Rumour is that Samsung are leading the push to replace the PC (Windows or Mac), pay TV STB, Blu-ray player, home security centre, home automation control, home network and all entertainment devices by developing a far greater range of capabilities into the smart TV. According to Boo-Keun, Samsung President “We are developing TV’s that have the power to create the ultimate lean back experience”.
Smart TV’s will evolve faster than any other computing segment as large screen TV’s are still a must have device and are the logical solution to the burgeoning home automation market.
Initial evidence of this is that even low cost “white-box” TV’s are sporting smart features because they are powered by the same embedded Linux/Java/Hbb TV and “system on a chip” as the brand names use. Soon the bar will be raised as the exact same electronics used in Tablets are utilised to power TV’s. Simple economies of scale (which is what the rumour about Apple making a TV panel is all about).
Easy and very low cost enhancements (already mooted for late 2013 models include):
• An integrated Ethernet Gigabit switch, Wi-FI (802.11AC or N) and WLAN (ADSL, Cable or Fibre) port to do away with a router. Cost of that chipset enhancement is a few dollars and as routers generally cost around $100 that improves the TV’s profit margin.
• A Blu-ray player (in the stand as panels get slimmer) would cost less than $20 and the video graphics and remote control is already there to handle playback.
• Smart TV’s can act as a PVR so add a 1TB+ hard disk or flash memory - $50
• Home automation is one of the next big things and Belkin is already developing WeMo motion detectors and switches that control any powered device via your smart phone. There is virtually no cost to turn the TV into a WeMo controller device and integrate that with email, social media and apps like “If this then that” determine what you want WeMo devices to do under different circumstances.
• Smart TV’s already have Bluetooth, RF, infrared and Wi-Fi capability so adding keyboards, mice or Kinect/Wii style controllers is virtually no cost. Gesture control and audience recognition can all be powered by existing chipsets.
• Web cameras already feature in some TV’s and make an excellent motion capture device so home security is the next focus using the Wi-Fi capabilities to communicate to sensors around the house.
• There is no cost (apart from storage i.e. PVR) to implement MP3 music or Torrent playback on the TV and adding better speakers to the stand is easy and cost effective.
• A little further down the track will be the ability to speak to your TV (AKA Sarah in the popular TV show Eureka). The cost of major processing power required is all that is holding AI and speech back at present or it would be further advanced than it is. This opens up the TV to become a personal assistant as well “Remind me to buy eggs”.
• Remotes will change to touch pad devices and incorporate Communications i.e. a Dect based phone handset that either uses a landline or VoIP or Skype. And as they are touch it obviates the need to make the TV screen itself into a touch device.
• Either Bluetooth or Near Field Communications or WiDi (already part of the immediate future) will automatically allow tablets and smart phones to use the screen when in range.
The only real issue and challenge is that there is only one screen (regardless of how big) and one set of speakers and all in one devices often fail to gain ground where bottlenecks like this occur – but fear not most of these issues are being addressed by a range of “slave” flat panel remote screens or BYOD devices like iPad/Phone to bring you TV and services wherever you are in the house.
So the TV will evolve and the real differentiator is how well a brand can seamlessly integrate all the functions. TV needs to evolve if it is to counter the trend to TV being viewed on tablets and other computing devices.
And it needs to evolve to generate new revenue streams for TV and electronics makers – there is no money in hardware.