Tuesday, May 27, 2008

DSN in the home – 5 Generation DSN idea?

The other day I was watching a movie where the main character has a large screen in her house for tracking an unknown killer. Through the screen she watches the killers video live and has other consoles for tracking the location and viewing other information. This scene set my thoughts thinking, until recently I have been involved in designing a very special Digital signage network that has been named outdu and is in the process of redefining the DSN media business.

The original idea of outdu is to consolidate all DSN networks to make a single internet based network of digital signs which would ensure that advertisers and content owners can access screens anywhere through a single management medium, outdu.

The design of outdu involves many business and technology innovations in scheduling, content transfer, retail response, in content ownership on screens, rights management, screen layout and playout management, managing conflict of interest, content publishing, control and finally specialized content roll out. The key theme in the design being the ability to manage diverse network interests in a single network medium.

As I watched this movie, I realized that the design of the outdu DSN network considered all sorts of networks from single screen to large networks and in commercial from retailer to enterprise to education networks , the common theme has been commercial screen networks. There were specific reasons in terms of monetizing the screens and generating revenue. Also that the idea being at a relatively nascent stage, it would need more push to sell to extreme applications. Some other elements in design which I am sure outdu will accomplish eventually include,

  1. blue-swarming / couponing using blue tooth to engage viewers in advertising and promotions
  2. Local context based information dissemination distribution, for e.g. 1 single advertisement but location specific dealer / contact details
  3. mobile location sensitive signage
  4. P2P signage messaging
  5. Flexible multi layer multi section playout and layout.
  6. flexible self optimized price discovery mechanism etc…

I have for the past few months not been involved with the outdu team though I have kept myself in touch with the progress of outdu and the industry and technology. Recently when I watched this movie and the memories of similar movies like the 6th day in addition to developments in technology that I have kept myself tagged onto, set my mind thinking.

What if the DSN entered the home?

The scenario today is that this does not make sense and that the contraints are justified. Some of the constraints include: the cost of DSN is very high to justify private retail deployment in contrast to the commercial deployment, the deployment is messy and complex therefore making it difficult to place it anywhere in the home, the content is not user centric, nor is the screen of any particular use to the household. What if this scenario changes? What if the design overcomes these problems and the technology environment gets suitable, can we build a Home DSN network?

To think on these lines, we need to breakdown the needs of the household and look at what the enablers are? Some key enablers I list below :

  1. The screen technology has to be interactive and non obstructive. OLED and touch screen techologies are becoming more of a reality and these requirements could be met. This will enable deploying screens ubiquitously in the household without any inconveniences.
  2. OLED enables screens to be flexible, size is not a constraint small to large screens, the screens is a thin veneer that can be embedded in many surfaces. This helps placing the screen in the home and outside easily. Cost is the constraint but size and area constraints are removed.
  3. So the technology is available to cater to the home market needs, flexible, embedded, size no matter, and touch screen for interactivitiy. What about the value to the household? The screen should mean something to the end user, like the iphone. If designed well, the screen can play multiple roles in the house hold like
    1. soft control center for all utilities like lighting, AC fans,
    2. Interactive information center , notice board for interested content and news for the family
    3. Productivity and planning device in terms of alerts, sticky – notes , which can be transferred to the mobile when needed.
    4. Security screen for the home linking up to cameras within the COMPLEX [ for apartment complexes, the homes can have access to some common cameras within the complex other than those around the home ]
    5. Service console for many house hold services like cleaning, maintenance , whitegoods, ….
    6. It could also double up for entertainment if designed well.
    7. Finally the deal maker for the family where the user picks her choice of product interests and any good deals are published on the screen for action, like

i. There is a furniture sale in this location on this Date, category , photos etc..

ii. Based on specific interests defined, the screen can also publish advertisements , feedback from customers

Points g.ii, g.i and the overall solution can form the revenue stream / model

The evolution of the Digital Signage has been

1. 1st generation :: offline screens with local players and content

2. 2nd generation :: Private networks of screens. These have either been networked with central control or managed manually through sneaker nets. These ,networks have typically been for private / local use

3. 3rd Generation :: like outdu, network aggregators where single network will span multiple diverse networks ownership and by content needs

4. 4th generation :: extended integrated networks with extensions like :: extension of space into networks, extension to interact with the capability to sense and response, extension into motility through moving local aware screens, extension into promotional action through couponing, extension into glocalization through multilayer content in whihc certain layers are localized.

5. 5th Generation :: public networks for private needs in the home and else where with personal management as described above.

These are the thoughts that makes me look at the market again, in outdu design the question was how many screens? We were looking at anywhere around a 1mn screens commercially deployed, additionally if we make this a cellular- mobile network then we could look at 100s of millions of screens. The day the screen reaches the home then we can confidently think of another 50 -100 Mn screens in a mature market scenario with a ball park of 25 – 50 Bn USD market potential from the home market.

It will be interesting to see who will occupy the space first.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Visited 2 places similar yet vastly different

Over the weekend I drove down to Chennai for a short 2 day visit some very interesting experiences worth mentioning in a blog. The purpose of the visit was to get my B1 visa for the USA and I set off on the journey with a lot of preparation both in documentation for the administrative process required by the consulate and mental preparation from our company admin team on how difficult the process is and the care needed to be taken in terms of the questions asked the answers to be given etc..

I drove down as flights are getting increasingly a nuisance of an option, getting to and out of the airport, airport waiting time delay in take off and landing and no freedom of movement once in Chennai. I also ruled out train or bus with the need to visit a temple on route to Chennai, this is a place that is rapidly gaining popularity for its 100% clad golden temple. This temple is located in sripuram, 7 km off vellore and is part of the narayani peetam founded by a swami who goes by the name “shakthi – Amma”

I started on a Sunday morning @ 7:00 hours and my drive was eventless until I passed vellore by around 10:00 hrs and I decided Id put a visit to the temple, on reaching the temple I saw a crowd as bad as tirupathi and decided that its better to come back on Monday on my return when crowds would be lesser than the weekend fare. Having lost 1 hour of time in the detour I proceeded again on to Chennai, The road as usual is great until one reaches the end of the toll road @ madura vayol about 10 km from proper Chennai, it’s a mess there on and normally its caravan like progress. Having reached my check in destination, Deccan plaza on royapettah high road [ off RK Salai] I quickly went of for an afternoon siesta. Deccan plaza is an interesting place for the vegetarian traveler, 100% vegetarian, decent rooms , decent price, not so good food! Though!. Evening having woken up I watched parts of both the IPL matches which were not captivating enough, I have missed out on most of this IPL season without cable connection in my new rented apartment. I have intentionally left out cable for some peaceful evenings without having to be glued to TV. The downside has been no IPL.

The next day was Visa day, the interview being 10:45, I was able to catch up with a friend over dosa @saravana [ the singular dosa option of Chennai!] and catch up on some samachar from his end. The interview began with sweltering heat of Chennai sun on the side walk , thankfully due to the scheduling mechanism, the crowd was minimal. After 15 min of pure sweating and a document check outside I was inside. The consulate has some rules, no electronic gadgets, [ cellphones cameras etc.. are all no no] , no sealed envelopes etc… The consulate would have loved having the Mahatma over for visa processing no paraphernalia! I also observed that the even the security guard was arrogantly offensive, knowing that he represents the US government and not INDIA! That shows how certain countries have gone about building their brands! Once inside the process was a breeze very unlike the heavy preparations we were asked to go through back @ the company. In about 5 mins and a cheerful exchange with the Visa officer I was off [ will remember this simple process in contrast to the complicated perception of it outside!] back to the sweltering hot reality of Chennai outside.

With the primary work of the visit done, I was back on my way to home town with a pending visit to sripuram temple, with some time saved, I also squeezed in a pit stop @ kanchipuram , its shankar mutt [ some Indian words are difficult and funny to transliterate! This specific word transforms into a school subject or something canine! when transliterated.] and temples. When I reached Kanchipuram @ 14:00 hours, a pit stop is all it it turned out to be as the temples were closed for the afternoon and would open only 16:00 hours. Filled petrol and with a 1 hour wasted detour was on my way to sripuram. Also bought a raw mango [ kilimooka manga] for lunch

In about an hour and a ½ I was entering the sripuram temple. As I was entering the temple I was told to drop off all cameras and cellphone and any other gadgets that I may have on myself. With this kind of security, no cellphones, etc… along with the typical no footwear, I realized the outwardly similarity to the Us consulate, there are vast differences though. The consulate is an entry for material pursuits in the USA the sripuram temple is to get rid of material pursuits / intentions atleast for a while.

What an amazing temple, the swami got a vision when he was about 12 years old and the legend goes that the goddess herself has taken possession of him at that early age and he has thereafter been able to realize a higher state of being and goes about doing some magical stuff for people around him and the locality. He has in any case built up a large organization called “ narayani peetam”. Narayani is the goddess formed from the combination of the trinity of goddesses Lakshmi Sarawati & Parvati. His latest projects is the Sripuram [ the temple complex is in the form of a 6 sided star with the main temple in the center ] temple built fully on gold and inaugurated last august [2007]. This temple was constructed to attract even the faithless [ on the pretext of the amazing] so that they can experience spirituality and be converted internally. The temple is a “gold” standard on how to build and run temples. Beautifully maintained lawns, a 1.5 km walk-through along the sri-chakra [ the six sided star] , with a collection of wise words from “shakthi –amma”.

The temple itself is a beautifully carved and clad in gold with a water moat around it. It is not bigger than any typical temple. The records have it that 1500 kg of gold have gone into the building of the temple. And is surely worth 1 visit. You could visit the online pages of the organization at www.narayanipeedam.org

With the temple visit done I was back on the fast track to Bangalore, this was a memorable week , with 2 similar places that I visited in terms of security with such differing purposes / outcomes.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Twenty Twenty is for FORTY FORTY!

there has been a lot of comment that t20 is a format for young people and not for the old, a lot of the criticism recently being piled on Royal Challengers fortune being linked to old guys in form of chanderpaul, Kallis Dravid and co...

I beg to differ, actually my hypothesis is that t20 is for older people who have the right mindset for the game, therefore the key is mindset and not age, in contrast for age, actually test and oneday is more for youngsters.

here goes the argument

1. in IPL T20 a lot of crickers performing at the top end of the spectrum like warne mc grath jaya suriya, ganguly in flashes, gilly, zaheer khan, sehwag, shoaib, hussey, and tendulkar in the future [ hasnt showed his class yet!] are all no diaper babies in cricket most of them well past 30 , are uncles, and some reaching grandpa status of 40! like jayasuriya . in his 42 ball 100 i dint see a glint of his age? nor do we in mcgraths

2. Actually if we see the trend with money flowing in a lot of the old guys are happily giving up their international cricket for t20 in ICL also there a lot of these old foggies who are trading their wares @ world class levels.

3. the reason is simple we need to look at ourselves and get some ansers, i am 33 below fitness cricket freak in a corpor environment, can i play 20-20 game, 50-50 1 day or a 5 day test? well at the business end of a 5 day test will the be the end of business a certain vishwanath! we all prefer t20. Corpo cricket for a long time has been t20, think about it 4 overs to bowl a few fields ops in the out boundary and a couple of swings is what makes a T20 evening out. Even the bowling does not need brash energy like ishant, rather some guile and keeping the batsmen guessing works better, so if you bowl ud rather jog down observe the batsmen and keep him guessing than run in like a bull on rampage! look @ balaji his innocuous bowling has been decently effective so has warne too!

4. in contrasts 10 overs or 100 overs in steaming sun or even further bowling ~ 60 overs across 5 days or btting to a 300 the runs in 1s and 2s is harassment is human rights violations, once one is above 30+

5. So what makes it into t20, hit the ball attitude, good reflex [ this is one thing against the uncles!] guileful bowling and enjoying the game is all that is required

so long live the old uncles , i think Jayasuriya can play IPL for 6 more years and entertain crowds like never before, because guys like him have the talent, proven it and can now extend their careers by another 4-5 years easily unlike the past where they would have had to retire when 35 -37 max.

I end with the argument that royal challengers royal challenge is to get up forget the classic style legacy cricket aka dravid and kallis [ i admire this guy even recently in a paki series he made a few centuries tests albeit!] and just go for some unrestrained hitting and some fun..