The article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. edition of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
We are about to enter a fascinating new period in the delivery of video content that will provide even more options for consumers.
Sixty years ago when television began entering nearly every home, the model was for a TV station or network to create content and push it to your TV for your entertainment. Your choice of what to watch on any given night was limited to a few stations. You were forced to watch what someone, most likely in Hollywood, had decided would entertain you. Most people watched the same shows as their neighbors, and if there was nothing on that they liked, they turned off their TVs.
This model lasted quite a long time until cable arrived. All of a sudden, it was possible to access hundreds of stations for a relatively small fee. In the quest for viewers, TV stations began to specialize, offering more and more stations to satisfy as many needs and interests as you could think of. Channels were now offering history, 24-hour news, 24-hour sports, courts of justice, movies, reality shows and more. The industry carved out as many special interests as it could to retain viewers.
Ultimately though, some entertainment industry executive was still deciding what content you would be allowed to access. The arrival of the Internet changed a lot of things, the most important of which was that each individual now had the power to seek out and choose the form of entertainment that interested him or her the most. In droves, people began to spend more time online than watching TV, because they can search for what they like on the Internet and view it whenever they like. The new norm is to come home and huddle around a laptop screen with your spouse and your kids and watch the latest video sensation on YouTube (News - Alert) or elsewhere (Gangnam style?).
Being someone who does this frequently, even though I have a 50-inch TV in the basement, I find it very liberating that I no longer need to follow someone else’s schedule to see something that interests me or my family. But I am still largely watching content produced by someone else. What if I could see content that I created myself? What if my family and I could create our own content and not necessarily share it with the world by uploading to the Internet, but share it privately in our own family TV network? What if I could create my own family content and seamlessly share it with my mother, who lives in Toledo, or my daughter, who is studying away at State College?
Right now we do this by taking family photos and maybe videos and sending them to one another using file sharing services like Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox (News - Alert), Picasa or Tumblr. We do this by actively and consciously picking up a phone or a camera and capturing content, then uploading it online; then we choose who we are going to share it with and invite them to view this video. This, of course, works very well when we have a phone or camera handy and we want to capture a specific event such as a birthday dinner, a party, rehearsing tricks with a dog, opening presents on Christmas morning, or snapping pictures of grandma when she comes over for dinner.
What currently isn’t possible is for me to see my elderly mother who lives far away and how she is doing on a regular basis. I can’t check into my house to see how my new puppy is behaving. Is he tearing up the new carpet or sleeping quietly in his crate? I also don’t know at exactly what time my kids are showing up at home unless I am there in person. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of things I would like to see about my daily life that currently are not available to me because I am not physically present when they happen.
That’s about to change. There’s a new type of consumer camera, called an IP camera, that is about to hit the stores. These are wireless cameras you install in your house that are permanently connected to the Internet. Pretty soon, you will be able to install these cameras at your home, small office, your mom’s place and your vacation property at an affordable price. Together with these cameras, you’ll be able to subscribe to an Internet-based service that will let you know what is happing in various locations whether you are present or not, essentially creating the ability for you to narrowcast video to the people and connected devices of your choosing.
Because the content that comes from these cameras can be sent automatically to the Internet, that content can also be sent to just about any connected device. So, for instance, you could securely see what is happening at your vacation home from your new smartphone or tablet. Your smart TV could tell you if someone is at the front door or even show you that your baby has just woken up in his crib upstairs. You’ll even be able to film your daughter’s soccer game and show it live on your smart TV to both your mother-in-law and your spouse back home.
Pretty soon, you will be able to know everything that is happening at all your properties, and you will be able to access all that content whenever you want. The new family TV network will not be controlled by someone you don’t know at a distant TV studio. It will be configured by you to fit your exact needs. Using intelligence that can reside online, your family TV network will have the ability to record content when you want it to, or not. All of this will be accessible to you and you alone, unless you decide to share with someone. Your content will even be protected from others in a secure location to assure full privacy. Narrowcasting will create a new type of self-generated content that will enable us to connect and share information on new private family TV networks. Perhaps your next favorite reality show will take place on the school soccer field, or even in your own home.
Charles Black is president and CEO at iWatchLife (www.iwatchlife.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi