Humber conference puts focus on broadcast TV technology changes

Published On January 27, 2020 | By Raymond Brooks | News, Sci/Tech
Raymond Brooks

You might remember back in 2009 when your grandparents complained their TV antenna with the rabbit ears had stopped working?

It’s happening again — in a high tech way.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) standards in the United States are being updated to 3.0 and commercially launching this year — and Canada will be watching closely.

Humber College hosted an event on Monday for industry leaders to look into the recent trends and how best to implement the technology. The event, at the college’s new Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation was arranged by Orest Sushko, the program coordinator for the Film and Multiplatform Storytelling program.

“ATSC is one of the 4 recognized telecommunications standards in the world,” Jerald Fritz, one of the speakers and overseer of long-term strategic planning for ONE Media, told Humber News.

The ATSC standards are for digital television transmission over terrestrial, cable, and satellite networks. It is largely a replacement for the analog standard. This is primarily used in North America, with other countries like Japan, a different transition technology.

“The increasing trend of communications technology will only matter to businesses and consumers when they see it firsthand,” said John Pfankuch, a regional sales manager from Wisconsin’s Heartland Video Systems. |

“It’s hard to market if consumers don’t know of the work seen in experimental locations,” he said, adding that “selling this technology directly to interested parties instead of large organizations is the better approach.”

An ATSC 3.0 Dongle to connect to supported TVs to use the new technology. (Raymond Brooks)

The ATSC standards were developed in 1993 by the Grand Alliance, a group of electronics and telecommunications companies that assembled to develop a specification for what is currently known as HDTV.

This includes two primary high definition video formats, 1080i and 720p, existing alongside standard-definition formats. Initially, only HDTV services were launched in the digital format.

ATSC can carry multiple channels of information on a single stream, and it is common for there to be a single high-definition signal and several standard-definition signals carried on a single channel.

“I think ATSC 3.0 can be summed up as a technology that will drive our digital entertainment devices, whatever that may be,” said Doug Sutherland, Vice President of Engineering at Soundpays, a Toronto-based startup.

“At the end of the day, it’s new plumbing over old plumbing and with the upgrade comes a whole lot of cool things,” said Sutherland, a software developer working on technology to integrate with ATSC 3.0 on mobile phones.

One specific draw is for advertisers. With the new technology up to four pieces of content can go to your device and be tailored to advertise directly to users.

“If you’re Bell or Rogers, they can decide which one of those four pieces of content you see,” said Sutherland.

“They know that your house is in this community and that community typically buys a product.”

In other words, the integration of broadcast television and broadband internet will make content more accessible and make users more accessible to the tailor-marketed content.

However, it’s not the only plan for this technology.

“One of the plans will create alerts by using newsroom content and public information to provide emergency alerts and news updates,” said John Lawson, the executive director of the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN) Alliance.

“The key is interrupting and integrating respectfully.”

Lawson and AWARN are hoping to implement the technology in areas previously or currently affected by natural disasters. To avoid misinformation, they are also creating a best practices document for news organizations when providing specific alerts.

One example was using trust certificates to prove the alert was from a reliable source.

“We are running seminars to provide technical education,” said Lawson.

“Technological integration will help us in an emergency when the internet goes down. One example was a user-based warning system where users tweeted where they were and how bad the flooding was to create a map of the flooding spread.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is aware of the new technology, but still evaluating its capability.

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