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CEA Adopts Browser-Based A/V Network Standard

7/20/2004 11:37:00 AM Eastern

Arlington, Va. — The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has adopted a home A/V-network standard that combines wide-band IEEE-1394 a/b, Internet Protocol, and Web technologies to give consumers the ability to view centrally located high-definition (HD) and standard-definition (SD)video sources from any digital monitor in the house.

Using the Samsung-developed technology, dubbed XHT (eXpandable Home Theater), HD monitors would be able to display the content of remote HDD AV servers, HD D-VHS player/recorders, future HD disc players and changers, HD satellite receivers, digital-cable boxes or ATSC tuners located in a home’s main A/V system or in a utility closet. In a remote room, consumers would select content using an IR remote that controls an on-screen browser-based menu displayed on their local digital monitor. Multiple ATSC tuners, digital-cable boxes, and satellite tuners – dubbed network interface units (NIUs) — could be installed in the utility closet to simultaneously send multiple streams of broadcast HD content to multiple monitors.

If the CEA standard, called CEA-2027, is adopted by CE suppliers and cable and satellite providers, it would entice consumers to buy lower cost HD monitors in lieu of integrated sets with cost-raising built-in terrestrial or cable HD tuners, said Jack Chaney, director of Samsung’s digital media systems laboratory in San Jose. NIUs would also be less expensive than current settop boxes, in part because fewer hard-button controls would have to be built into their chassis. In the case of HD-satellite NIUs, they would be more affordable in part because they wouldn’t have to duplicate the HD decoding circuitry of an HD monitor, he continued. XHT also provides “some isolation from obsolesence” by enabling an HD monitor to control future XHT devices, he noted.

Any brand of XHT-compliant product could be networked and controlled.

The technology would use 1394 a/b to transport HD content, IP to transport control information, and xHTML to display a user interface on a monitor. 5C content protection and a “high quality of service” are also part of the standard, Chaney said.

Under the standard, 1394a technology would be used to connect components in a cluster of products, and 1394b would connect remote products. The 1394b technology has a bandwidth of 100Mbps to 100 meters if CAT-5 cable is used to transport content. That’s enough bandwidth for simultaneously streaming two to three 19.4Mbps HD video programs, sharing an internet connection, and streaming several audio programs to various rooms, 1394b supporters have said.

To promote CEA-2027 adoption, Samsung is organizing a working group of suppliers and service providers. (Interested companies can contact Chaney at jchaney@sisa.samsung.com.)

EchoStar and DirecTv voted for the standard, he noted.

Chaney also said CEA-2027 features many refinements over the HAVi (Home AudioVideo interoperability) network-control standard, which rides over 1394a and potentially over 1394b. The refinements include enhanced compatibility, an inherent ”future-proof” feature, the ability to extend control via the Internet without adding onto the spec, and the ability to control non-AV devices from a TV’s on-screen display, he contended.

The 2027 spec is future-proof because it doesn’t predefine a set of operations and functions as HAVi does, he claimed. “HAVi categorizes devices and defines a set of operations that devices may perform,” he said. “The designer of a new device may design unilaterally from any predefined notion of a set of controls envisaged by HAVi founders since 1999, [but] no CEA-2027 device function is required to be predefined. This allows a ‘future-proof’ feature in CEA 2027 that does not exist in HAVi.”

An XHT network can be controlled from an off-premise PC because of its use of IP and Web technology, he continued. And the technology’s IP and web browser technologies are “applicable to other home devices than just A/V devices without further refinement of the spec,” he added.