Managing Digital Content

As the advent of government-mandated digital transmission fast approaches and high-definition TV becomes the standard, many of us will hear increasingly frequent messages about the new content mediums that are springing up like weeds. Digital TV is only a portion of what is coming down the road. Music content and digital information of all flavors and genres will be broadcast through satellite, cable television lines and the broadband Internet pipeline vs. the traditional formats of CD, DVD and broadcast over the airwaves. Although these transmissions and software formats will not disappear immediately, more powerful methods will become a factor. Once a homeowner experiences a high-definition movie from the Internet, and hears the high-quality digital sound, they are going to want it at their fingertips in their own homes. This is only one of many examples of what will become the standard in the very near future.

Because of this reality, the challenge to manage content is a virtual race for who will deliver the management standard for the imminent future. The big guys, Microsoft, HP, Intel and many others, are all engaged in developing hardware and software solutions that will accept, store and allow a homeowner to easily manage all of the digital content they want to own. This is big business. If you consider television programming, movies, sports, music, news, financial information and the other types of content we live with from day to day, you get an idea of what kind of impact this will have on our lifestyles. That is precisely why the race is on.

Homeowners desire to manage their content. Wouldn’t it be nice to download and manage your entire customized music collection and play lists with access from anywhere in your home, or beyond? Wouldn’t it be fun to download first-run or movies-on-demand stored in your own management system to view at your leisure? These are just a couple of examples of what will be possible in the future, and at some level are available now.

Not only will homeowners be able to manage content, but they will also have the capability of managing and controlling subsystems in the home by adding optional modules. This will provide homeowners an integrated turnkey home solution. Such modules that will be available will control lighting, HVAC, window treatments and other subsystems just to mention a few. The challenge for all of these big players is to deliver a product that is robust, reliable and easy to use. It turns out all of this is easier said than done.

Once again the term “structured wiring” rears its head. To take it seriously is to give yourself an edge over your competitors and provide a significant value proposition to your customers.

What are your concerns for making provisions for this technology as a design/build professional? I would make two suggestions: one — align yourself with a professional residential electronic systems contractor who can educate you in the product and its potential applications. And two — plan on providing the required structured wiring to accommodate this technology as it rolls out into the mass market. A great place to locate a partner RESC in your area is the CEDIA dealer locator service at cedia.org.

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