The direction of IPTV: retail and banking
At the beginning of 2012, the FTTH Council Europe association announced at the Conference held in Munich, Germany, that, in terms of the development of fiber-optic Internet development and the availability of technology services for individual users and the corporate sector, Lithuania ranked first among the European countries for the third time in a row. Nowadays, fiber-optic networks are not only about providing high-speed Internet. Today, an integral part of any such network is IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) interactive services, an innovative solution for the modern media industry.
In early 1998, the Penki Kontinentai Group started designing and building fiber-optic networks, focusing on IPTV services development. In 2001, the company launched research and development and started selecting the technology and hardware needed for IPTV.
There is no need for us to dwell on the existing features of interactive services, which are now well-understood by any such services provider. For example, among regular services included in IPTV packages are Electronic Programme Guide, favorite channels, additional channels, personal channels, Channel Blocker, numerous services on demand, Home Media Gateway, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Picasa), the Internet, virtual services, video on demand, and a virtual personal cinema. Additional services may also be mentioned here. These include GoogleMaps, RSS (news), games, weather forecast, name days (a daily updated list of names, search by name and date), exchange rates, flight schedules, and accounting.
For users, the accounting service is a very convenient and essential one. For this reason, we will speak about it in more detail. Thanks to Smart House solutions, a TV screen may be used to view and, most importantly, pay bills.
Today, most IPTV technology developers are moving towards personalized TV, meaning the personalization of all content, which can be created and managed the way they like it. Users must create themselves the content they wish to see on the screen, depending on their needs, habits, taste, way of life, and professional occupation. Here, a huge range of functions is offered to the user. From their TV screen, users can buy, sell, view different information (including bank statements), make payments, and, if needed, advertise their products and services using widgets. Also, the personalized content can be managed with different devices. For example, a tablet or smartphone may be used as a “smart” remote control.
Speaking of our company’s solutions, we would like to focus on IPTV Retail & Banking, a new platform for banking and retail services. This is a full-fledged service provision method, just like a bank branch with its retail banking hardware (EFT-POS terminals, cash register system, and ATMs with the cash-in and cash-out functions), Internet banking, or mobile banking.
As part of the IPTV environment, the TV set serves as a middle tier between the bank and the client or between the retail chain and the customer. According to experts, this area offers many opportunities. The standard and transparent interface allows users to easily and conveniently manage their accounts, perform bank transactions, open virtual accounts, and view data on services provided; to shop online, choosing only those items that are acceptable in terms of price and quality, to pay for them, and to order a delivery. A smartphone or tablet may be used as a TV remote control, making it even more convenient and easy to manage such services. Besides, when developing the mentioned software solutions, we pay special attention to the reminder system, which is indispensable for managing information flows in the modern, dynamic world. This system is a sort of “smart” assistant because it may be synchronized with such services as e-commerce and social networks. For instance, the system can automatically order flowers for your friend’s birthday if his/her birthday has been recorded in your calendar or found in a social network. When the flowers or a gift have been delivered, you will receive a notification in the form of a video response from the happy birthday friend, and you will be able to share the moment with all your friends by playing the video on any device.
In connection with this, we would like to present Smart House/Office/Metering, another related system developed by the Penki Continent Group. The system automatically reads meters (gas, hot and cold water, or electricity) and uses preset rates to generate bills and store them, to be paid later. This solution may be integrated with IPTV Retail and Banking to make bill paying easy and convenient. The My Family Budget functionality allows users to analyze their cash flows over any time period. At the same time, PAYLО, a payment and loyalty system, allows generating data on customers’ loyalty when they pay for goods or services and manage this data. The integration of these products required us to develop Central Video Management.iQ (IPTV), a system that may be used not only to manage the advertising environment of a bank or retail chain (based on the concept of personalized communication) but also to analyze the effectiveness of this method, using analytical data. However, to transfer all these services to the TV screen, one needs to standardize and unify the middleware and front-end hardware, prepare for the certification and standardization procedures, and do many other things. This is quite a hard task, which we are actively working on.
Personalized TV content management is increasingly based on Social TV, which may be called a new stage in social communication evolution. Social TV’s distinguishing feature is integrating media content with various social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
Simultaneously, it very much depends on the choice of the broadband Internet hardware that ensures the security and technical monitoring of media content. For Skynet, our fiber-optic network, we use Cisco Systems hardware combined with Motorola Mobility hardware; this ensures the delivery and encryption of video signal, which allows us to fight piracy and provide high-quality media content in the HD and 3D format.
Unfortunately, it is not only technologies that improve, but also fraud methods. Our company has long-time practical experience in the banking and retail sector. Over many years, we have received certificates for compliance with many various standards, including PCI DSS, PA-DSS, and ISO 20000, and soon we will undergo certification for compliance with ISO 27001. All this helps us to maximally speed up the deployment of new technology, IPTV Retail & Banking. For the last 8 years, the SSC company has been providing the e-signature service based on the CA (Certificate Authority) and PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) standards, acting as a trusted center for verifying the validity of e-signatures. It will soon become apparent for customers, service providers, and media content operators that common standards are vital and crucial for IPTV service provision.
Of course, when discussing the evolution of such areas as IPTV retail and banking, we should say a couple of words about how these areas emerged. Young people, who are now the main users of the IPTV service, were born when the TV, video recorder, computer, Internet, and cell phone had already existed.
Over 50 years ago, the first TVs appeared, followed 40 years ago by mainframe computer terminals. Witnessing the rapid evolution of technology and being experts on the integration of mobile devices with interactive services, we can clearly see what the personalized, interactive, integrated media content will be like in the future. This will be a kind of TV/computer hybrid, with an easy-to-use interface, as proposed by the largest companies. It is against this background that the Penki Kontinentai Group has been serving as an Internet provider for a decade and a half, developing in parallel Skynet, its fiber-optic network. We were the first in Lithuania to offer the fiber-optic Internet and IPTV. Currently, we offer a range of IPTV services, not only for the retail and banking sectors but also for the fields of medicine, tourism, distance learning, smart house, e-voting, and security systems.
Our group is also actively deploying and using the IPTV/OTT technology, which allows delivering video and audio in real-time to any device (a computer, TV, smartphone, or tablet) located anywhere in the world. Using OTT for live broadcasts of private or public conferences or other events, lectures, or ads, companies, and institutions from any sector (banking, retail, family entertainment centers, or educational institutions) may increase their competitiveness and mobility. The technology provides the live broadcast mode with the HD resolution or better and different broadcast types (public or registered users only). By using such a service, banks and retail stores may get closer to their customers and deliver all required, personalized information in real-time. All this helps expand the power of e-marketing and increase sales.
Having analyzed the last several decades of the evolution of media services, we are well-prepared to make a prediction: IPTV is opening up a world of possibilities for providing various interactive services to the modern customer. And the more targeted and personalized these services are, the higher is the level of customer-service provider trust that these services will ensure.