Simon Forrest is Imagination’s Senior Marketing Manager for the Connected Home. We’ve asked him to give you a brief highlight of the 2012 editions of IFA and IBC, two events which act as the barometer for how the Connected Home and Digital TV segments are developing.

IFA and IBC have shown the industry is evolving

Both shows retained a healthy focus on improving existing products and ensuring some return on investment in the technologies developed over previous years. In the digital TV space, companies are currently emphasizing picture clarity and colour vibrancy of both LCD and OLED panels, as seen from most of the large screen HDTV models on show. It’s clear that manufacturers will soon leverage and combine these TV technologies for mainstream 4K production.

IFA and IBC: the Panasonic aquarium

Panasonic’s aquarium enabled DLNA sharing games on the display wall

 

IFA and IBC: Samsung OLED TV

Samsung 55-inch OLED TV with an ultra-slim display

We are pleased to report that many of the features Imagination has been promoting in the TV space are now being implemented in soon to be launched consumer products. For example, TVs and set top boxes will soon incorporate algorithms to improve the clarity of Internet-sourced multimedia. Essentially this works by processing the video to remove digital compression noise and optimizing the brightness in underexposed areas of the image. It’s a great example of combining VPU algorithms with GPU compute to significantly enhance low-quality source material.

IFA and IBC: Online content post-processing

Improved Internet content

The engineering teams at Imagination have been working hard to make SoC integration for the PowerVR graphics and video technologies a straightforward process. Developers can write pre- and post-processing algorithms using standard APIs such as OpenCL which allow them to take advantage of the heterogeneous processing resources of a modern TV SoC.

4K is everywhere

High resolution screen technology was the main message at IFA 2012. And the combination of 3D technology with 4K makes sense as TVs can then provide full resolution HDTV frames for S3D content.  More interestingly S3D technology is being used to enable simultaneous viewing of two different content streams on a single screen: a great application of the technology for gaming enthusiasts. As far as size goes, with 4K you can put together some really impressive displays although most of the companies settled for the 60 to 80 inch range. Here are the ones that stood out:

 

IFA and IBC: LG 84-inch 4K 3DTV

LG 84-inch 4K 3DTV

IFA and IBC: Samsung 70-inch Ultra HD

  Samsung 70-inch 4K display

IFA and IBC: Sony KDL-84X9000 4K TV

  Sony Bravia 84-inch 4K TV

Imagination is an early adopter of 4K. The PowerVR Series3 video IP family was designed to support Ultra HD resolutions while the new PowerVR D4500MP decoder and E4500MP encoder increase the performance for transcoding of full HD 1080P video applications, which enables realistic super high definition quality, multi-stream HD channel browsing, high frame rate support for detailed slow motion footage of sports events and other content.

 

IFA and IBC: Intel booth displaying platforms based on PowerVR graphics

Imagination PowerVR graphics on Intel’s stand at IBC

The new cores also offer class-leading performance for Ultra HD 4K video, a core-technology for future video applications, providing four times the volume of visual information as an HDTV as well as and ‘wall of information’ surface applications which combine TV with apps, social media and channel browsing.  And of course Imagination’s GPU cores are all ready for 4K, as tablets and TVs push resolutions beyond HDTV.  All our IP platforms are designed to be easily integrated into a wide range of SoCs. They are system latency tolerant, with low memory bandwidth loading and excellent power management.

Set top boxes

Operators are showing interest in gaming on STB platforms while Android-based STB solutions continue to gain traction in IPTV and media client products. The concept of OS visualization is becoming more important because PayTV operators and middleware vendors want their platforms to support only the relevant (and most importantly, secure) parts of the Android ecosystem. So being able to run standard PayTV middleware alongside Android enables the best of both worlds: a closed platform for digital PayTV with an open ecosystem that enables download of applications and swift integration of over-the-top TV services.

Prototype demo illustrates Android-based gaming on the main screen whilst the PayTV system continues running in the window

Also noteworthy were some superb UI demos from companies who are now leveraging the graphics performance in set top boxes to great effect in their TV UI. They make heavy use of transition effects to move seamlessly between elements without “hard switches” between UI screens; it is all done with fades and animation, something that our PowerVR 3D graphics cores are very capable of doing. They also employ video thumbnails throughout, showing alternate programmes on different TV channels.

 IFA and IBC: Amino STB

Amino CE5300-based STB with PowerVR graphics

Making the most of the PowerVR IP compute resources in SoC architecture designed for TV platforms is clearly something that is very relevant moving forward. As UIs become more complex, developers are able to implement the advanced functionality which can be seen below.

This example shows a demonstration from iFeelSmart, a UI company who are harnessing the potential of PowerVR SGX545

Gesture and voice recognition are becoming ubiquitous features in smart TV; even the Tier 2 and Tier 3 TV manufacturers are building in the technology, so naturally using GPU compute for such advanced features on TV platforms becomes an exciting area with countless possibilities.

Connected home

At IFA we were treated to an array of connected washing machines, ovens, air-conditioning units and refrigerators, all employing wireless technologies to communicate with the home router.

One could find ovens that can be programmed to switch on at certain times and suggest a selection of meals that can be prepared based on what is in the refrigerator, washing-machines which remind you when the laundry cycle is complete and air-conditioners that can be set to an appropriate temperature from your smartphone. And of course it’s all monitored and controlled from your smart TV.

 IFA and IBC: Connected home

Samsung 8600 series smart refrigerator

There are a number of connected home initiatives that introduce various smart functions for home networks. These include automatic heating management and control, the “All Power Off” function which disconnects all load devices from the power supply at the press of a button, the remote control washing machine with energy-saving functions along with security and applications from the healthcare sector. All connected devices can be controlled from a tablet, smartphone, connected TV; alternatively there are touch remote controls for consumers that are just beginning to install the technology and who may not possess the other devices.

IFA and IBC: Connected home

 Qivicon smart home technology

Meanwhile there are alliances being built around the connected home to ensure device interoperability.  For example, QIVICON is enjoying reasonable success, initially in Germany: the current partner network is expanding and now includes EnBW, EON, Miele, eQ-3, digitalSTROM, RocketHome, Kaasa Home Automation and Tado. QIVICON is built upon common standards for home gateways, so it will be easy to build in the technology and benefits the consumer by allowing them to quickly connect disparate devices.

IFA and IBC: Philips tablet remote

 “MyRemote” iPad application for Philips Smart TV

Other interesting technologies

WiDi (wireless display) technology continues to gain credence, although it’s still early in its introduction and wasn’t presented as a major new disruptive technology. Wireless display was demonstrated on several stands including those of the major TV manufacturers, Samsung and Vestel.

IFA and IBC: WiDi

 Intel WiDi (wireless display) technology on Vestel TV

V.VoIP technology is rapidly becoming a standard feature of smart TV – it’s just another “app” – although embedded camera technology is still not ubiquitous. Combine that with our HelloSoft technologies and you can turn any smart TV or set top box into a social communication device able to handle advanced features such as call hand-off, echo cancellation or social networks integration. For example, one could start the conversation on his smartphone or device and then change it seamlessly to his smart TV or STB to save power.

Finally, the “multi-view” feature was another favourite technology presented on TVs, allowing two people to watch different channels simultaneously on the same screen, each using their own set of 3D glasses with integrated headphones. This is interesting as it heralds a return to dual-tuner TVs, with a requirement to demodulate and decode two broadcast streams simultaneously. This type of feature first appeared at CES this year: LG called it Dual Play for gaming, and it’s also now included in Sony’s 3D TV branded as SimulView.

IFA and IBC: SimulView

“SimulView” – shared screen gaming on Sony PS3

IFA and IBC: 3D Simulview

“SimulView” – shared screen gaming on Sony PS3

Enjoyed our coverage of IFA and IBC? Drop us a comment if there’s something we’ve missed and follow us on Twitter for more news and live reports from shows across the world. We also have a dedicated event page to tell you where we’ll be at next.

About the author: Simon Forrest

Profile photo of Simon

Simon Forrest is Director of Segment Marketing for Imagination Technologies, responsible for promoting the company’s class-leading graphics, display and communications IP and establishing partnerships with OEMs, service operators and companies operating within the home consumer electronics sector. A graduate in Computer Science from the University of York, Simon possesses over 20 years’ experience in broadcast and broadband technologies and is author of several patents. Prior to joining Imagination, Simon held senior technical management positions within Pace plc.

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