A Closer Look at DLNA

Boston - No shortage of new technologies to sample at last week’s Cable Show, where the pace of innovation showed was an all-out sprint.

One I’d heard about, but not yet seen, was tucked in a corner of the CableLabs CableNEXT exhibit area. That’s where technologies based on open standards lined a back wall, with MSO-staffed demonstrations of their work to break free of the proprietary shackles of yore.

It was a Cox demonstration of DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), which up until last week I’d described as the way your connected stuff identifies itself to your other stuff, by way of an icon. Just as your PC screen shows icons of your local or networked hard drives, your TV might show your PC as an icon, or your stereo, or your tablet.

The Cox demo obsoleted that explanation. Here’s what matters in DLNA now: It’s a way for cable operators to provide multiroom DVR, without hardware “clients” attached to any of the nonprimary screens.

The two-part demonstration started with a DLNA subset called “CVP-1,” tech talk for letting the navigation environment of a Sony PlayStation (in this case) show listings of which stored and live titles are available for viewing. Good start, but potentially tricky if viewers don’t want to “learn” a new navigation environment, one for each connected screen.

Right next to it was a demo of “CVP-2,” where cable content was accessible on those other screens, with consistent navigation. Cox developed its own navigation system, which it calls “Trio,” and it showed up in place of the Sony PlayStation navigation. The thinking: People really don’t want to have to think about how to find their content, as they move from one screen to the next. Better to present it in reasonably the same manner.

All in, it means that soon enough, you’ll be able to play out your DVR content on your laptop, or your game console, or your tablet. Content providers like it because it’s delivered securely (using DTCP-IP).

The “CVP” in DLNA stands for “Commercial Video Player.” It’s a set of guidelines for premium video, which device manufacturers use in their product development.

No one at CableNEXT would venture a guess as to how soon DLNA CVP-2 will get into consumer homes - sounds like a 2014 thing, conservatively - but when it comes, and if it’s for real, it will solve a fairly important gap in today’s home networking features.

In closing: Just prior to last week’s show, when digging around for something else, I came upon a 1990 article I wrote about what was big, in tech, at that year’s NCTA convention. Answer: Jamming oscillators and interdiction technologies, to do side-of-the-house descrambling of TV signals, so that TVs inside worked without set-tops. Also: The cautious expectation that, someday, we might use our cordless phones as TV remote controls.

Man, have we come a long way.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at www.translation-please.com or multichannel.com/blog.