Cisco at CES: Videoscape + NDS = Unity

At CES 2013, Cisco's demonstration of Videoscape Unity gave us a glimpse of the future of internet-connected TV.

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Late last year, Cisco unveiled its "Internet of Everything" vision, complete with TV commercials and a whole bunch of marketing activity. The vision of “IoE” is simple. When you live in a world where everything is connected, it significantly changes the way we “work, live, learn and play” (to quote Chambers). The transition to the Internet of Everything will be the biggest change we’ve seen in our lives. We just need to have the imagination to think of all the possibilities. This week at CES, I think Cisco gave us a small glimpse of the future of TV in a connected world.

Two years ago, Cisco launched its Videoscape offerings aimed at giving cable operators and service providers the opportunity to sell differentiated video services. Last year, Cisco acquired NDS, which was intended to bolster the Videoscape strategy. At CES 2013, Cisco unveiled its newest video service, Videoscape Unity.

Unity takes the vision of Videoscape and combines it with the control of the NDS software and enables an integrated, social, shared TV experience between users, TV, other video devices and the people in the user’s social network. Unity is based on an open software platform that delivers synchronized, personalized TV content to multiple screens, which includes, but it not limited to, the TV (obviously), tablets, mobile phones and PCs.

Additionally, Unity has social media integrated into the experience. In theory, one could be watching an NFL preseason game, participating in a fantasy football draft, having a video chat call with a buddy that’s a part owner of the team, and heckling everyone else through chat, all at the same time. Additionally, the integrated cloud-based DVR enables the person to pause the TV and then pick it up on any device.

The company also gave us a glimpse of a future in which the Unity interface can be projected onto a huge wall-sized screen that’s made up of multiple images (or just one big image). Cisco demonstrated that, during a basketball game, a consumer could pull up stats of a current player by tapping on the player and then use social media to follow or communicate with friends.

Lastly, Unity allows service providers to personalize the TV experience. Content providers will be able to suggest shows, on-demand content, relevant news or anything else based on preferences and historical behavior.

The Unity service won’t be sold directly by Cisco, but instead is meant for cable providers like Cox and Comcast to create differentiated services and for content providers like the Major League Baseball and media companies to package content in new ways.

Videoscape Unity is a great example of how things can change when everything is connected. There are lots of network-enabled things in our lives. Now we just need to connect them together.

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