Netflix Previews Family Profiles, Shows Off Super HD and 3D streaming at CES 2013

The current leader in subscription video streaming is Netflix, and today at its Las Vegas hotel suite we saw some of the technology it’s planning to stay a step ahead of the competition this year.

First up was one of the most widely requested features — the ability to set up individual profiles for different family members, complete with their own queues and recommendations. The profiles can be set up on device or on the Netflix site, with toggles for a preference to its Just for Kids menu UI, as well as asking a bit about your preferred movies to seed initial recommendations. We also got an eyeful of the new “Super HD” 1080p streaming, and although network issues kept us from getting a true gauge of the quality, we did confirm that the new max bitrates are well above the old “X-High” standards.

Another thing we confirmed? That Cablevision and Google Fiber aren’t the only US ISPs on its Open Connect list — check the site to see if yours is.

Netflix was even showing off 3D streaming, and although we weren’t able to confirm the type of compression being used (top/bottom, side by side or something else) we did watch it and it was mostly clear with only a few hints of ghosting. There are apparently several dozen 3D titles available to start, although customer reaction may dictate when/if more are added. The second screen experience we’ve seen on the PS3 was also shown working with Samsung TVs, in much the same manner. One thing that could make it better however, is the DIAL multiscreen initiative it’s pushing with YouTube. If picked up as a standard, it would let you automatically launch these streaming services on a mobile device, and make them start playing on compatible TVs without having to launch the app on the TV first.

Not enough good news? Netflix also announced a launch date for another original series, Hemlock Grove, which hits April 19th (trailer after the break), and dropped the news that we’ll be getting 14 new eps of Arrested Development in May. We expect to hear a bit more about all of that later in 2013, but if you want a preview of the features we saw then just check out the gallery.

Full press release and hands-on photos in source link.

Source: Engadget

FCC Plans to Free Up More Spectrum in Effort to Relieve Congested Wi-Fi Networks

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a plan to free up more spectrum in the 5GHz range for Wi-Fi purposes. Speaking at an event in Las Vegas today, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that the freed spectrum will relieve the congestion and “traffic jam” that currently constricts Wi-Fi networks today. The extra spectrum is currently used by the Department of Defense, and will be shared with government purposes should the proposal be approved. Genachowski did not say how much spectrum the proposal would allocate for Wi-Fi networks, but he did note that it would be a substantial amount. The FCC is due to review the proposal next month.

Source: The Verge

Why 2013 Is RIM’s BlackBerry Year

The iPhone isn’t that great and the Android OS is woefully insecure. Come Jan. 30, if mobile users take a hard look at their devices and then look at the new BlackBerry 10, RIM could be in for a windfall.

CIO – As we look ahead to 2013, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the new year provides an unprecedented opportunity for Research in Motion to make a huge comeback.

This is largely because the market is dominated by two platforms: Android, which is seen as an unsecure malware magnet, and iOS, which comes from a firm that has never learned to spell “IT.” In fact, Apple’s biggest failures were Lisa and the Apple Server, both created on Steve Jobs’ watch (Lisa was even his product, initially) and both targeted at the IT market.

While phones and tablets are largely a consumer play, they are increasingly being used for business. Even in a BYOD world, IT still has a great deal of say about the hardware connected to its networks and services. As we start 2013, and as RIM brings out its next-generation products, the company will stand alone as the only mobile solutions provider focused on IT first and the needs of users later.

RIM will still need corporate and consumer users, but given the threats the company faces, this differentiator could drive the back into market. Let’s look at a few other reasons why.

Apple’s Flaws: Siri, iCloud Disappoint

Siri represents an Emperor’s New Clothes issue that is cropping up around the iProducts. Siri, a voice command application that Apple has heavily marketed, really doesn’t work well. During Steve Jobs’ tenure, the company was able to create this image that, if a user had problems with the offering, then it was uniquely the user’s issue, but Tim Cook hasn’t been able to contain the customers talking among themselves and discovering that their problems are in fact common.

Apple’s success is partially due to the fact that users have largely ignored the problems with their products, while Apple has been incredibly effective in making those products seem trivial. However, MobileMe was terrible , and iCloud is marginally better. Both were critical to strong integration with Microsoft Exchange—which is a typical user requirement when tied to phone use for work.

If Apple users start looking at the faults in their devices—particularly in areas such as mail integration, where RIM is strong—the stage is set for a strong backlash favoring RIM.

Android’s Flaws: Security, Poor Mail Support

Google recently pulled Exchange support from its mail platform as a free offering. Android lives in the world of free, and even though Google Play is second only to the Apple App Store in terms of the number of apps, app developers have long complained that they can’t make money from a customer base that will accept only free stuff. Into this tension Google now pushes Exchange support—for a fee.

On top of this, the device market is highly fragmented, which makes the operating system hard to secure and explains why Android is a malware magnet. A few months ago, for example, McAfee attacked an Android phone, causing it to cycle until it overheated and failed catastrophically. The mere idea that a phone might catch fire in a plane or office, should it be widely believed, would crater Android sales.

RIM, like Apple and Microsoft, operates in a way that promotes apps that people buy and focuses on making products secure. As a result, BlackBerry devices are likely to be favored by those abandoning Android.

Enter BlackBerry 10 to Save the Day?

I’ve had some time to talk to RIM about its upcoming platform, and it appears to address each one of these shortcomings with a vengeance. BlackBerry 10 is based on an OS that is used to operate machinery. RIM started with a business oriented core and then addressed consumer needs—as opposed to the more common approach of putting a business façade over a device that was targeted first at consumers.

If the market spits up Apple and Android devices for their inability to meet business user needs, RIM stands alone—or will, on Jan. 30, 2013 and the days that follow the BlackBerry 10 launch—as the company ready to embrace them. This is an unprecedented opportunity. As a result, 2013 could be an amazing year for RIM.

Rob Enderle is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. Previously, he was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group. Prior to that he worked for IBM and held positions in Internal Audit, Competitive Analysis, Marketing, Finance and Security. Currently, Enderle writes on emerging technology, security and Linux for a variety of publications and appears on national news TV shows that include CNBC, FOX, Bloomberg and NPR.

Source: CIO.com

FCC IT Healthcare Fund to Boost Broadband Connections

The Healthcare Connect Fund advances the FCC’s pilot work on broadband and health services with a particular focus on leveraging high-speed connectivity to widen telemedicine networks and boost access to specialists for patients who don’t live near major hospital centers.

The FCC promises that the new fund “will allow thousands of new providers across the country to share in the benefits of connectivity and dramatically cut costs for both hospitals and the Universal Service Fund,” the agency’s omnibus telecom subsidy program.

The agency will begin accepting applications for the fund in late summer.

The Healthcare Connect Fund comes as the latest step in the FCC’s ongoing work in the area of healthcare technology. Just last month, around the same time that it approved the order authorizing the new fund, the FCC began the hiring search for the new position of director of healthcare initiatives.

The FCC says that the new healthcare director will coordinate the FCC’s varied efforts to harness technology to improve care and drive down costs, overseeing the availability of wireless medical devices and working with hospitals and other medical facilities to ensure that they have sufficient broadband connectivity.

The director will also spearhead the FCC’s outreach on healthcare issues with members of the medical and telecommunication industries, as well as the relevant government agencies involved with healthcare technology. Additionally, the individual will work with in-house FCC experts to address a host of technical issues like harnessing spectrum to enable remote testing through the use of wireless devices, and oversee the development of the new Healthcare Connect Fund.

An outgrowth of the FCC’s Rural Healthcare pilot program launched in 2006, the Healthcare Connect Fund aims to simplify the eligibility requirements to ensure that hospitals serving patients in rural areas can secure funding to upgrade their bandwidth to support modern telemedicine applications.

Additionally, by restructuring the terms of the program for healthcare consortia, the FCC projects that the new fund could lower the cost of robust broadband healthcare networks by as much as half. The fund will also channel as much as $50 million over a three-year period to support high-speed broadband service at skilled nursing facilities.

The FCC cites Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., as an example of how grant funding has broadened access to specialists. At that hospital, which has received Universal Service funding from the FCC, medical staffers “are using broadband to enable remote examination through a live IP video feed and a relatively inexpensive telemedicine cart.” That way, Barton can offer patients access to outside experts in areas such as cardiology, infectious disease and neurology, areas of practice in which the hospital has no in-house specialists.

The new fund seeks to expand those types of telemedicine offerings, as well as support for the exchange of electronic health records. The FCC says that it will cover 65 percent of the cost of a new broadband deployment or upgrade for successful grant applicants, leaving the remaining 35 percent to the healthcare provider.

The Healthcare Connect Fund will also encourage the development of state and regional consortia comprised of individual healthcare providers that can improve their bargaining position by banding together with other facilities. The FCC says that consortia must be primarily rural in their makeup in order to be eligible for funding.

Other providers eligible for the program include public or not-for-profit hospitals, rural health clinics, community health centers and educational institutions such as medical schools and teaching hospitals.

Via: Network World

Airline, WiFi and Testing Groups Sign Collaboration Agreements With The NFC Forum

The NFC Forum has signed collaboration agreements with three industry consortia, the International Air Transport Alliance (IATA), the WiFi Alliance and the Global Certification Forum (GCF).

“The goal of the alliances is to facilitate joint work to further the adoption, reach, and impact of NFC technology in key markets and industries, including mobile communications, air travel, and Wi-Fi communications,” says the NFC Forum. “Collaborative activities will include work on market education, global interoperability, and mobile testing.”

IATA is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 240 airlines that account for 84% of total air traffic. IATA plans to work with the NFC Forum to raise awareness in the market, and help build the ecosystem for NFC. The agreement will include outreach programs such as workshops for airlines and airports, white papers, case studies, webcasts, and events.

“Through programs like Simplifying the Business, IATA continues to explore new standards and technologies to increase customer satisfaction and improve aviation’s efficiency,” says Aleks Popovich, IATA’s senior VP for industry distribution and financial services. “Near field communication offers the potential to support IATA’s Fast Travel initiative, which is aimed at meeting passenger demands for more self-service options. We look forward to our collaboration with the NFC Forum on this exciting opportunity.”

The Wi-Fi Alliance is a global non-profit industry association of hundreds of companies devoted to seamless connectivity. Under the new agreement, the Wi-Fi Alliance and the NFC Forum will exchange approved documents, share information about program schedules, work jointly on NFC Forum Application Documents describing the use of NFC for Wi-Fi network configuration, cooperate on shared marketing material to promote certification programs, and participate in joint events.

“We are pleased to collaborate more closely with the NFC Forum under the terms of our liaison agreement,” says Wi-Fi Alliance president and CEO Edgar Figueroa. “Coordination between our organizations will help deliver a good user experience and exciting new applications of our technologies.”

GCF is a partnership of network operators, device manufacturers, and the test industry that has created an independent certification program to help ensure global interoperability between mobile devices and networks. Under their liaison agreement, GCF and the NFC Forum will work together to identify certification requirements impacting NFC-enabled Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) wireless devices. The partners will also develop processes and procedures to ensure the robustness, reliability, and transparency of NFC-enabled 3GPP wireless device certification and deliver joint announcements and collaborative marketing programs.

“Our certification scheme is built on an ethos of ‘test once, use anywhere’ and provides a global benchmark for the interoperability of mobile handsets and connected devices,” says Adriana Nugter, GCF’s operations manager. “Through collaboration with the NFC Forum and other industry organisations, GCF strives to streamline testing requirements for wireless devices embedding multiple technologies.”

“As NFC technology reaches into many new markets and industries, the NFC Forum is working to make the process as smooth and effective as possible by collaborating with leadership organizations that share our goals,” explains Koichi Tagawa, chairman of the NFC Forum. “These new agreements with Global Certification Forum, the International Air Transport Association, and the Wi-Fi Alliance will expedite the availability and use of more globally interoperable NFC-enabled solutions. We look forward to sharing long and productive partnerships with these organizations.”

Source: NFC World