Pay TV service provider competition is quickly moving into the realm of interactivity. Telcos deploying IPTV technology have always had the edge over cable TV operators in this area, but rarely have they exploited that edge, instead focusing on defensive strategies for IPTV by primarily making it a me-too TV offering tied to a broader service bundle. Now, cable TV operators are catching up with Tru2way and other technologies to enable more interactive TV features.
The future of interactive TV was one of the themes of last month's IPTV World Forum North America event in New York City, and attendees need to look no further than the conference vendor exhibits to get a glimpse of interactive tools that they can leverage today. One of those tools was BNS Touch, an interactive TV shopping application from Hong Kong-based Broadband Network Systems (BNS). The app was initially launched at CommunicAsia in June, but made its U.S. premiere at last month's New York IPTV confab.
BNS Touch actually makes use of a decidely dated format--the printed paper shopping catalog. However, in this case, the catalog items include dot codes that can be read by a pen-like device called The Wiz (Americans, set aside other connotations for that name). The codes transmit the catalog images to an IPTV set-top box, and a residential consumer can browse item information and initiate an order completely through the TV. The application streamlines what might be an otherwide time-consuming process of scrolling through bigger screen-based shopping menus, and more significantly builds a nice bridge to a new TV experience for people who are still comfortable shopping out of paper catalogs. Shopping orders can be charged to the monthly service provider bill, among other potential payment methods.
"When people first saw this, they might have thought it was a bit yesteryear, but interactive shopping applications have not found a good way of replicating the catalog experience," said Anke Gill, vice president of marketing at BNS. "This technology can be applied to other catalogs for video-on-demand movies or karaoke, or even to textbooks for an e-learning experience."
Gill also noted that as IPTV services become more advanced, with greater amounts of content, operators need to keep pace with techniques to help customer find what they want. "You have to come up with better ways to navigate through all of that content." BNS is working now with Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom on a test of its application.
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