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Broadcast Once, Watch Anywhere
JSR 272 Aims to Deliver Interactive TV on the Go
by Frank Sommers
May 18, 2005

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Mobile devices must contend with restrictions not shared by your stationary TV set: battery power limitations and environments where reception with a small built-in antenna proves difficult. Addressing those constraints, DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting - Handhelds) adapts the emerging DVB standard to mobile devices [3]. Pilot projects with DVB-H are under way in Pittsburgh, and in 2003 Finnish Mobile TV became the first venture to explicitly focus on mobicasting. In addition to DVB-H, two additional standards—the Digital Multimedia Broadcast (DMB) [4] and MediaFLO [5]—address the needs of handheld devices in receiving digital broadcasts.

With that many standards (See Sidebar), JSR 272 aims to provide an API that abstracts out the transport layer, and gives developers high level access to digital broadcasts, according to Wong. JSR 272 will define both the management of interactive services received via digital broadcast, and the management of applications contained in the broadcast stream. Along with Motorola, the JSR 272 initial expert group includes Nokia, Vodafone, and Siemens.

"On one level, you will be able to control access to digital channels, search and discover services, switch between channels, receive and consume services, and purchase and subscribe to services," says Wong. An interesting aspect of the API is to access metadata associated with a service. "You will be able to access programming information, [interact with] electronic service guides, and write software to find programs suitable for kids, for instance," adds Wong. Metadata for a TV program may also include a URL to the program's Web site. An application on the mobile device could present the contents of that URL to the user for further details on a TV program.

The second important feature of JSR 272 will be the ability to manage applications downloaded as part of a broadcast stream. JSR 272 will provide some form of application lifecycle management, possibly building on the well-established midlets paradigm, and will also manage security for the downloaded applications.

Wong and his expert group members envision an ecosystem of mobile media applications, not unlike the ecosystem for midlets. That ecosystem will likely consists of broadcasters offering digital programming, data carriers providing the connections for back-channel data transmissions, software vendors, content providers, device manufacturers, advertisers, and end users. "There will be carriers who will purchase software, and broadcasters will be able to work with those carriers [to enable those applications to work in tandem with a broadcast]," says Wong.

Since JSR 272 was only recently accepted into the JCP, it is still in its preliminary stages. "[At this stage], we are anticipating and trying to help create a new market for mobile broadcast applications, " says Wong. "[We are] waiting for an inflection point to occur in the market, and are working on this JSR in preparation for that. If that happens, [mobile broadcast services] may bring in a lot of revenue, both for data services, and also for advertising," said Wong. "Digital broadcasting is another trend for mobile devices that developers should be aware of."

"It ususally takes between one and one-and-a-half years to produce a standard through the JCP. You might be able to purchase devices with this API sometime around 2007," adds Nokia's Rantalahti.

With the ability to watch The Apprentice on your cell phone, who said TV was just for couch potatoes?

Talk Back!

Have a question or opinion about the Mobile Media Service API described in this article? Discuss this article in the Articles Forum topic, Broadcast Once, Watch Anywhere.

Resources

[1] "The Donald" refers to Donald Trump, hero of a popular TV show, The Apprentice, broadcast on NBC in the US.
http://www.nbc.com/nbc/The_Apprentice/

[2] The home page for JSR 272, Mobile Broadcast Service API for Handheld Terminals:
http://www.artima.com/cgi-bin/sponlink.cgi?client=sunjcp&url=http://jcp.org/en/jsr/detail?id=272

[3] Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB); Transmission System for Handheld Terminals (DVB-H) (EN 302 304 v1.1.1 ETSI, November 2004):
http://webapp.etsi.org/exchangefolder/en_302304v010101p.pdf

[4] Digital Multimedia Broadcast (DMB) is a proprietary South Korean standard derived from the Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) standard:
http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,119932,00.asp

[5] MediaFLO is a proprietary standard from QUALCOMM:
http://www.qualcomm.com/mediaflo/news/pdf/flo_whitepaper.pdf

[6] Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC):
http://www.atsc.org/

[7] Java TV is an API for interactive television services:
http://java.sun.com/products/javatv/index.jsp

About the Author

Frank Sommers is a Senior Editor with Artima Developer. He also serves as chief editor of the Web zine ClusterComputing.org, the IEEE Technical Committee on Scalable Computing's newsletter, and is an elected member of the Jini Community's Technical Advisory Committee. Prior to joining Artima, Frank wrote the Jiniology and Web services columns for JavaWorld.

Sidebar: Many Standards, One Java API

In some parts of the world, you can already tune into digital broadcasts from your living room TV set. In parts of North America and South Korea, for instance, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) consortium [6] offers HDTV broadcasts suitable for stationary antenna reception. In Japan, the Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting (ISDB-T) standard offers audio, video, and multimedia not only to HDTV-enabled TVs, but also to mobile devices.

The Digital Video Broadcast Terrestrial (DVB-T) standard should be familiar to Java developers from Java TV [7], Sun's Java-centric API to interact with digital broadcasts based on that standard. Parts of Europe and Asia have adopted DVB-T to digitally beam standard-definition programming to capably equipped TV sets. In Singapore and Taiwan, DVB-T provides digital TV in public transportation, as well as in cars and high-speed trains. And DVB-T will soon enable HDTV broadcasts in Australia as well.

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