Transforming the Connected Home Over the Next Ten Years

By Yvette Kanouff, senior vice president & general manager, Video Software & Solutions, Cisco

When Steve asked me to look at the cable/telecommunications landscape “ten years from now” — it gave me a well-needed pause. I’ll preface this by noting that predicting the future is tricky. There are things that will happen, things that could happen, and things that should happen. I have shaped my thoughts here to more reflect what needs to happen in the industry for service providers to continue to lead the transformation of the Connected Home.

As I look back at the last ten years, several things stand out: on-demand became a big thing. Streaming to devices beyond the TV went crazy. Video apps surged, as did voice-over-IP. Back in those days (2000), IP was a fairly prescient effort. Broadband was (very) new, voice-over-IP hadn’t happened, and a “video stream” went through a purpose-built network to a purpose-built set-top box.

One of the things I think will definitely happen in the near future is this: “mobility” will become ubiquitous… with seamless connectivity, likely Wi-Fi, everywhere. It won’t matter how you connect, only that you are connected. It needs to work easily and everywhere without users worrying or knowing how…it just works. Video over WiFi across multiple devices will work – and look better too.

In the category of “things that could happen”: I’m not sure there’s a single word to describe it, but I see a massive reduction in the complexity we present to consumers in their digital lives. We all know about the vast increases in broadband consumption — growing at 60% and faster, every year, since 2008. Sure, we can point to video proliferation across devices, but growing in sync with consumers goes beyond sheer capacity. Cloud will play a big role in this. The emergence of software-driven and cloud-powered video services will offer an invisible hand to help with device agnosticism, and to simplify, and personalize user experiences.

What could happen, and what I fervently hope does happen, is the normalization of the IT functions that continue to rise in importance in television and telecommunications. Personalization, bookmarks, favorites, all of the features that trick out our digital lives, tend to vary — widely — by app. App clutter is already an issue, as is bridging features between apps, companies, and industries. If we can solve that one, I’ll be very happy.

Lastly, what should happen by 2025: workforce agility. This is a tough one, because among the types of change that are hard, cultural change is probably the hardest. But without it, we won’t survive. As an industry, the notion of “continuous launches” is vital. Launching code twice a week, rather than twice a year, requires a vigilance that is as difficult and fraught with temptation as is sticking to a new exercise regimen.

Nonetheless, we’re hurting ourselves with this methodology of handoff, handoff, handoff: write the six-inch-thick RFP. Talk about it for three months. Build it for eight months. Send it to the lab. Oops! Problems. Tick. Tock.

Getting there means following the processes of agile. Start slowly, but start now: A beta with interdepartmental “friendlies”; an application of agile to one part of the company. I can say from practical experience that it does work, and it isn’t as painful as you might imagine. Most importantly, without a nimble mindset, competing with whatever and whomever comes next will be Sisyphean: the eternal task of rolling the rock up the hill, only to watch it roll down the other side.

As a mathematician and sci-fi enthusiast, I’ll close with a desire expressed in the 2000 “crystal ball” piece: I still want a tricorder! Maybe one that’s smaller than the shoulder-mounted rectangle with the rotating hood from Star Trek, given what’s happening with the miniaturization of everything. But definitely one that assesses, diagnoses, and aids us, especially as it relates to health and medicine.