Technology

Smart TV, and why the idiot box is about to get a lot more intelligent: Control Shift

Andrew Sadauskas /

What smart TV means and how your small business can take advantage of it

What smart TV means and how your small business can take advantage of it

Aside from the Internet of Things, one of the big developments from this year’s International CES trade show in Las Vegas has been around smart TV.

So it’s time to take a look at what the changes are likely to mean for your business.

MTV get off the air

First things first: Why would anyone want a smart TV in the first place?

It turns out that the internet is an exceptional means for delivering video content. Unlike broadcast TV or cable TV, which can only offer a finite number of channels, the potential number of channels that can be streamed over the internet is nearly infinite.

Meanwhile, unlike DVDs, every TV show, movie, music video, short film or clip is potentially available instantaneously on demand – with no extra storage space.

Of course, while having video streaming to your computer, smartphone or tablet is great, the place where most people do their viewing is the lounge room.

So the question becomes how do you get those video apps working on your TV?

Set-top boxes or smart TVs

Right now, there are three main options. The first is to get an internet-enabled set-top box or video game system that can run video apps.

The second is to get a HDMI stick, such as Google’s ChromeCast or Mozilla’s Matchstick. These look like a USB stick, plugs into the HDMI port of your TV, and allows you to send video clips or songs from your smartphone or tablet to your TV. Many cost less than $50.

The third option – on display at the CES – is a smart TV, which integrates the app capabilities directly into your TV, meaning you don’t need to hook anything else up to your TV.

The format war over smart TV

As I’ve discussed in a previous column, the problem at this stage is that it appears, at least initially, there will be many different app platforms for smart TVs. And, just like iPhone apps don’t work on Android phones or VHS tapes didn’t work on Betamax players, apps created for one platform won’t work for the others.

Here are the main formats you’ll be seeing in smart TVs:

  • Samsung TVs will use a platform called Tizen.
  • LG will use its own platform, known as webOS.
  • Panasonic will use Mozilla’s Firefox OS platform.
  • Philips will ship some TVs with a variation of Firefox OS called Flint.
  • Sony, Sharp and Philips (on some TVs) will use Google’s Android’s TV platform.

Keep in mind that’s a list excluding devices like the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Apple TV, TiVo, and Chromecast to save space here.

On top of all those options. Apple has long been rumoured (like the Apple Watch) to be working on its own smart TV platform, and frankly, it would really surprise me if the company didn’t have a prototype smart TV somewhere in its product pipeline.

What it means for your business

Even if your business isn’t directly involved with app development, retailing consumer electronics or television production, there are a few reasons why it’s worth keeping an eye on this space.

Firstly, until now, broadcast TV has been a ‘dumb’ media when it comes to targeting consumers. Advertisers bought 30 second slots on metropolitan prime-time TV to sell to thousands or millions of consumers, many of them outside their target market. Worse, many of those ads slots were simply unaffordable for small businesses.

By comparison, online video services, including YouTube, offer far more targeted advertising and have opened the door for small businesses buying video ads. Those ads can be used to click through to your website, a full-length information video, or an app where a customer can directly place an order. For small businesses, while 400,000 random metro prime time viewers isn’t viable, targeting a few thousand local consumers is.

The second point is that many businesses already use TVs as monitors for signage or real-time information displays. While apps running directly on smart TVs will cut the need for a dedicated system powering these displays, you will need to make sure all your smart TVs run the old platform.

And, thirdly, for some industries it will make sense to develop an app that will allow people to buy products directly from their TV.

If you’re in small business, it’s a smart move to look at what smart TVs have to offer.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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