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myTV: personalised services for digital television

Exploitable results

The finalisation of the MyTV project marked not only the launch of a prototype personal video recorder system, but more importantly, a significant jump forwards in the general understanding and acceptance of the TV-Anytime open standards. MyTV aimed to develop an interoperable TV-Anytime solution suitable for delivery over Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) and Internet Protocol (IP). The project outcome was marked by the delivery of a working prototype for end-users with inbuilt hard disk storage, showing that personal video recorders suitable for mass markets could use the TV-Anytime standards. However the most important result from the project was the establishing of a set of workable TV-Anytime standards. MyTV enabled the first phase of TV-Anytime standardisation to be completed. This phase covered the broadcasting of service content, including metadata in particular, to set-top electronic equipment. These standards are now in the process of being published and are due for release in summer 2003. Project manager Gerhard Mekenkamp of Philips stressed this focus on standardisation. "This was our goal, to establish a set of open standards. We need these open standards to provide new opportunities for future enhanced television on a large scale. They help resolve the problems associated with the fact that broadcasters will only transmit programme metadata if there are devices to use it, while system manufacturers will only implement suitable products if the service is available." The development work carried out by the project has fed into the work of the TV-Anytime Forum, an association of organisations, some 120 strong, that seeks to develop specifications to enable audio-visual and other services based on mass-market high volume digital storage. The association comprises member organisations from Europe, the US and Asia. According to Forum chairman Simon Parnall, the specifications developed within the MyTV project provided "a common means to identify content" wherever it may be and "a common method to lead the viewer to its logical and physical location". Developing working prototypes Sponsored under the IST programme, MyTV's objectives included specifying and implementing a consumer platform with inbuilt local storage, and developing sample TV-Anytime broadcast services that could exploit this platform and provide true interoperability, both across service providers and for different product manufacturers. The project partners included key actors in the communications and broadcasting industries, notably the BBC in the UK, Nokia of Finland and RAI in Italy. The project was lead and managed by Philips Research of The Netherlands. The development of a working set-top box with its own hard disk storage established the feasibility of using TV-Anytime standards with a programme storage system that offers mass-market appeal. The project thus opened the way for general acceptance of the standards within the consumer services and product manufacturing industries. Since that time, manufacturers have begun to make first generation personal video recorders available as prototypes. In addition, the BBC has begun trials of broadcasting of TV-Anytime metadata to check the feasibility and reliability of such services and to examine their relevance to market demand. Further standardisation in successor project The results of MyTV have in addition lead to a successor project, SHARE-IT!, also part of the IST programme. Another two-year project, SHARE-IT! takes over where MyTV left off, developing further TV-Anytime standards related to content sharing and digital rights management. Says Mekenkamp, "MyTV provided huge input for the work in TV-Anytime. It also laid the groundwork for the development going on in SHARE-IT!." The SHARE-IT! project runs in parallel to Phase 2 of the standardisation development process taking place with the TV-Anytime Forum. Here the objective is to look at issues of networking equipment, interactive TV and the delivery of data using broadband rather than narrowband. The digital television group in the UK have established a test-bed project that involves the content, service and product suppliers involved in the delivery chain of content to the user to validate the TV Anytime standards. This test-bed is expected to be up and running during summer 2003. As raison-d'être, the Forum believes that careful testing of the complete end-to-end delivery chain is necessary to make sure that everything works, as it should. When broadcasters have to invest in their back-office and networks, and suppliers need to have their products ready, making sure that there are no unexpected hitches becomes a development essential. Demonstrations well-received The results of MyTV were demonstrated at the IFA 2001 (Internationale Funkaustellung in Berlin) and IBC 2001 (International Broadcasting Convention). Attendees could examine the Philips MyTV recorder with its resident navigator, and also view metadata services from the BBC, NOB and the University of Ljubljana beamed via the Internet. IBC audiences, comprising representatives from the broadcast world as well as consumers, reacted enthusiastically to the possibilities offered by the combination of TV-Anytime, Internet and local storage. Features like trailer recording, group recording, remote programming and more were immediately understood and appreciated. Promoted by the IST Results Service