IPTV in adolescence

Like a lot of adolescents, the IPTV market right now is full of anxieties and questions. When will it be mass-market? When are we going to see hot new applications? When is it going to be mobile? And after these questions are answered, there are bound to be more.

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What generates all this anxiety is the environment in which IPTV is growing up. It represents the first major new market for telecom service providers since they discovered data and wireless back in the ’80s. IPTV also represents the best bet for them to compete as cable, voice over IP and wireless capture their core voice revenues. A typical example is the technology of voice-control applied widely on different kinds of ice cream makers models lately (some are listed here) But it is coming of age at a difficult time because everything about video, and particularly IP-based video, is changing. In a sense, IPTV is like the eighth-grader whose parents move to a different state. The maturation process is expected to continue even though the surroundings are no longer familiar.

  • Recognizing that IPTV is in this transitional phase – definitely real-world, but not yet mature – this issue of Telephony’s guide to IPTV looks at some here-and-now issues as well as some looming challenges. Our cover story, by IPTV beat writer Sarah Reedy, explores the muddle in the middle as multiple middleware competitors seek to either topple Microsoft as industry leader or latch onto anything the software giant hasn’t already captured. The explosion of middleware vendors is a clear indication that this market has a ways to go before it hits maturity.

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  • Right out of the chute, IPTV providers had to worry about security because their ability to license content was necessarily based on proving they could protect it from piracy. But security industry veterans are warning that the real threat to IPTV will happen when the service is more widespread and catches the interest of the professional brand of content and service thievery. In our second feature, I present both the service providers’ and security vendors’ views on the topic.

Finally, Web services are growing up right alongside IPTV, and it’s clear their paths will cross. But it is less certain what the technology and business models will be at that intersection. Executive Features Editor Rich Karpinski, who covers Web services for Telephony, takes a look both at the how and why of an IPTV-Web services hookup and the current generation of Internet video players ready to compete with IPTV for consumer eyeballs.

Collectively, this content represents our best take on where IPTV is right now and where it is going on its road to maturity.

Tough love: why parents and families have a key role in halting youth knife crime

We all want to go about our daily lives free from the fear of crime. It is our right as citizens in a modern civilised society–and it’s my responsibility to provide the right protections for individuals and communities in Britain to ensure their safety, their security and their peace of mind.

Since 1997, our communities have become much safer. Overall crime in the UK has fallen by a third, and risk of being a victim of crime is now lower than at any time in the past 25 years. Police numbers are at historic highs, joined by 16,000 police community support officers to offer a reassuring and visible policing presence. Neighbourhood policing teams are now operating in every area of England and Wales–delivering a readily accessible and responsive service that is geared to the needs and priorities of local people.

The police have been joined by new partners in the common cause of making our streets and communities safer, better places to live–including youth offending teams, neighbourhood wardens and anti social behaviour coordinators.

We have made progress against crime and its causes by actively and tirelessly bringing together parents, schools, hospitals, local authorities, residents and the police to work together. And we know that when the economy is stable and people are more likely to be in a job, crime comes down. When the numbers getting drug treatment have doubled, crime comes down. And crime comes down through a tough approach to antisocial behaviour that says we are not going to put up with graffiti, abandoned cars and yobbish behaviour.

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The progress we have made should not obscure the serious challenges that remain. And that’s why a sharpened focus on violent crime is so important, where even a small number of serious offences can have a disproportionate effect on perceptions of crime. People hear news of a horrific attack, a stabbing or shooting, and it’s perfectly understandable that their first instinct is to feel anxiety and concern. It can be of scant comfort that such violent incidents are thankfully rare.

Violent offences inflict great harm on the victims, but they also cause much wider damage to a community’s confidence and self-respect. And tragic events–particularly those involving knives and guns–should always make us question whether we are doing all we can to tackle serious violent crime.

But to suggest that such incidents have made Britain a broken society is little more than a counsel of despair. That’s an argument that abandons communities at a time when they need support and action–and I don’t accept for one moment that there’s nothing we can do to defend our communities, protect young people, and come down hard on those who use violence or the threat of violence to get their way.

Last September, I set up the Tackling Gangs Action Programme to answer a very specific need in our country–the growing number of street gangs in Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Manchester. I wanted to focus attention on the problem, identify what we needed to do, and target expertise and resources to make sure that we took action to make a difference. And I did it with the strong conviction that we could bear down successfully on gun crime and gang violence–that we could take some of the heat out of the gang hotspots.

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We know that gun and gang crime is a localised problem. We know where, and to whom, it causes most harm. And on the evidence of our work over the past nine months, we know that we can beat it.

We have seen a big increase in police action to target gangs–leading to more than 200 arrests and the seizure of dozens of real firearms and literally thousands of realistic imitation firearms. And we have seen gun-related injuries fall by just over half in these four cities, to their lowest level for two years.

For all these efforts, for all the lessons that have been learned and are now being applied to tackle gang violence, we are now opening a further front in the fight against violent crime. Last month I announced [pounds sterling]2m of funding for concerted action to enable the police and other frontline agencies to intensify their activities in the ten hotspot areas where knife crime is causing the greatest harm.

We will take tough action on people who carry a knife, working with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to adopt the Met’s uncompromising approach to charging any adult caught with a knife. We will provide the police with more knife arches and search wands and encourage the use of targeted stop and search, particularly on public transport. And we will encourage the police and their partners to visit the homes of young people who have got into the knife -carrying habit, so that their parents know what is going on and what could happen to them.

At the same time we have launched a hard-hitting marketing campaign to challenge the peer pressure that can drive youngsters to knife crime. I don’t want young people carrying knives in the first place–and parents have an important role to play in talking to their kids about the dangers, to themselves and others, of carrying a knife.

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Serious violent crime casts a long shadow. And that can sometimes make it difficult to paint the picture of successful crime prevention–the robbery victim who never was because of the presence of a neighbourhood policing team; the home never burgled because a course of drug treatment was completed; the streets made safer once cleaned of graffiti.

These and other measures are at the heart of our strategy to ensure that every community benefits from robust action across the broad range of their concerns.

Neighbourhood police teams will play a key role in ensuring action is taken to relieve communities of the menace of antisocial behaviour. Everyone across the country now has a named policing contact in their community, with whom they can share their concerns and influence local priorities. And preventive action like parenting orders and acceptable behaviour contracts are proving powerful deterrents that help to nip the problem in the bud.

We know that half of all violent crime is alcohol-related and a significant proportion of acquisitive crime is related to drugs. So we are now expanding schemes to ensure the enforcement of the law on under-age sales and use of licensing powers. Licensing authorities have significantly increased fines and powers to revoke the licences of irresponsible premises. It is also why stronger powers have been brought in to seize the assets of drug dealers, so we can capture the spoils of their illicit and harmful activities. These enforcement drives will be complemented by education and treatment initiatives, including campaigns to address the culture of binge drinking among young people and a doubling of drug treatment work in the past year.

National priorities will still guide our overall direction, but it is a focus on local communities and dealing with their priorities and issues that is the thread connecting our renewed approach. Empowering local agencies and delivering crime information and greater accountability for policing into the hands of local people is key to boosting public confidence and changing the public’s perceptions of crime. From July, every citizen will have access to local crime information, and the new policing pledge we are introducing will mean that if you report a crime you can expect a visit from the police at a convenient time, that you can expect timely reports on progress and that if you are the victim of crime you can expect to be offered treatment and support.

While I am determined to sustain the reductions in crime we have seen over the past decade, there are clearly areas where more work is required. Some areas are better than others at understanding and tackling their local problems.

  • In Southampton, for example, depersonalised data sharing between hospital A&Es and local agencies means that interventions can be targeted at known violence hotspots. Vital information on crimes that might not get reported, such as domestic violence, can also be gathered thanks to the scheme. In Liverpool a coordinated approach to tackling alcohol-related violence has seen an increase of 30 per cent in the number of people who feel safe in the city in the evenings and a city-wide reduction in violent crime of more than a third.
  • Success stories like these need to be learnt from and replicated across the country. For its part, central government has listened to the police and local agencies asking for more control and flexibility to respond to local priorities–and so we have adopted a less topdown approach, with fewer targets on local agencies and simplified funding streams.

By continuing to work with communities–answering their needs, responding to their concerns, and engaging them in the fight against crime and antisocial behaviour, I believe that the record of the past decade shows that we can continue to make serious inroads into crime and people’s fear of crime. By ensuring that the police and their partners have the tools and the space to do their job, I am confident that we can meet and answer the challenges we face.

The Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP is the Home Secretary

Youth in revolt

FOR CANADIANS who are, Like me, under the age of 25, Stephen Harper has been prime minister for most of our adult lives.

Yes, I do recall Paul Martin at the helm, however briefly, and I remember jean Chretien, mainly from his lampooning on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

But for most young people, Stephen Harper is the emperor we know. I think this is one reason that youth are rising up across the land, with hundreds of thousands of students in Quebec taking to the streets this past year, joined by tens of thousands of young people from other provinces protesting a range of issues.

There are of course other factors: demographics, for example, and particularly a rise in the number of Aboriginal and immigrant/minority young people, who often have a very different perspective on what Canada is and should be. There’s also been an increase in child poverty.

And I’d argue that young people are increasingly well informed and well connected, through the social media, the anti-social media, and especially independent media. They are choosing where and how to receive their information, whether it be from tweets in Tehran or from sources like Canadian Dimension.

As a young Native man, I’ve witnessed a sense of indignation, even incredulity, when young people first become aware of the extent to which the traditional media and the educational system seemingly conspire to misinform us and keep us unenlightened about our own history. I’m still shocked at the lack of knowledge generally about Native people, but especially within many of our movements, although I think there has been considerable improvement on that front relative to the past.

Popular culture has also supported the political education of young people. Shows like the Daily Show and the Rick Mercer Report prove that politics can be handled in a serious way with humour and a sense of the absurd.

The American Dream has begun to unravel for many young Canadians. No longer can they believe that a university degree and an eager smile are the keys to finding meaningful employment. More and more are forced to live with their parents for extended periods and must work unstable jobs unrelated to their chosen fields of study, as the “rising tide” of the economy fails to lift all boats.

Add to this cauldron the effects of Stephen Harper’s brand of politics, and it becomes clearer just why youth resentment is beginning to boil over.

Many, but not all, young people harbour a healthy sense of distrust and skepticism towards the political system. Partisan politicking holds little appeal and prompts some of us to move outside the traditional political arena.

Of course, in Harperland difference and dissidence are tolerated less and less. We’ve seen a marked increase in surveillance of First Nations communities and immigrant communities, punitive campaigns against environmentalists and just about anyone who dares to stand up to the power of the PMO.

In face of the increasing intolerance of dissidence and the shutting down of democratic conduits–ineffective as they may be–we’ve also seen a steady escalation of tactics necessary to simply express divergent opinions. If the government continues to try and stifle debate by imposing anti-democratic measures like shutting down environmental assessment processes, the only recourse we will have left wilt be extraordinary politics and tactics.

Young activists have also begun the important groundwork of connecting the dots between issues and movements, while remaining focused on their own areas of particular concern. This builds networks of understanding, and also has the capacity to mobilize around issues of common concern, such as the austerity measures and anti-democracy elements hidden in the recent budget bills.

Some of this work owes a debt to the third-wave feminist movement, which has fought for the reconciliation of multiple identities and an understanding of the roots of different forms of oppressions. Feminism doesn’t have to be pitted against Aboriginal rights; there are opportunities to deal with both of these important issues. Multiplying our connections makes it clear that even though, as activists, we are fighting our own particular battles, they are all part of a wider defensive struggle against this government.

  • An important recent example is the Quebec student strike. What started out as a mobilization against a tuition hike turned into a full-blown student strike, which in turn became a mass mobilization against repressive laws, austerity measures and the much-derided Plan Nord, and included a sizeable anti-capitalist contingent.
  • The Occupy movement also offered lessons for expanding the movement. It brought into the streets regular folks, mostly young, disillusioned with the status quo, and wanting to express that even if they didn’t have an alternative of their own to advance.
  • But young people have a long way to go to bridge the divisions which typically plague social movements. We have to use every opportunity to make the connections between our issues and build relationships between our movements, our communities. Many young people are coming to realize that our seemingly disparate causes–tuition hikes, immigration, Indigenous rights, environmental justice–have common roots and systemic causes. Our responses have to be sufficient to the challenges we collectively face. This means holding constructive, if perhaps difficult, conversations that will allow us to work together more effectively, during and beyond the reign of Harper.

Depending on the pressure applied and on which other elements are present, carbon can either become oil or diamond. We need to demonstrate to the government that our resistance is solidifying.

ALL PHOTOS BY BEN POWLESS:

PREVIOUS PAGE March 4 Justice, from Victoria Island to Parliamant Hill, Ottawa, September 4,2012.

ABOVE, FROM LEFT: Montreal student protests, 2012 First Nations protest the expansion of the Tar Sands pipeline mega-project through indigenous territory in Smithers, BC, July 16, 2010.

FACING PAGE, FROM TOP: Families of Sisters in Spirit rally, Ottawa, October, 2012.

Anti-deportation protest, Ottawa, October 2, 2012.

Occupy Ottawa, 2011.

G8/Gzo Toxic TOUT, Toronto, 2010.

PHOTOS AND ARTICLE BY BEN POWLESS

Who’ll make it through iTV’s adolescence?

In 2002, as the iTV market moves from turbulent infancy to awkward adolescence, we could witness a possibly prolonged period of commercial disobedience on the part of the TV channels. They are rejecting the interactive infrastructure put in place by the platforms. Leading the resistance are those which the platforms would like to attract most: the channels, whose interaction with their audience is the strongest of all the commercial practitioners.

The digital platforms such as Sky and its cable rivals assumed the channels would clamour to use the interactive infrastructure they have spent so much time bolting on to their pay-TV systems.

Moreover, controlling access to the digital interface (API) and return path would enable platforms to extend their historic control over the channels’ ability to compete for audience and revenue, as was the case with EPG positioning and tiering.

The problem is that although digital interactive enhancements look fine, they don’t add enough value above low-cost, established and more readily available methods: analogue text and the telephone as the return path.

Of course, the new technology leaves analogue dead in the water when it comes to techniques like picture in text, choose-your-own video stream services and games.

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  • These genres are a long way from producing sustainable businesses, and the platform-owned shopping malls are too far away from the video stream ever to catch many customers. So, until the cost drops, iTV will continue to harden into two broad camps: tacticians and strategists.
  • The action is with the tacticians. This emerging crowd of canny, commercially exposed practitioner channels, chiefly in music, kids programming and home shopping, have realised that the value is in the proposition delivered via the video stream they control, not in the presentation of the interactive elements.

Besides, for selling anything more exciting than a pizza the legacy interactive technologies work better. So with all sources of income under pressure, interactive channels are unwilling to pay the build-inflated tolls for unnecessary digital enhancements.

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For the other side, the strategists, read companies for whom making money isn’t an immediate priority. Exceptions are a few established players like Discovery, perhaps trying to boost their public service credentials.

But the leaders of the digitally enhanced faction are the platforms, which are understandably obliged to demonstrate faith in the technology, and the BBC.

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The rest are the few brave, doomed start-ups locked into the digital Siberia that is the Sky interactive menu. But even the BBC is showing signs of wavering: the competition on its Sky Digital service over Christmas could only be entered by phone or email, not via the set-top box.

Peter van Gelder is a partner at iTV consultancy Informed Sources

Amy stead: corporate youngster is helping bring clean water to millions

Did you know your body can lose up to a liter of fluid per hour from cholera-related diarrhea? Few in the United States-apart from backpackers traipsing through cow country–face gut-busting waterborne germs. But globally, almost a billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Those same high-tech gadgets that detox backcountry lakes could help save millions of lives each year. That’s why Florida-based Sawyer Products works with nonprofits to distribute a version of its award-winning filter to communities in need. The Sawyer Saves program involves 300 organizations in 75 countries, and has helped more than two million people since 2008. Leading the charge? Amy Stead, one of the company’s youngest employees.

  • Sawyer’s president, Kurt Avery, credits Stead for the program’s fast ramp-up. “Her way with people and ability to see what needs to be done are off the charts,” he says. “She’s moved it years ahead.”

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  • Stead first met Avery via his daughter, when the two women were college basketball teammates. Stead’s persistent interest in Avery’s business landed the Washington-raised hiker an internship with the company, which she turned into a senior-year project for a business development class. She knew Sawyer wanted to distribute a version of its hollow-fiber membrane filter (adapted from kidney dialysis technology) for daily use in developing countries. The company was already sketching a kit to attach the filter–which has no moving parts, can last for decades, and is easy to clean in the field–to any plastic bucket, thus creating an easy-to-build, high-output, gravity-powered system. But the bucket kit didn’t exist yet, nor did the company have a plan for distributing it–until Stead wrote one.

When Stead graduated in 2008, Avery hired her to build a humanitarian program that would be financially sustainable for Sawyer in the long run. The first year, Stead made dozens of cold calls to charities working on clean water issues and set up demonstration booths at conferences for aid organizations, working to refine the kits’ design and distribution strategy. One of her first triumphs was brokering a partnership with Compassion International: A 2010 pilot program in Rwanda launched an ongoing collaboration that has sent kits to 111,000 of the charity’s sponsored kids, and continues to grow.

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Sawyer charges nonprofits anything from direct cost to 80 percent of the units’ $45 retail price. “People ask why we don’t just give away the filters outright,” Stead says. “But if we didn’t charge, we couldn’t distribute as many. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, we sent more than 100,000 filters, worth millions of dollars. That’s vastly more than we could have sent If we’d been giving them away without covering our direct costs.”

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Within the next year or two, Stead and Avery hope to set up a foundation to fund kit distribution without the business restrictions that bind the for-profit company. “If you think Amy’s done remarkable things now, stick around,” says Avery. “Watch what she’s going to do in the next 10 years.”