Anyone interested in IT must have heard the term ICBM (IoT∙Cloud∙Big Data∙Mobile), which is considered a keyword that will bring a new wave to the market. Today we will have a look at cloud TV, one of the fields applying cloud technology.
What we used to commonly mention when talking about cloud before were IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), SaaS (Software as a Service), and Daas (Desktop as a Service).
In the media field, cloud TV focuses on terminals (including set-top boxes). To help you understand how it can be applied, I’d like to briefly introduce the system for paid broadcasting services and set-top boxes.
When you sign up for a broadcasting service provided by IPTV or cable from communication companies or satellite broadcasting services, an engineer visits your home to install a set-top box. Paid broadcasting companies send their data through their network (IP network, cable network, or satellite), and the set-top box interprets it to display it on your TV screen.
Although consumers don’t really notice it, one problem that many paid broadcasting companies have involves this set-top box.
The paid broadcasting market these days holds multiple risk factors. One of them is the transmission fee for home shopping channels, which used to be a source of fast profit. This income has been gradually decreasing since the beginning of the mobile age. Terrestrial channels suffering from low profits are also increasing rerun and content fees for paid broadcasting channels, making it even harder for them to survive.
Although it was only paid broadcasting businesses that were competing with each other in the past, OTT (Over The Top) services are also threatening these days with their expanding territory. Netflix (with 75 million users) has entered over 190 countries around the world, and is now investing over 1.7 billion dollars every year to create their own content. This means Netflix may threaten paid broadcasting businesses in Korea in the near future.
Paid broadcasting companies are working in two different ways to overcome these threats. First, they’re trying to reduce cost. Reducing cost not only improves their profit, but also helps them provide services with more competitive rate. Second is to discover new services to create profit. They are trying to expand their services through convergence with social commerce, smart homes, rental, and advertisement.
One of the things dragging down this move, however, is the set-top box. In order for them to implement these converged services, they need to keep upgrading set-top box performance, and that means they need to increase their investments.
Improving screen resolution is another reason for them to come up with new types of set-top boxes. Now most paid broadcasting companies own four to five, and sometimes up to ten different kinds of box.
The problem here is that applying new services to all set-top boxes is almost impossible, as each kind of set-top box has different levels of hardware performance (CPU performance, memory, etc.), middleware (OS), and other related capabilities. Even if they actually try to apply new services to all of them, it will cost too much since the services have to be developed, tested, and distributed for each type of set-top box and their middleware.
This is why they are stuck in a situation where they can neither reduce costs, nor provide new services to all consumers.
The current service development environment of paid broadcasting businesses can be defined as ‘a set-top box dependent service development structure’, In other words, resources that run data processing for paid broadcasting mostly come from set-top boxes. Some set-top boxes can run certain services but others can’t, because their performance levels differ.
For example, your smartphone can install and run some applications after downloading them using the data service, but sometimes it doesn’t allow certain applications due to low performance or the version of OS you have.
One way to solve this problem is by utilizing cloud technology. This is possible by making the process run on the resources from servers instead of the resources from a set-top box. According to this new model, the cloud server implements the service and sends it to set-top boxes in the form of compressed files. The box can then screen the file using a receiver app. The receiver here basically works like your web browser does.
The service can be run as long as the terminal has a receiver app installed. It is just like being able to access the same website and use the services the website provides, as long as it has the required browser for the device such as a PC with Windows or Linux, or a smartphone with an Android operating system.
Once this change is made, the company doesn’t have to introduce a high-performance set-top box, and in turn, saves the investment costs for set-top boxes.
The only thing to be created is a Server UI or service when developing a new service, as it can be run on any set-top box. This reduces development time and expenses.
Currently, some paid broadcasting companies in U.S. and European markets have introduced cloud TV solutions. Cable TV companies in Korea such as CJ Hello Vision and CNM, as well as communication companies like SK Broadband and KT have either partially applied or are currently introducing the cloud TV solution.
Cable TV company CMB’s project is also underway to apply the full UI based on the LG CNS Cloud TV solution for the first time in Korea.
I believe that most of the paid broadcasting and OTT services will be implemented based on cloud TV solutions in the near future. Although most consumers don’t know it, cloud and virtualization technologies are being used for various services we use.
The network field is also going through the change beyond Pilot and R&D. Network virtualization technologies such as SDN (Software Defined Network) and NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) are expanding their territory, and expected to create synergy when they meet cloud TV.
I look forward to seeing more convenient and diverse forms of broadcasting utilizing cloud TV.
Written by Young-Ju Kim, LG CNS Blogger
 IaaS means using ICT resources such as a server, storage, and software through the internet as a service, instead of purchasing them. Computing service utilizing CPU and memory with virtualization technology, storage service which stores and manages data, and communication network service among distributed application software are becoming more common in the realm of cloud computing, and the users are charged for the amount of resources they actually use through the services (Naver encyclopedia) [back to the article]
 PaaS is a type of service expanding the notion of SaaS to platforms, through which users can rent necessary development tools on the web without building the development platform. (Wikipedia) [back to the article]
 SaaS is a type of software on which users can get access to certain functions that are actually needed, implying a fundamental change in software distribution. The company provides software services to multiple users on a single platform, and users pay per use. The biggest difference between SaaS and the traditional software business model is whether users own the product. According to the traditional model, users have ownership of the product as software for enterprises saved on the client companies’ own servers. SaaS, on the other hand, follows more of a rental service model through which they sell software services instead of software as a product to be bought. This reduces the cost dramatically not only because the users don’t need to buy the product, but also because they can save the cost for infrastructure investment and management expenses through the pay-per-use system. (Naver encyclopedia) [back to the article]
 DaaS means renting desktop computers as a service. (Naver encyclopedia) [back to the article]
 OTT means services that provide video content such as broadcasting programs and movies in the open internet environment. These services usually compete against cable companies with their cheap rates. Most well-known companies are Netflix and Hulu. [back to the article]