Parks Associates Blog

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

WirelessHD Consortium

Some major players in consumer electronics have banded together to form the WirelessHD Consortium. Including such heavyweights as LG Electronics, Matsushita (Panasonic), NEC, and Samsung, the organization is looking at a 60 GHz wireless solution that can transmit uncompressed high-definition video up to 32 feet. The organization views its role as developing a cable replacement for HDMI, FireWire, and S-Video.

It sure would be nice to not have to create a rat's nest of cabling behind the entertainment center, and this vision is very aggressive, since PC and peripheral makers are just now starting to develop commercial ultra-wideband solutions (UWB) that have the same goal of cable replacement in the IT and mobile/portable space (among most of the first-generation products). The ability to transmit the uncompressed HD video is also going to be a key, since the CE industry looks to be moving to more widely embrace HDMI as the interface between a variety of products, including the high-definition displays that should sell quite well over the last quarter of this year.

Our view? WirelessHD will take some time to deploy, particularly since supporters indicate that products won't be available until 2008 at the earliest. Also, we would expect that cost considerations are going to keep volumes of the wireless solutions low as the cabled interfaces will continue to dominate the market. Also, we would expect there to be plenty of questions about the need for yet one more wireless spec in an industry where 802.11n, UWB, and a host of proprietary solutions are in the mix.

Beyond this, we're still waiting for the truly reliable (and affordable) wireless home theater system to be available so we can quit running speaker wire along our living room floors!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

AT&T gets in the home monitoring space

Interesting news from AT&T Inc. today in that they are going to offer a remote home monitoring service ("AT&T Launches Remote Home Monitoring Video Service Nationwide," October 26 press release). For an upfront cost of $199 and $9.95 per month after that, subcribers can use personal computers and Cingular Wireless devices to remotely view the home and receive alerts (if a motion detector is triggered, for example).

Internationally, telcos have dabbled in such offerings (Canada's TELUS with its HomeSitter and SK Telecom, in particular), but this is new territory for the U.S. telcos. Our own research (most recently, "The Business of Bundled Services") indicates that the telcos could expect solid take rates and revenue-per-user with these services. Beyond voice, video, and data services, these types of peace-of-mind features could be key in helping differentiate one provider from another.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

TXU moving closer to BPL service

On October 23, 2006, TXU Electric Delivery announced an agreement with Landis+Gyr to purchase 400,000 meters with broadband-over-powerline (BPL) capabilities (TXU press release: "TXU Electric Delivery and Landis+Gyr Sign Agreement for 400,000 Automated BPL Meters"). In contrast to other utility-based BPL efforts, TXU is taking a decidedly conservative approach and is not deploying BPL service for high-speed Internet access. Instead, the utility is going to use the meters for diagnostic purposes, helping its customer support teams determine where power outages are occuring so they can coordinate repair crews. The meters will also provide automated meter reading (AMR) functionality, which can help the utility reduce manpower costs.

Having attended the recent HomePlug Powerline conference a few weeks ago, the interest in BPL is unquestionable among a number of players. What will be interesting to track in this space is exactly how the energy utilities choose to deploy such services. After all, one common sentiment I heard was that a tension exists within the utilities regarding the intitial use of BPL technologies. Some utilities, it was noted, are adament that BPL solutions should be all about revenue-generating services, such as the provision of high-speed Internet services, particularly to underserved areas. Others argue that the pragmatic approach for the utilities should be one geared to cost reductions and improved customer service, using BPL as a lower-cost telemetry solution. TXU's approach looks promising. Instead of the "either-or" approach, TXU notes that they will scale BPL so that it can function as a cost-savings/customer service enhancing solution first while at the same time validating its future for the provisioning of Internet services.

At any rate, it is noteworthy to see the utilities starting to get on board with enhanced telemetry applications, and with a specific eye toward improved customer service and measures to reduce power generation. TXU's announcement follows on the heels of a significant international announcement, where Endesa (Spain's largest energy utility), along with chipset supplier Yitran, and Renesas Technology will be developing an open specification for automated meter management (AMM). This solution will allow for remote meter reading and other power management features.

We've argued for some time now that the energy utilities will be serving as critical gatekeepers to the next-generation of home management solutions. As energy consumption continues to be a hot-button issue, we can expect to hear more announcements along the lines of the TXU and the Endesa news. It can certainly be a big boost to digital lifestyle markets.

Friday, October 13, 2006

About Parks Associates

For 20 years, Parks Associates has provided industry and consumer research to help companies understand the consumer technology markets and make well-informed strategic decisions.

Our firm is exclusively focused on all product and service segments that are "digital" or provide connectivity within the home, including entertainment, home networking, home controls, wireless networking, broadband, and on-demand services.