TV holds key to digital home with new tech standard

22 Sep 2004

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), a trade group that includes more than 1,700 device manufacturers, has put forward a standard that would allow networked entertainment systems in the home to be operated via the TV and remote control.

This latest standard is a bid to put the TV firmly at the heart of the digital home. Other attempts at home networking have tried to position the PC at the centre of a raft of connected devices. Digital video recorders are also considered as a possible way of managing digital content for consumers.

The CEA claims that its latest standard addresses two critical needs in home networking technologies: connecting consumer electronics and IT devices together and doing so in a way that allows manufacturers to preserve their brand identity. Using internet and web protocols “is a key feature and a definite trend in communications for home networks,” the group said in a statement.

Earlier this week the CEA’s R7 Home Networking Standards Committee officially approved the CEA-2027 standard for publication. This covers mechanisms that would allow audio and video devices from a variety of manufacturers, connected via a home network, to present a status and control user interface (UI) on a network-attached rendering device, such as a digital TV.

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA, said: “This standard will help ensure that TVs in the future continue to add value to consumers’ viewing experience beyond simply displaying a picture, and that TVs remain the intelligent point of control for home entertainment.”

Consumers will not adopt home networks in large numbers unless devices in the home can communicate with each other openly, the CEA acknowledged. According to the industry group, Internet Protocol (IP) has emerged as a “nearly ubiquitous” way of connecting entertainment systems to home networks because it is already found in PCs and related hardware.

In addition, IP has characteristics that make it different from most previous home networking standards, the group said. It supports full control of any networked device, including all of its unique functions as defined by the device manufacturer. This means that equipment makers can continue to add differentiating features to their products that can be extended across the home network.

“Some product manufacturers have been reluctant to add networking connectivity to their products due to concerns about losing their brand identity,” said Bill Rose, who chaired the R7 Home Networking Standards Committee. “This standard allows the look and feel of the overall UI, as well as the navigation between control screens, to be determined by the TV manufacturer. CEA-2027 also allows connected devices to present their manufacturer logo and retain their full set of controllable features as well.”

By Gordon Smith