Column: A Super stinker, Patriots prevail but ugliness wins

first_imgSEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte Grace Poe files bill to protect govt teachers from malicious accusations When Adam Levine ripped off his shirt during the halftime show, it was quickly apparent that tattoos would far outnumber points in the A-T-L.Come to think of it, Maroon 5 might have benefited the most from this one.Their lame, off-key performance was probably the highlight of the night.The Rams needed until deep into the third quarter to finally surpass 100 yards, on a drive that resulted in their only points. Greg Zuerlein booted a 53-yard field goal that tied the game at 3 with just over two minutes remaining in the period, and it looked like Los Angeles might actually have a chance to pull out a game it had no business winning.After Michel’s TD, Los Angeles gave itself one more chance. Driving briskly into New England territory, the Rams had first down at the 27 when Goff lofted a pass toward the right pylon with Brandin Cooks breaking into the clear. But Patriots second-string safety Duron Harmon, in the game after Patrick Chung sustained what looked to be a broken arm, came flying over to level Cooks just as the ball was slipping through the receiver’s hands at the goal line.Cooks conceded afterward that it was a catch he should’ve made, but he was hardly alone in that category.On the very next play, Huron came at Goff on a blitz. The young quarterback flinched with the safety in his face, wobbling up a pass that was easily picked off by Stephon Gilmore.New England drove the other way for the clinching field goal.With eight seconds remaining, the Rams sent on Zuerlein to attempt a 48-yard field goal, knowing the only remote chance they had to force OT was to get three points, pull an onside kick and heave a desperation pass toward the end zone on the final play.Zuerlein was money all season, and especially in the NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints, when he tied it up with a 48-yard field goal and won the game in overtime with a booming 57-yard effort. “You’ve got to grind it out and find a way,” said Brady, delivering a drab quote that perfectly fit the occasion.Stephen Gostkowski clinched it for the Patriots, barely guiding a 41-yard field goal inside the left upright with 1:12 remaining to make it a two-score game.What a blessing.The last thing anyone needed was the Rams having any chance to send this monstrosity to overtime.Taking nothing away from a stout defensive effort by both teams, this lackluster affair seemed more the result of two offenses that never found their footing — especially the youthful Rams and their 24-year-old quarterback, Jared Goff.There were plenty of silly mistakes, the kind of plays you normally see when teams are working through the kinks coming of training camp. Both teams were flagged for having two men in motion at the same time. The Rams were penalized for a false start when lined up on second down needing less than a yard. One of their better plays was negated by a holding penalty. They even got caught with too many men on the field.“We just played bad today,” running back C.J. Anderson said.With just over a minute to go, after the Rams were called for yet another holding penalty, the press box announcer summed it up best after accidentally leaving his mic on.“Ughhhhhhh,” he moaned, snapping the assembled media out their slumber.It was the lowest-scoring game in Super Bowl history, eclipsing a 21-point snoozer in 1973 when Miami capped its perfect season with an ugly victory over Washington that had least had a bit of comic relief: kicker Garo Yepremian’s ridiculous attempt to throw a pass. ‘We are too hospitable,’ says Sotto amid SEA Games woes LATEST STORIES Reliable as ever, Patriots’ Julian Edelman wins Super Bowl MVP Oil plant explodes in Pampanga town Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. US judge bars Trump’s health insurance rule for immigrants It was the only time all evening that either team reached the red zone.That brief burst of offense was enough to carry the Patriots to a 13-3 victory , but this game will be remembered as an unworthy finale to a thrilling season. Certainly not in the same league as that pair of captivating games we witnessed on conference championship weekend. Not even close to the Super Bowl classics that capped off the last two seasonsThose represented the NFL at its HD best.The latest Super Bowl should’ve been broadcast in black and white.It was straight out of the 1950s.ADVERTISEMENTcenter_img PDEA chief backs Robredo in revealing ‘discoveries’ on drug war Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting MOST READ View comments Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff pauses while speaking to the media after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. The Patriots won 13-3. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)ATLANTA — The NFL should’ve ended the season two weeks ago.This Super Bowl was a hot mess, really no better than a sloppy preseason game.ADVERTISEMENT ‘We are too hospitable,’ says Sotto amid SEA Games woes PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games PLAY LIST 02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss That was then.This time, Zuerlein’s kick sailed wide left of the upright.Brady kneeled down one more time and it was over.Thankfully.Disney officials dutifully announced that Brady and MVP Julian Edelman would be visiting the Magic Kingdom on Monday.The folks at Mickey Mouse Land might want to reconsider their offer.It’s probably best to just forget this stinker of a Super Bowl.Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Tom Brady and the New England Patriots captured their sixth championship Sunday night, an amazing accomplishment that was overshadowed by the ugly way they won it against the stunningly inept Los Angeles Rams.An instant classic?FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSUrgent reply from Philippine ‍football chiefSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesNo, this was instantly forgettable.The only touchdown finally came when the game was 53 minutes old, the Patriots reaching the end zone on Sony Michel’s 2-yard run after one of the few offensive highlights — Brady’s niftily threaded ball to Rob Gronkowski with three defenders around, resulting in a 29-yard play.last_img read more

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Facebook takes steps to protect you from discriminatory ads

first_imgFacebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg  James Martin/CNET Facebook is making changes to a range of ads on the social network in an effort to protect its users who are searching for a job or housing from discrimination. Advertisers that run housing, employment and credit ads will no longer be able to target users based on age, gender or ZIP code, and will also have fewer options when it comes to targeting users, Facebook said Tuesday. The company also said it’s building a tool so users can search for housing ads throughout the US. “Housing, employment and credit ads are crucial to helping people buy new homes, start great careers, and gain access to credit,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a blog post. “They should never be used to exclude or harm people.”The changes are part of a settlement that Facebook reached with civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed lawsuits against the social network alleging that Facebook allowed advertisers to discriminate against users by excluding people from seeing certain housing, employment and credit ads based on gender, age and where they lived. Civil rights groups, labor organizations, workers and consumers filed five discrimination lawsuits against Facebook between 2016 and 2018, according to the settlement posted by the ACLU. The changes also affect ads placed on Facebook-owned Instagram and messaging app Messenger. Facebook has been under mounting pressure to change its advertising tools after ProPublica reported in 2016 that the world’s largest social network allowed advertisers to place housing ads that excluded users by race, which is illegal under federal law. In response, Facebook pulled a tool that allowed advertisers to exclude users from seeing housing, employment and credit ads based on their “ethnic affinity.”But Facebook continued to receive more complaints that its advertising tools were also being used by employers to post job ads that excluded women or older workers. “Discrimination in advertising for jobs, housing and credit has been unlawful since the 1960s and ’70s with the enactment of our civil rights laws,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU during a conference call. “But the ability to target ads to users based on their data and online behavior has been threatening to give this kind of discrimination a new life in the 21st century.” Sherwin said advertisers will have to certify whether they’re placing a housing, employment or credit ad on Facebook. Targeting options for these advertisers will decrease from tens of thousands to a few hundred, she said. These advertisers, for example, won’t be able to target soccer moms, new dads and wheelchair users or people who are similar to their current customers. And they won’t be able to target users less than 15 miles away from a specific address or the center of a city, according to the ACLU.Civil rights groups will also be testing housing, employment and credit ads on Facebook to make sure the company implements the changes it’s promising. Advocacy groups will also be on the lookout for any advertisers who are trying to skirt Facebook’s new ad rules. A Facebook spokesperson said the company doesn’t break out how many housing, employment or credit ads are placed on the social network every month or year. Originally published March 19, 11:39 a.m. PTUpdate, 2:09 p.m. PT: Includes remarks from ACLU’s conference calls, details about the settlement and comment from a Facebook spokesperson. Now playing: Watch this: 3 Comments Tags Facebook is a moneymaking machinecenter_img 2:28 Facebook Share your voice Internet Services Tech Industry Mobile Appslast_img read more

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7 Inmates Dead 17 Injured In South Carolina Prison Fighting

first_imgSeven inmates were killed and at least 17 others were seriously injured after fights broke out between prisoners inside a maximum security prison in South Carolina.Prisons spokesman Jeff Taillon announced the grim outcome after State Law Enforcement Division agents helped secure Lee Correctional Institution around 3 a.m. Monday.Taillon said no officers were wounded after multiple inmate fights broke out at 7:15 p.m. Sunday. He said 17 of the injured required medical attention outside the prison.The South Carolina Department of Corrections tweeted that it involved multiple inmate on inmate altercations in three housing units.Lee County Fire/Rescue said ambulances from multiple jurisdictions lined up outside the prison to tend to the wounded. The local coroner’s office also responded.The maximum-security facility in Bishopville houses about 1,500 inmates, some of South Carolina’s most violent and longest-serving offenders. Two officers were stabbed in a 2015 fight. One inmate killed another in February. Sharelast_img read more

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Baltimores Lenora Nail Colors Promotes Vegan Products

first_imgLenora BarbourBorn and raised in Baltimore City, Lenora Barbour began her creative enterprise following a traumatic event.After she learned her mother would have to undergo major surgery followed by long-term therapy, Barbour decided it was time for a change. She founded Lenora Nails after spending years in a boring 9-to-5 job.Barbour saw there was no nail polish line being created in Baltimore and knew that this was one way she could exercise her creative muscles.“I always liked nail polish,” said Barbour in an interview with the AFRO. “I always polished my nails.”Lenora Nails boasts quirky names like “Sweet Peaches” and “Maryland Collection.” Her mother came up with “Sweet Peaches” since she has a peach tree in her yard. The “Maryland Collection” consists of three colors that all reference her home state: “Inner Harbor Nights,” “Purple Pride” and “Ocean City.”The most important part of Barbour’s nail line is its advertised non-toxic and healthy qualities. Lenora Nail Colors are “5-free,” which means they are free of five dangerous toxins like formaldehyde that have been found in other nail polish brands, according to the website. The vegan products are also animal cruelty-free.The collection is already sold in several locations in Maryland, as well as online.Barbour is currently completing a program at Maryland Beauty Academy to become a certified nail technician. Once certified Barbour wants to give pampering treatments to senior citizens with chronic conditions and those who aren’t able to beautify themselves. “When I was in nail tech school we had a lot of elderly clients, so I really connected with them,” said Barbour, adding that she already offers those services to her mother. “I do my mom’s nails since she’s almost 70.”For more information on Lenora Nail Colors, visit: www.lenoranailcolors.com.last_img read more

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HP Labs find memristors can compute w Video

first_img(PhysOrg.com) — Researchers at HP Labs, the central research arm of HP, have discovered that a resistor with memory, a “memristor” can also perform logic operations. This means chips storing data may also be able to carry out computations without the need for a central processing unit (CPU). The discovery could mean computers will be able to become more compact and efficient than imagined previously. HP Labs first demonstrated the memristor in 2008 (see the PhysOrg article), but its theoretical existence was postulated in 1971 by Professor Leon Chua of the University of California at Berkeley. He named them memristors since they combine the electrical properties of a memory element and a resistor. They are able to retain a memory of the amount of charge that flowed through them after the power is turned off, and the resistance depends on the voltage history. According to HP Labs these tiny devices are the fourth basic building blocks of electronics, the others being resistors, capacitors and inductors. Explore further * Nature paper: www.nature.com/nature/journal/ … ull/nature08940.html* Memristor FAQ An image of a circuit with 17 memristors captured by an atomic force microscope. Each memristor is composed of two layers of titanium dioxide connected by wire. As electrical current is applied to one layer, the small signal resistance of the other layer is changed, which may in turn be used as a method to register data. © 2010 PhysOrg.com Self-Programming Hybrid Memristor/Transistor Circuit Could Continue Moore’s Law Now a team of researchers from the HP Information and Quantum Systems Laboratory at Palo Alto, California, have created architectures for memory chips using memristors, including one in which a stack of memristors are layered in a single chip. The team, led by the director of the laboratory, R. Stanley Williams, believe devices using the element could be developed for commercial use within a few years. These could allow supercomputers to work dramatically faster than today, and because memristors retain their memory, computers based on them could be turned off and on like a light switch. In a news release HP Labs said memristors are faster than current storage devices such as flash memory, and they use less energy and can store more than double the data. They could also be used in handheld devices with ten times more embedded memory than today’s devices. HP Lab predicts memristor-based processors could eventually replace silicon in uses such as e-reader display screens.Memristors are also unaffected by radiation, which can affect transistor-based technologies, and this means they could enable the development of smaller and more powerful devices, since the use of transistors is limited by Moore’s Law, which says the number of transistors that can be packed into a chip for a fixed cost has doubled every two years. Transistors on the most advanced chips have feature sizes as low as 22 nanometers, but there is a limit to how small they can become.Williams said that as “our brains are made of memristors,” the discovery could lead to computers that work more like human brains.The paper was published in Nature last week. Citation: HP Labs find memristors can compute (w/ Video) (2010, April 9) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2010-04-hp-labs-memristors-video.html More information: This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more

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A novel way to put flame retardant in a lithium ion battery

first_img Schematic illustration for the fabrication of the microfibers by electrospinning. Credit: Liu et al. Sci. Adv. 2017;3:e1601978 More information: Kai Liu et al. Electrospun core-shell microfiber separator with thermal-triggered flame-retardant properties for lithium-ion batteries, Science Advances (2017). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601978AbstractAlthough the energy densities of batteries continue to increase, safety problems (for example, fires and explosions) associated with the use of highly flammable liquid organic electrolytes remain a big issue, significantly hindering further practical applications of the next generation of high-energy batteries. We have fabricated a novel “smart” nonwoven electrospun separator with thermal-triggered flame-retardant properties for lithium-ion batteries. The encapsulation of a flame retardant inside a protective polymer shell has prevented direct dissolution of the retardant agent into the electrolyte, which would otherwise have negative effects on battery performance. During thermal runaway of the lithium-ion battery, the protective polymer shell would melt, triggered by the increased temperature, and the flame retardant would be released, thus effectively suppressing the combustion of the highly flammable electrolytes. Safer, more environmentally friendly flame retardant with first-of-its-kind dual effects SEM image of the TPP@PVDF-HFP microfibers. Scale bar, 5 μm. Credit: Liu et al. Sci. Adv. 2017;3:e1601978 Schematic of the “smart” electrospun separator with thermal-triggered flame-retardant properties for lithium-ion batteries. Credit: Liu et al. Sci. Adv. 2017;3:e1601978 Reports of phones and hoverboards catching fire due to short circuits in batteries have caused alarm in the personal electronics industry—both by users and those that make the devices. Unfortunately, up until now, engineers have not been able to solve the problem completely. Most such efforts involve re-engineering devices to prevent short-circuiting and thus overheating, or attempting to put flame retardant directly in the batteries. Neither approach has proven to be entirely satisfactory. Re-engineering does not always solve the problem and the addition of flame retardant greatly reduces battery efficiency. In this new effort, the researchers describe an approach that thus far appears to offer some help—it does not stop overheating from occurring, but it is able to prevent fire.The new approach involves encapsulating a common flame retardant called triphenyl phosphate in an extremely tiny sheath made of plastic fibers and then inserting several of them into the electrolyte that sits between the anode and cathode. The sheath keeps the retardant from actually coming into contact with the electrolyte material, which is flammable and the source of most battery fires. But the plastic fibers in the sheath have a melting point of 160° Celsius—if that temperature is reached, the plastic melts and the retardant is released into the electrolyte quashing a potential fire. Journal information: Science Advances In test devices using their encapsulated flame retardant, the researchers report that the sheaths melted and the retardant was released and merged with the electrolyte in just 0.4 seconds and because of that fires were averted.In practice, it is presumed that such an occurrence in a device would initiate a hardware error before the battery stopped working to alert a user to what had occurred. Thereafter, a user would also presumably have to purchase a new battery in order to continue using their device which would survive the overheating event. GIF animation showing the EC/DEC electrolyte is highly flammable. Credit: Liu et al. Sci. Adv. 2017;3:e1601978 Schematic illustration for the fabrication of the microfibers by electrospinning. Credit: Liu et al. Sci. Adv. 2017;3:e1601978center_img GIF animation showing the EC/DEC electrolyte is highly flammable. Credit: Liu et al. Sci. Adv. 2017;3:e1601978 Explore further © 2017 Phys.org GIF animation showing the flammability of the EC/DEC electrolytes in the presence of the TPP@PVDF-HFP separator. The flames of the electrolyte diminish rapidly and are completely extinguished within 0.4 seconds. Credit: Liu et al. Sci. Adv. 2017;3:e1601978 (Phys.org)—A team of researchers at Stanford University has found a novel way to introduce flame retardant into a lithium ion battery to prevent fires from occurring. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the team describes their technique and their results when testing it. GIF animation showing the combustion of EC/DEC electrolyte with the flame-retardant TPP. Credit: Liu et al. Sci. Adv. 2017;3:e1601978 Citation: A novel way to put flame retardant in a lithium ion battery (2017, January 16) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-01-flame-retardant-lithium-ion-battery.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more

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State govt employees jubilant as Mamata announces clearance of DA arrears by

first_imgKolkata: State government employees in the state have reasons to cheer with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announcing on Thursday that Dearness Allowance (DA) arrears of all government employees will be cleared by this month. The total DA of the employees will be 125 percent of their basic pay.”The DA arrears will be cleared by this month,” Banerjee said while addressing a public distribution programme at Ilambazar in Birbhum. The Chief Minister has kept her promise that she had made on June 19, 2018, when she had announced 25 percent additional Dearness Allowance (DA) for the state government employees with the merger of 10 percent interim relief. Also Read – Rain batters Kolkata, cripples normal lifeShe had also stated that it will be effective from January 2019 and the total DA of the employees will be 125 percent. It is 90 percent more than what it was till the end of the Left Front period. “We have to pay around Rs 48,000 crore every year to the Centre due to the huge debt burden left upon us by the erstwhile Left Front government, but the Chief Minister has taken up so many projects for the benefit of common people and is continuing to do so,” a senior official of the state government said. Also Read – Speeding Jaguar crashes into Mercedes car in Kolkata, 2 pedestrians killedThe release of the DA will cost Rs 5,000 crore to the state’s exchequer every year. The DA recipients will also include teachers and non-teaching staff of educational institutions and employees of rural and urban local bodies. Sanket Chakraborty, general secretary of the State Steering Committee, congratulated the Chief Minister for providing the benefit. It may be mentioned that the gap between the Centre and Bengal with regards to DA had been 48 percent. Now, with the state government allocating 25 percent more DA, the difference will come down to 23 percent. The organisation of Trinamool Congress state government employees – Rajya Sarkari Karmachari Federation (RSKF), claimed that the state government’s move comes as a New Year gift for the employees. “We want the state government to bring out a fresh notification in this regard to clear any doubts or allegations from other unions,” said Manoj Chakraborty, convener of RSKF. It may be mentioned that Banerjee had addressed a programme of the RSKF in September 2017 at Nazrul Manch, where she had assured that the demand of the state government employees will be looked into with priority.last_img read more

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Trending styles in loafers moccasins

first_imgLoafers and moccasins have become increasingly popular in today’s times as they have been identified as the most convenient style of shoes. But there’s a whole variety that you can explore from. Experts have shared tips on the types to choose from: -Brogue loafer with medallion: One of the most promising trends in loafers, these styles create a distinctive look with a decorative medallion on the toe and come with a vintage finish. A must-have shoe style for fashion connoisseurs, these shoes offers a contemporary and sharp touch when teamed with a crisp shirt and chinos. Also Read – Add new books to your shelf-Penny loafer with cord stitch: Considered as one of the trendiest styles in semi-casual shoe range, penny loafers add perfect aesthetics to a man’s wardrobe and bring in a touch of much needed versatility. Penny loafers embody refined sophistication and are an ideal companion for sharp dressing office goers and trendy millennials. -Brogue wing tip Kelty moccasins: Designed with W shaped patch on the toe with broguing throughout, these styles give a brilliant and suave touch when crafted in patent leather. An ideal option for those heading for a party or a cocktail night, this style renders a dynamic styling essence when teamed with dress shirts or blazers. Also Read – Over 2 hours screen time daily will make your kids impulsive-Tassel loafer: Amazingly stylish, tassel design loafers are one of the most wanted styles by men. With the increasing popularity, loafers have become more experimental with designs – one, two tassels and fringes. Also, loafers in special shades (wine, carnet, maroon, blue) can make you stand out from the crowd. Tassel loafers are uniquely versatile to pair for any event like party, work meeting or for wedding. Dark wine tassel loafer can play well with three piece black suit for event or wedding whereas tan loafers can go with well with party look (black jeans with white shirt). -Penny loafer: The penny loafers are minimal stylish shoes in the most traditional styles. It is also versatile to wear with any outfit. The shoe emerged as a classic American staple, featuring predominantly in collegiate outfits across the country. It is a preferred shoe option due to its simplistic style and easy adaptability. Today, the penny loafer is a nod to the past but available in a range of different materials suiting every gentleman’s taste. Penny loafers are highly available in three shades – black, brown, and wine for formal look. -Loafer colours: Now, men are more interested to go with experimental colours in loafer to highlight the appearance. Black may be classic, but unusual tones like burgundy, wine, magenta loafers can be more versatile to get dapper look. Different colours in loafer are high trend these days and can add more stylish essence.last_img read more

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USbased streaming giant Netflix has updated its T

first_imgUS-based streaming giant Netflix has updated its Thai service to better cater for local subscribers.In a move similar to others in Turkey and Poland, Netflix said its Thai service now offers “a fully localised user interface”.This includes Thai subtitling and dubbing on “thousands of hours” of series and films.This comes after Netflix secured a carriage deal with Thai telecoms group and mobile provider AIS earlier this year.Netflix will also offer its Thai subscribers more 4K and HDR content, though there was no mention of local acquisitions or original programming.“We are delighted to offer a more local Netflix experience in Thailand where members can enjoy a variety of TV shows and movies – everything from globally popular Netflix original series to anime, kids content to Korean drama,” said Jessica Lee, VP of communications in Asia for Netflix.“Thailand knows great entertainment and now it’s even easier to watch the world’s favourite shows on Netflix anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected device and at the same time as the rest of the world.”In further Netflix news, the SVOD service has revealed its latest Adam Sandler movie, which will star the comedy actor and stand-up Chris Rock.The Week of is a comedy that will follow the week before Sandler’s daughter marries Rock’s son.Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions is attached and Robert Smigel will direct. A 2018 premiere date has been set.Netflix has a multi-film distribution agreement with Sandler (Happy Gilmore), and is lining up two stand-up specials with Rock.Meanwhile, China’s Baidu has confirmed it will carry Netflix via its SVOD service iQiyi.last_img read more

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From being an alsoran in the TV operating system

first_imgFrom being an also-ran in the TV operating system space, Google’s Android TV could be set to sweep all before it, following the introduction of the service provider-friendly Operator Tier. Stuart Thomson reports.There are many reasons to believe that rumours of the death of TV are greatly exaggerated. One such reason is that global technology giants such as Google and Apple have long coveted TV as an untapped market and have made a number of attempts to gain a foothold in it, both in services and in technology to enable those services.For Google, which has made a number of attempts to position Android TV as an entry point into the TV service provider market with limited success, the last year has seen a major breakthrough. Its technology has made phenomenal progress as the platform of choice for service providers. The trigger was the introduction of the Android TV Operator Tier, which finally laid to rest many of the fears and concerns operators had about getting up close and personal with Google.Operator TierThe introduction of the Operator Tier gave life to Google’s strategy of trying to penetrate the service provider market, something that its previous efforts had largely failed to achieve. Hitherto, operators had the choice of surrendering their independence by adopting Google’s TV platform wholesale – effectively giving the tech giant control of their customer data as well as the look and feel of their service and reducing their own presence to that of an app on Google’s service – or by opting for the Android Open Source Project, the initiative whereby Google made most – but not all – of the elements of the Android source code available royalty-free to third parties to develop their own proprietary devices and services.“Originally the Android Open Source Project was a technical platform used by Swisscom but it took a huge effort to build something,” says Kai Christian Borchers, CEO of 3Screen Solutions, one of the leading providers of Android Operator Tier launchers for service providers. “No other operators were willing to play [with Android TV] and lose complete control over their set-top box and customer experience.”Adopting Android TV meant giving Google complete control of customer data and having the final word over the line-up of channels as well as taking charge of search results.Having failed to make much headway with this less than enticing prospect, Google undertook a rethink and ultimately came up with the Android TV Operator Tier. The main staging post was enabling custom launchers that gave operators control of their own user interface. Canal Digital in Norway was among the first operators to build its own custom launcher for the platform, ultimately transitioning to the full-fledged Operator Tier along with fellow Swedish service provider and leading cable operator Com Hem.Whereas previously operators’ services would simply be one app among many, with the Operator Tier they can control the experience from the home screen.“From the operator’s perspective there are more options to customise the user experience and to be able to brand it,” says Shankar Nagarajan (left), vice-president of products at technology provider Seachange. “Having a custom launcher makes things really interesting for our customers.”The Operator Tier has fuelled an explosion in Android TV deployments globally, leading technology providers to focus efforts closely on the Android TV market. “The operator community has a large installed base of Linux set-top boxes out there and we continue to support those and innovate on them,” says Chris Thun, vice-president of product management, TiVo. “But the Android TV space is where we see the bulk of the growth.”Reasons to be AndroidAndroid TV has a strong appeal for operators for two key reasons. The primary one is that it opens out an almost infinite array of services for the operator to offer to its customers. The second is that Android TV provides a platform with the scale to deliver highly affordable set-tops and a big potential base of app developers to create new applications and services.Com Hem chief technology officer Thomas Helbo says that changing consumer behaviour was the key reason the cable operator decided to adopt Android TV, along with the flexibility and fast time to market that the platform enables. While set-top upgrades in the past often took up to two or three years, operators are being faced with demands for more advanced services from customers used to seeing rapid changes in the user-experience associated with Netflix and other OTT companies. “We see ourselves as content aggregators,” says Helbo, who adds that speed of development was another factor in leading it towards Android TV.A third element, says Helbo, is “reputation”. Cable operators are increasingly seen as somewhat old-fashioned incumbent players and Com Hem had an ambition to shed this perception. The Swedish operator also provides services over multiple networks – not just HFC cable – and adopting Android TV accommodated that.“We needed something that could accommodate all the different platforms – cable, digital-terrestrial and multicast IP over open fibre networks – that we operate on,” says Helbo. “Then you also have the growing attractiveness of OTT.” He says that the operator needed “a Swiss knife” in the shape of a set-top that can cover all bases and handle the transition to non-linear, web-based content.Helbo (left) says that Com Hem looked at multiple options before taking a decision. These included relying on a major turnkey technology provider, which offered a great degree of stability and in-depth knowledge of TV. However, for relatively small players, it is often difficult to command attention to meet the needs of local regulations and other requirements.The second option was RDK, the cable-centric initiative to create an open source platform for operators on which service provider-specific implementations can be built. However, the platform requires operators to have signfiicant resources to accelerate the development of the complete user experience.With Android TV Operator Tier, on the other hand, “you get the flexibility of integrating broadcast TV with all of the OTT TV services you need”, he says. Operators like this, says Helbo, because they get “all the flexibility from integrating broadcast TV with OTT services and they see this as attractive because it is the closest they get to a standardised platform”’.The introduction of the Operator Tier has gone a long way to mitigate service providers’ fears about Google by giving operators access to a customised user interface, which has always been key for operators’ brands, says Helbo.“The Operator Tier gives you a customised UI and that has always been the strength of operators,” he says.Helbo admits that being tied to Google may carry some risk, but points out that operators always have the option of replacing it at some point in the future if the tech giant’s policies change.In any case, he says, Google has shown itself keen to “make it a success for both parties” and is continuing to move in more operator-friendly direction rather than the opposite. By contrast, he says, the old Android Open Source Project was a more-or-less closed-off environment that did not offer support for next-generation technologies such as Google Assistant and future smart home functionality.Confidence that Google will not change its policies in a way that alienates operators is broadly shared. TiVo’s Thun says that it is still the case with Android TV Operator Tier that “the operators don’t control the rule-book any more”, unlike in the Linux world. It is possible that Google could change its priorities in the future. However, he says, Google is unlikely to do something that is against operators’ interests because the tech giant wants a big slice of this pie and doesn’t see it as in its interests to alienate a rapidly growing customer base.Moreover, the likes of Com Hem’s comfort with the platform signifies that its appeal is not limited to IPTV providers. Cable operators, traditionally more inclined to build something bespoke with the aid of trusted partners, are now also looking to Android TV as a solution, according to Seachange’s Nagarajan.“There was reluctance in the cable space to ‘look like everyone else’ but the Operator Tier has unlocked this market. Operators can control the experience with the benefit that their customers can do cross-platform searches and so on,” he says.OTT TV servicesThere is broad consensus that the biggest element in the appeal of Android TV to operators is that it opens up quick and easy access to a vast array of OTT TV services via the Google Play store.“The foremost reason that operators are looking at Android TV is the ease with which you can incorporate OTT services,” says TiVo’s Thun. “Google Play is priority number one.”3Screen TV’s Borchers agrees. “We see that cable and IPTV customers want more than just TV. They want linear TV, video-on-demand and DVR but the main thing [they want] is integration of third-party services like Netflix and Amazon,” he says. With the Operator Tier, service providers have immediate access to the Google Play store, giving access to a wide range of popular OTT TV services. Adopting the platform means that Netflix comes already integrated, something that can take additional work with alternative platforms such as RDK or the Android Open Source Project.The other key advantage provided by the Android TV Operator Tier platform is that provides what technology providers describe as the closest the industry has achieved to a standardised set-top environment.Borchers says that Android TV now has the support of around 40 operators including those in the pipeline to deploy it – not all of whom are Operator Tier adopters – compared with about 13 for its main rival, the cable-centric RDK. While many of the Android adopters are relatively small compared with, say, Liberty Global, the likely growth trajectory of these and other entrants will be “very hard to compete with”, says Borchers.That standardised environment includes the power of Google search and recommendation, enabling users to search across different content silos, according to Borchers, who adds that the introduction of the Operator Tier has enabled service providers to ensure that their own content is prioritised in search results.The Android TV environment also enables operators to tap into the deep well of Android developers, rather than finding developers who can work with platforms with smaller footprint. “Even Android developers are hard to find because it is a high-demand market,” says Borchers.TiVo’s Thun meanwhile highlights the ease of integration of the platform, pointing to the amount of work that needs to be done to build a service on Linux set-top boxes.By comparison with Android TV, platforms such as the cable-centric RDK require possibly a greater effort on the part of operators.Neverthelesss, some service providers may prefer to go their own way rather than hitch their wagon to Google’s star, particularly if they are so reluctant to open up their platform completely to OTT TV services. “There are still customers out there who are not willing to open up their environment entirely to third-party apps,” says Robert Rozycki, senior product manager at Seachange. “However, if an operator accepts that the most important thing is to keep the customer inside that environment, but with a greater choice, then Android is the one to go for.”Seachange’s Nagarajan adds that large cable operators are more likely to be reluctant to offer a product provided by Google and more likely to want to fully control the user experience.However, while those players have the engineering resources in house to look to RDK or another solution, smaller players lack that luxury. They are more likely to find Android TV, which gives them voice-enabled search and recommendation as part of the package, for example, attractive.Anthony Smith-Chaigneau (right), senior director of product marketing at TV technology outfit Nagra, says that some large operators are still likely to have concerns about control of data, which will be key to making revenue from advanced services in the future. “Not everyone wants to get into bed with Google. There’s still a question over how much you might want to give up and how much you want full control over. A lot of people are still juggling with that and analysing the pros an cons.”For Smith-Chaigneau, the key advantage of opting for Android TV is less to do with the uniqueness of the technology, but about the Google ecosystem and what it can bring for operators. The scale provided by Google has driven down the cost of sophisticated high-specification set-top boxes, he adds.“It has driven down the price significantly and for that you you get the high-powered set-top that Android TV needs,” he says. There is now a homogenous set-top platform available supported by a wide array of suppliers, something that is relatively new to a market where set-top suppliers in the past typically focused on the platforms that were popular at a particular time.TiVo’s Thun agrees that the cost of set-top boxes is a key factor in calculating the merits of Android TV. “It gives you standardisation of the set-top requirements that drives the box cost down from about US$200 to about US$50-70. While the industry has seen that price point before, what we are talking about here is a full-powered set-top that can support all the streaming services out there,” he says.The Android TV ecosystem includes chipset, middleware and front-end user experience providers. The middleware needs to work with the specific box chipsets and there are different types of chipsets for hybrid boxes that include tuners for broadcast channels as well as IP. A number of chipset providers are in the queue to be certified by Google. Among box manufacturers, Technicolor currently has the lion’s share of the market, with Asian manufacturers trying to catch up.Software provider 3Screen Solutions has provided the reference implementation of the platform through its 3Ready platform, and Borchers says that Google has asked his company to deliver more integrations with set-top middleware providers.Borchers sees relatively little risk for operators. He points out that, in the past, service providers feared being too closely aligned with single set-top suppliers and an eight-year lifecycle for a particular generation of box. That equation has not fundamentally changed in the case of Android TV, he says.Borchers goes to far as to argue that Android TV could effectively take poll position in the cable market as well as among telecom operators, pointing to the example of Com Hem, which has been among the pioneers of Android TV Operator Tier.Android TV Operator Tier is also able to support hybrid deployments, combining legacy broadcast technology with streaming. Seachange’s Rozycki says that Google “did not have a clear policy about hybrid”, which has largely been left to software and hardware vendors. In addition to supporting the use of traditional broadcast infrastructure to deliver linear services, he says that there is potentially a significant market among operators with large populations of legacy devices in the field that they do want to swap out.Software companies see plenty of opportunities around Android TV. “You can’t deploy Android TV as it is,” says Nagra’s Smith-Chaigneau. “It needs to be part of a fuller ecosystem. It needs an operator back-end to deliver TV features such as linearised video-on-demand and a backwards EPG and security.”Smith-Chaigneau says that technology companies can play a role as system integrators. “Android TV makes things more plug-and-play, but the pay TV ecosystem is the sum of many parts that need to be knitted together,” he says. “While deploying an Android TV solution, you are still looking at formats from UHD down to mobile TV and to distribute to iOS devices and Amazon Fire TV. You have to be open to a whole range of end devices with different operating systems. Android is not going to be the only flavour in the market.”Nagra also has a role to play in helping to secure a platform that some observers believe is open to potential attack. Hanno Impola, senior director of product marketing at Nagra, says that one key to providing enhanced security against “the large attack surface” of Android TV has been to separate the Trusted Execution Environment, which handles entitlements and licences and security-related actions, from the Rich Execution Environment, which runs all the third-party apps on the platform. “We can keep any malicious apps and hacking attempts in the Rich Execution Environment,” he says. “We have build a virtual brick wall between the two that effectively blocks any attempt to access the Trusted Execution Environment via the Rich Execution Environment.”Future developmentsWill Android TV sweep all before it thanks to the momentum behind the Android TV Operator Tier?3Screen Solutions’ Borchers goes so far as to say that his company has seen the market for Linux set-tops “completely dry up” and that he has encountered “no requests for Linux boxes” for the best part of a year. However, others make the case that Android’s popularity does not mean that it will be the only game in town. TiVo’s Thun argues that “innovation in this industry takes time” and that Linux-based platforms are not going to “disappear overnight” because of the “very large historical investment” that operators have made.For some observers, the most significant rival platform is not one of the existing middleware providers or the RDK platform, or another global tech giant entering the market, but the ‘bring your own device’ strategy looked at by a number of operators that are happy to distribute their services via an app on a third-party device, at least to the growing device-savvy Millennial market. The appeal of this approach can be seen in decisions by Swiss operator Sunrise and France’s Canal+ to supply Apple TV to their customers.TiVo’s Thun adds a note of caution, arguing that Android TV is really “in the middle of the spectrum” between Linux-based platform and the BYOD world, which he characterises as being at a relatively early stage of development. “There is a wide variety of things that operators need to be comfortable with before that becomes widespread,” he says.The proliferation of Android TV on the one hand, and BYOD on the other, does not close off the service provider market to other technology providers, and Thun makes the point that Android TV is not a technology cure-all for operators. “Android TV is often portrayed as a disruptor to the pay TV industry, but that is a misrepresentation,” he says. “Android TV is a set-top box operating system. It does not provide everything an operator needs.”One of the main opportunities for software providers catering to the Android TV market now is to enable a seamless multiscreen experience, says Thun, who sees a role for his company as an enabler of a seamless user experience across multiple dimensions, including Android TV on the set-top, iOS in mobile and so on. “You don’t want five different user experiences across those different devices,” he says.For operators including Sweden’s Com Hem, meanwhile, integration of Google Assistant and smart home functionality in general is on the horizon. Helbo says that integration of Google Assistant, which has only just been launched in Sweden, “is definitely on the roadmap” along with smart home functionality more generally.“The important thing for us is to see the TV box integrated as a communications device within the home and to make us the default choice for HDMI1,” he says. “We should be the main communications and entertainment device for the family.”last_img read more

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