In A Universe of Connected Devices, The Three-Screen Dream is Finally a Reality

Slalom Consultant Jeff Barber

Jeff Barber is a Seattle-based leader in Slalom Consulting’s mobility solutions practice. He's a mobile technology expert with deep experience helping clients “operationalize” mobile technologies.

In the late 1990’s my clients and I talked at length about the “three-screen” dream—the envisioned ability of telecom carriers to deliver voice, data, the Web, broadcast television content, and advertising on cell phones, PCs, and TVs.

In 2011 the three-screen dream has been realized. It’s rapidly making its way into your home and businesses all around you, and its role is visibly expanding:

  • In January I had the opportunity to attend CES 2011, where I spent a day walking the main hall to check out what the global major electronics manufacturers are prototyping for release to market in the next several years.
  • In April, I attended the Mobile Breakfast in Seattle, where a panel of industry experts from diverse vantage points in the carrier ecosystem offered their views on the evolution of connected devices.

These two events caused me to re-think my definition of three-screen applications. What I discovered was that the three-screen reality now extends beyond entertainment and advertising into new categories of connected devices that use the Internet and cellular data networks.

Connected devices break out into three primary categories:

  • Connected TV – Internet-enabled home entertainment, also known as smart television or IPTV
  • Connected home – network connected appliances, lighting and security systems, and smart meters that monitor and control power usage
  • Machine-to-machine  – enterprise applications for data communications, location tracking, monitoring, and control of remote assets

Connected TV

The L.A. Times reports that nearly 20% of all TVs shipped worldwide in 2010 had Internet capability. Applications for smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops integrate with these TVs and home entertainment systems to enable remote control and viewing of your favorite broadcast and on-line content.

CES 2011 revealed that Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, and nearly every other home electronics brand are working feverishly to build complete product lines and stand-alone connected TV devices. Meanwhile, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Motorola, Samsung, and others are evolving the enabling software platforms that bridge the mobile, Web, and TV platforms. The results thus far have been a largely fractured marketplace that forces the average user to pick a favorite manufacturer if they want to have a well-integrated experience.

Based on what I saw at CES, Samsung has an impressive lead right now in providing a fully integrated product line with many options. But considering talk of Apple launching their own TV this year, Android overtaking iOS as the leading mobile platform and partnering with many manufacturers on connected TV devices, and Microsoft’s PC dominance and leading game console, the competition and resulting fragmentation is sure to continue.

Geek heaven for the few, frustration for the masses to ensue….

Connected Home

Have you dreamed of tweeting what you’re having for dinner…from your refrigerator? Perhaps you’d like to get your green on by optimizing your home’s power consumption…or set your home alarm system from your hotel room when you realize you forgot to do so.

The connected home is a reality today—albeit a bit clunky—and in the near future there will be more elegant solutions that give you extensive control of devices in your home from your PC, tablet, or smartphone. Connected appliances were big at CES this year. Some power utilities are installing smart meters free of charge in homes.

The bigger question is, how much are you willing to spend to retrofit your home appliances, electrical, and security systems to connect your home?

Machine-to-Machine (M2M)

M2M data communications use the cellular network, IP network, Wi-Fi, and/or GPS.

Enterprise M2M applications are hot right now. Popular applications include:

  • Asset management: containers, pallets, and equipment outdoors, or Wi-Fi and RFID enabled devices indoors
  • Telematics: remote control and communications with vehicles.

AT&T, my current client, offers an Industry and Mobility Alliance Program and an M2M Center of Excellence for enterprise developers. The newly established M2M program supports the ecosystem of AT&T partners providing complex or emerging machine-to-machine solutions. These integrated solutions primarily service small-data transactions for businesses, such as vehicle tracking, point-of-sale processing, remote asset monitoring, meter reading, and telemetry-based interactions.

In addition to AT&T’s program, Sprint and Verizon have announced M2M centers.

An Unprecedented Opportunity

This universe of connected devices has created an unprecedented opportunity for mobile applications in the enterprise and consumer markets. Slalom Consulting, through our locally-based teams and national mobility solutions practice, helps our clients pioneer these types of applications and deliver them to the marketplace.

Learn More

During the month of April, I tweeted several dozen articles, videos, and online resources for those interested in learning more about these topics. Check it out at!/jbarber_slalom.

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About Jeff Barber
Jeff is a senior Business Analyst and Product / Program Manager, a leader in Slalom Consulting's Mobility Solutions practice with deep experience helping clients “productize” new technologies.

One Response to In A Universe of Connected Devices, The Three-Screen Dream is Finally a Reality

  1. sarah says:

    thanks for your article really helped me

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