There are several reasons for this, not least that rights deals are short-term affairs compared to the lifespan of a car. Also, content delivery is incredibly complicated, with new frontiers for OEMs like content protection (digital rights management, or DRM). Put simply, OEMs will find it far easier and quicker to get to market if they lean on experts for support – in the same way that OEMs have relied on their tier 1 partners to deliver functional components for their vehicles rather than sourcing themselves. User data and customer insight will become much more important – as OEMs have a longer relationship with cars, they should want to have control of this rather than ceding to a third-party platform that may have another agenda.

Another big factor to consider is the screen resolution and aspect ratio, and cars are some way off reaching a standardised approach like TV (and it’s highly unlikely they will). Here’s a breakdown of the main issues that OEMs face:

  • The nuances of cars will complicate app support: Different screen sizes and aspect ratios are all the rage in automotive but are unsuitable for supporting video streaming (some wide screens are more akin to a digital billboard beside a sports match than a TV).
  • Keeping up with software devices across multiple devices is tough: Even in the world of TV, with standardisation on 16:9 aspect ratios, premium content providers have their work cut out.
  • App developers will not be keen on supporting multiple screen sizes and ratios: Picture the scene – a testing room full of VW head units, then another for Mercedes, another for BMW etc.
  • Video streaming experience innovations are evolving all the time: There are ample opportunities to keep viewers engaged, e.g., adding more sports stats alongside the main broadcast or allowing voting on talent shows. Of course, when such functionality hits our TV screens, there will be a demand to carry it through to the car. But this will only be possible if app developers are willing and able to do it (i.e., they need the process of updating apps to be as straightforward as possible).

As OEMs prepare for the era of the connected car to kick into gear, it’s important to remember how quickly software – and essential components like operating systems and browsers – and content services evolve in the modern world. Compared to the pace of car rollouts, it will be like stepping onto a Maglev after a light stroll. Those that are best placed to succeed are taking a hybrid approach, and many new revenue opportunities will come their way through the agile ability to quickly support new and existing connected services as a result.

Newly launched DLNA CVP-2 guidelines remove the multiscreen device fragmentation roadblock

Last week, the DLNA announced the official publication of the new CVP-2 guidelines, which were developed by service providers in conjunction with some of the world’s largest CE manufacturers and technology suppliers including Comcast, Cox and Samsung. The aim of the new guidelines, which we discussed in January, is to enable operators to launch truly interoperable multiscreen services, responding to an increase in consumer demand for TV Everywhere. In light of the staggering number of DLNA certified products (336 million DLNA Certified smartphones expected to be sold in 2014 according to the DLNA), it is clear that the official launch of the guidelines comes at the right time. DLNA Certified Device growth is due to reach 7.32 billion by 2018, providing exciting opportunities for operators.

CVP-2 preserves content provider rights and ensures interoperability through protected streaming by leveraging DTCP-IP, which allows access to subscription TV throughout the home and across all enabled devices. This unique specification ensures that content can be shared securely between devices in a user’s home. However, it also ensures third parties outside of this network cannot access it. By providing ‘studio confident’ security, operators enable content owners and copyright holders to remain in control of the media sharing experience.

From a consumer perspective, it enables the seamless streaming of content to a multitude of compatible devices, allowing them to enjoy the full range of high quality content including HD programmes, movies, DVR content, channel guides, and other premium features on any screen in the home. Consumers now want the ability to watch premium content while moving from one room to the next, allowing technologies supporting HTML5 to come to the fore as they offer remote user interfaces that fit every screen. This enables operators to deliver a seamless experience across all screens, meaning that the user can start watching content on the living room screen and enjoy it as the consumer moves from one room to the next. The new guidelines, backed up by one of the most efficient standardisation organisations in the industry, empower operators by enabling them to deliver services that comply with both content providers’ and consumer demand.

CVP-2 provides many advantages for operators, which can be utilized to deploy multiscreen. These include:

– leveraging standardised technologies such as HTML Remote User Interfaces (RUI), HTTP adapted delivery and authentication to combine with current DTCP-IP Link Layer Protection
– ensuring that networked devices are green and conserve energy in line with power regulations and DLNA’s own voluntary initiatives. There is a built in mechanism for DLNA devices to display energy management functionalities for each of its network interfaces
–  catering for remote diagnostics and optimises the consumer viewing experience by including support for MPEG-DASH, an adaptive delivery technology for high-quality streaming which can deal with any bandwidth variation on the home network. It can support the adaptive delivery of content based on MPEG-2 TS and MP4 formats as well as for 3D video media format profiles and the modifications needed to allow the smooth insertion of advertisements.

ACCESS will demonstrate CVP-2 integration on the CableNET booth at the Cable Show in San Francisco (April 29th – May 1st).

Parks Associates examines multiscreen video security challenges in new white paper

Parks Associates Whitepaper
A new Parks Associates white paper, “New Market Realities in Content Delivery”, looks at the security challenges that need to be faced before multiscreen is ready for primetime.

Parks comments that: “in an arena where content has seemingly ruled, consumers, instead, are the driving force.”

The paper looks at how security and multiscreen interacts for operators, the content industry and the consumer. A key finding in the Park Associates paper is that :”Smart TV manufacturers will hold a prime seat at the table if they develop a future- proof roadmap that allows for affordable upgrades to their own technology.”

Parks also provide a reminder that usability is key, stating: “While the evolution of connected CE devices causes consumers to expect to view the content of their choice on any device, at any time, and anywhere, the multiple options threaten to create an environment that is too technologically difficult for the average consumer to navigate.”

If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of the white paper, please visit: http://eu.access-company.com/whitepaper-download.html

IHS Screen Digest report puts multiscreen monetization under the microscope

At ACCESS we are producing solutions to drive the success of multiscreen deployments. We are also aware that the business models to drive multiscreen are not yet solid – so to help drive multiscreen monetization debate forward we asked IHS Screen Digest to look at the issues surrounding monetization. The result is a white paper ‘Unlocking and Securing Multiscreen’s Monetization Potential’, now available at http://mediapilot.access-company.com/screendigest.html.

The IHS Screen Digest paper sites ‘insurance’ as the main driver of present multiscreen deployments, with monetization some time I the future. IHS Screen Digest states this as follows: “Pay-TV multiscreen is not a reaction to eroding subscription bases, or revenue loss in the present. It is a form of insurance, and secures the future where consumers continue to purchase high-value pay-TV subscriptions.  … In pivoting their extensive content offers beyond the set-top, operators can protect the future of the subscription income stream, place subscriber acquisition on firm footing, and monetise wide- reaching content distribution in proactive, incremental fashion.”
In addition, the report identifies the three following technologies as key to driving multiscreen success: DLNA, HTML5 and security.

Key findings of the report include:

  • OTT has so far had little or no discernible impact on subscriber numbers (see graph below)
  • OTT is not affecting marginal revenues from operators’ advanced services
  • Consumers content spend is still predominantly on Pay-TV subscriptions
  • DLNA, HTML5 and security are the three key technologies key to multiscreen success

Our work in producing DLNA and HTML5 solutions and our collaboration with CAS/DRM partners means that we’re playing a key role in all three technologies that IHS Screen Digest identifies as at the heart of enabling the multiscreen revolution.

Although the report finds little hard evidence of OTT yet hurting the TV operators, when I’m talking to customers they are pretty sure that Pay-TV VoD buy rates are lower when a consumer has OTT. Our research also suggests that OTT ARPU is in almost all cases considerably greater than incremental Pay-TV VoD ARPUs.

Putting together what the report says with what I’m hearing anecdotally it’s clear that Pay-TV operators are in a strong position. However, it’s critical that they guard against OTT chipping away at their customer base and VoD revenues. The best way to do that is by deploying powerful DLNA and HTML5 powered VoD, OTT, multiroom and multiscreen services that at least match their OTT rivals in terms of both usability and content breadth. If they can do that their natural advantages of existing strong content relationships, scale, QoS and customer care combined with the cross marketing and discounting they can offer to cross-sell VoD and OTT services to their existing customers will ensure that Pay-TV operators will continue to prosper relative to their OTT rivals.

 Joerg Eggink
Global Product Director, Connected Home
ACCESS Europe GmbH

Introducing the Multiscreen Blog

I would like to introduce you to the ACCESS Multiscreen blog here at http://nord.themultiscreenblog.com.w01d64c1.kasserver.com/. We think there are a number of reasons why this is a really great time to launch a blog looking at the business and technical issues surrounding the monetization of multiscreen. Most operators agree that they want and need to deploy multiscreen services and consumer demand is clearly there for access to content on all devices and at locations. But there are a number of issues – and it’s these we want to talk to you about.

Almost every operator is thinking very carefully about the business models of multiscreen – we asked IHS Screen Digest to look into this, if you would like to know more please visit http://mediapilot.access-company.com/screendigest.html. Security is another issue that isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Multiscreen needs security that’s widely available, doesn’t interfere with the way consumers want to share consume content and is secure enough to satisfy the content studios’ understandably high security requirements. We call this ‘studio confident’ security and we’re working with CAS vendors to be able to provide the market with highly functional multiscreen solutions that combine the power of DLNA, HTML5 with the security of CAS.

I hope you decide to sign up for our blog, which you can do simply by subscribing at the bottom of the page. I look forward to me and other team members writing blogs moving forward and I want to stress that we really do want to have a dialogue rather than just telling you what we think. So if you would like to respond to our blogs or say something else about multiscreen, please do get in touch by writing your comments in the box below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Best regards,
Dr. Neale Foster
VP Sales, Marketing & Strategy for TV

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