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  Intercomms Issue 23
ISSUE 23 ARTICLES

UPnP Forum logoTransforming the Consumer Experience with UPnP

By Scott Lofgren, President of UPnP Forum

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Scott Lofgren, President of UPnP Forum
Scott Lofgren, President of UPnP Forum

The Smart Home has the potential to dramatically change many aspects of daily life as next-generation services continue to proliferate and domestic home networking evolves. However, with many new networked consumer electronic devices operating on diverse networks there is a high risk of consumer confusion. The connected home needs to be developed as a fully integrated platform, with the whole industry working together, for people to continue to access digital content and enjoy new digital services.

Understanding the Needs of the Consumer

At the center of the connected home lies the home network which enables interoperability of services and devices. However, consumers currently face a number of different technologies which makes the design and configuration of a home network beyond the scope of most people - many consumers don’t even realise the true potential of their devices.

Today’s connected world demands reliable and secure solutions that are easy to use and control with multi-vendor flexibility, while providing a balance between comfort, convenience, and cost. Consumers expect a clear proposition of what a device is, how it will benefit them, how it will fit into their lifestyles and how they will use it. They don not want to be limited to buying all connected devices of the same brand, nor are they willing to live with technology islands that cannot communicate with each other.

How can UPnP Enhance the Consumer Experience?

Devices in home networks that are based on UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) technology provide easy access to each other and to sources of content. UPnP technologies already provide the foundation in the home to complement a variety of management gateways and device control scenarios, incorporating well-vetted mechanisms for security, discovery and service advertisement.

UPnP enables digital products from multiple brands to interoperate and share digital content, making it easier for consumers to connect and enjoy their music, video and photos. That being said, UPnP is not a single solution, but rather as an enabler, empowering AV (Audio Visual) devices, or any other IP-based device to communicate with anything on the IP network. Within the home, UPnP acts as the enabling machine to machine (M2M) language between set-top boxes and the gateway, communicating with retail devices such as TVs, tablets and mobile phones, to ensure the successful delivery of premium entertainment content.

Raising the Standard for the Connected Home

UPnP Forum, the global standards group which is responsible for the seamless connectivity between billions of home devices provides a standard to enable UPnP-certified products to be compatible with each other in a home network environment, even if manufactured by different companies. UPnP-certified devices on existing home networks provide a perfect platform for interoperable communication and can easily bridge networks, allowing utilities and service providers to communicate via a private IP backbone with their customers.

The UPnP® Certification program is beneficial to all technology companies, from chipset vendors and CE (Consumer Electronics) manufacturers, to application providers and service operators. CE manufacturers and application providers benefit from UPnP Certification as consumers increasingly look to purchase devices and software with the UPnP® Certification Mark and Logo. The UPnP Device Control Protocol (DCP) standards provide a suite of protocols for home network devices to automatically discover one another, retrieve operational parameters, configure themselves and host a service that other control points can use. This means that applications, such as Skype, have the ability to open ports in the residential gateway to allow the successful delivery of high quality video and content between homes.

UPnP technology has standardized the way devices in a network can talk to each other. For instance, via UPnP, a display can find a media server, present a movie overview and play back a selected movie. This is essential, but there is still more to be done. With the proliferation of next-generation services, some users are left flipping between a multitude of isolated applications or frustrated at the lack of support. Consumers expect a level of service that includes reliable delivery of premium content. The lack of certified standards makes it difficult, if not impossible, for manufacturers and service providers to innovate around the user experience and provide seamless services. Plug and play means exactly that: if a device does not play, then the consumer will unplug.

At this year’s IBC conference and exhibition in Amsterdam, UPnP Forum unveiled its new UPnP+ initiative. The Forum’s new UPnP+ certification level uses new and existing UPnP DCPs and UPnP Cloud architecture to provide features focused on delivering new technical capabilities for enhanced functionality and increased customer satisfaction in today’s ever-changing market of always-on connectivity.

UPnP+ is an evolution of previous UPnP capabilities that will assist devices attempting to integrate new paradigms, such as mobile connected computing, Cloud-based service delivery, Smartphone content sharing, and the Internet of Things (IoT). UPnP+ supports the implementation of web browser controls for a wide range of functions, ensuring future connectivity and making new services possible, in areas such as health and fitness, energy management, security and sustainability.

The Forum’s UPnP+ certification level accommodates Cloud developments and bridges distinct protocols, providing a solid, future-proof basis for the integration of Cloud content and services. UPnP core technology provides a base for IoT, creating bridges to both wide-area networks and non-IP devices. The Forum has already produced DCPs for lights, thermostats, automatic blinds and security cameras, and is now developing support for new IoT devices, specifically those with constrained resources.

Summary

Consumers have more options available than ever to interconnect and enjoy digital content throughout the home without boundaries. This is something that will continue as more products become fully connected. Standards level the playing field. However, the industry as a whole needs to work together to ensure reliable interoperability and enhance the consumer experience as never before. They also want information to help guide them through the buying process. This will encourage the industry to view the connected home as a single market entity.

UPnP Forum continues to pave the way for UPnP devices and services within the Smart Home, driving the technologies and standards for device interoperability and simplified implementation. Through its specifications and certification programs, UPnP Forum is bringing the various players together to achieve cross-industry co-operation to facilitate advances in the connected digital home.

UPnP Forum logoFor more information about the Forum’s efforts & activities:
Download: UPnP_Overview_Brochure_2014
Website: http://upnp.org

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