System for Advanced Interactive Digital Television and Mobile Services in Brazil
For meeting its objectives, the SAMBA project will proceed in two directions: firstly developing an open platform to allow the creation of enriched Community Access iDTV Channel services; secondly developing an end users low-cost solution for set-top-box (STB) and interaction return channel.
A complete solution for creation and delivery of iDTV based services is provided:
- From content and services production point of view, SAMBA will enable the creation of a Community Access iDTV Channels, proposing a framework for the development of iDTV interactive applications that are cross-compatible between DVB-T MHP and DVB-H.
- From the end user point of view, SAMBA will take in account both usability issues, connected to the use of new technologies from non technology prone users, and low cost requirements, for meeting the needs of the low-income classes. For meeting this last requirement, SAMBA will study the use of PLC based network as return channel of low cost set-top-boxes.
- Due to the dynamic characteristics of the mobile and mobile iDTV market, the compatibility and integration of the system with mobile iDTV will be considered.
If digital TV technology is a reality in European countries, it is not yet so in Latin America. Specifically, 90% of Brazilian people have TV in their homes, but only 20% use computers and Internet, thus bringing interactivity to TV is an excellent way to promote digital and social inclusion. Interactive Digital Television (iDTV) presents an ideal way for bridging the Digital Divide not only in Latin America but also all over the world. This is especially true for developing countries such as Brazil where low income population does not have access to technology due to its high cost and required expertise.
During the execution of a big project in 2005, several institutions and companies grouped in different consortiums have been involved in the development of end-users applications and services, middleware and hardware for iDTV (as set-top-box, remote control, etc). However, despite several technological progress in several areas, some difficulties were observed: there are no open standards to reuse and to bring competitiveness to their iDTV products; broadcasters believe that a Brazilian solution will entail serious interoperability problems; solutions have to consider technical restrictions concerning hardware and transmission aspects because the new iDTV hardware should be made available in Brazilian homes at an accessible price in order to be accepted by the majority of the population, especially for people less privileged, who do not have access to computers nor to the Internet.
Solving all these problems is not easy. Instead of starting from scratch, the best alternative is to adapt the solutions already deployed in the EU to Latin America characteristics. Brazil has cultural peculiarities and social-economic constraints which deserve to be investigated in order to validate any technical solution. In addition, some other countries in Latin America, such as Chile, Argentine, and Paraguay, stated they are waiting for the decision from Brazil about what iDTV standard to adopt because they are aware of Brazilian efforts in iDTV research.
One of the objectives of SAMBA is to develop a tool that helps overcoming the limits found by local communities in accessing to digital technologies both for the creation and delivery of interactive information and multimedia content to their own members. The platform that will be developed by SAMBA will allow the development of innovative interactive applications focused on social local communities: services, locally created, could range from purely informative to interactive, including applications with a strong social focus, such as eLearning, eHealth, eGovernment.
We think that SAMBA project will contribute to the development of digital terrestrial TV services both in the target country (Brazil) and in Europe, since its into account specificities of different contexts creating a framework adaptable to regions with different characteristics (e.g. European countries)
Role of FOKUS
Fraunhofer FOKUS main role is the development of MHP Java based applications/plug-ins for the community access channel system.
The SAMBA idea is to have content produced once in the Content Management system and then being able to replicate it via different channels, MHP/JAVA/DVB-HTML and DVB-H/microbrowser.
However due to the increasing relevance of the mobile environment, DVB-H and mobile content rendering was included as a part of the activities. This will be done using advanced techniques such as IP Datacasting in DVB-H (IPDC).
Special attention will be given to hiding the complexities of setting up network connections between devices to users. Cumbersome network settings can possibly be dealt with in the computer world, but certainly not in the consumer electronics world.
While the main focus of the work will be on HTML based content, and the Content Creation Factory will primarily be targeted on creating content of this type, such content is best suited for information that is presented in a static manner. Although some dynamic behaviour can be obtained by using scripting functionality (e.g. ECMAScript for DVB-HTML), such code is difficult to transcode for other platforms.
There are, however, a number of applications, common on various platforms, which present content in a dynamic manner. Such applications range from simple text scrollers and multiple choices quiz applications to animated overlays on maps and shopping applications. While some of these applications can be handled in HTML based form, they are more attractive to end users if they provide dynamic feedback.
A common feature of these applications is, that they use mostly static content which can be provided by the CMS and used on various end devices, provided that appropriate presentation modules are available.
SAMBA project will identify modules for typical presentation scenarios, define a content presentation format (likely to be XML based) and implement appropriate ‘plug-ins’ for the end-devices, (similar to the browser for the HTML based content) to allow presentation on these devices.
The Content Creation Factory needs to be able to handle creation tools for such applications (e.g. a quiz editor or a shop builder) and to store the created content and the ‘plug-ins’ to present the content in the CMS.
A third class of applications are those that are too specific to be turned into generic plug-ins, such as games. While they will not be developed within SAMBA project and cannot be provided by the Content Creation Factory, the CMS needs to be able to handle and distribute such applications.
Thus, the Content Management System (CMS) needs to be able to handle three different types of content:
- HTML-based content
- Dynamic content with pre-provided presentation modules
- 3rd party applications
User Identification will be important for certain type of community content, t-commerce and personalisation. Easy identity management is especially true for shared devices as a set-top-box, since they are usually shared within one family. In this context the mobile phone can act as an Electronic ID Card that clearly identifies the user. The mobile phone clearly identifies the user and allows for example the transactions to be completed or personalisation based on user profile.
FOKUS will also contribute to the definition framework and common language and representation of data and applications templates, which includes the definition/selection of open data formats and scripting language.