It is no doubt that the global television industry is undergoing a major digital revolution. Online video has been spreading like wildfire, empowering consumers to watch what they want when they want it, which sometimes, cuts TV out of the equation altogether. These changes have continually pushed for different implementations in the industry so as to meet the new customers’ demand for a better experience.
From LCD, LED, OLED, QLED, MicroLed, PLASMA, Curved and now smart TVs, the technology has been advancing every year with new features being incorporated into the viewing experience. Prateek Suri, Founder, and Chief Executive Officer of UAE based TV manufacturing firm, Maser, speaks to CIO East Africa about the future of TV.
Q.We used to have the traditional Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TVs, but they were replaced by Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) ones. What inspired this change?
A. LCDs, which come with light-emitting diodes (LED) came to be to replace the huge, bulky types of screens that used a lot of space. Due to the versatility of the LCD technology, the size of the screen ranges from small watches all the way up to very large TVs. Another advantage is that they are all flat, lightweight, and offer a higher resolution than CRT models. Users needed a change and manufacturers stepped in to bridge the gap. LCD screens, which gained popularity in 2010 could now be used for outdoor advertising. They come with features such as the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, waterproof casings, allowing users to activate the extra-bright mode.
Q. Alright. Could you explain the difference between OLED, QLED, and MicroLed?
A. OLED means the LED is organic. The display contains an organic compound that emits light in response to electricity. Unlike LCDs, OLEDs do not require backlighting because the compound itself is light-emitting, so OLEDs can display deeper blacks than LCD screens and generally display greater contrast ratios in ambient light. They can also be even thinner and lighter than LCDs because filter layers are not required.
QLED is short for Quantum Light Emitting Diode (QLED). This screen technology is of great quality. I do not want to be too technical QLED means tiny particles called quantum dots are emended in the LCD display, which improves color, contrast, and brightness. OLEDs have better contrast ratios over QLEDs, but QLED screens can be larger, last longer, and are not susceptible to burn-in. Another thing is the price, QLED TVs are more affordable than their OLED counterparts.
But the latest emerging screen technology is called MicroLED. Micro because it uses millions of tiny LEDs to improve on the advantages of OLED while eliminating almost all limitations, specifically, OLED’s tendency for burn-in. Micro led screens can be as huge as 292 inches, that is, over 24 feet, and resolution can be as high as 8K. Am betting on this type of screen to replace OLED and QLED.
Q. Where do smart TVs come in all these?
A. Smart TV technology is the innovation that gives all these types of screen technology the capacity for users to operate the TV just like their phones. Most smart technologies, just like phones, are either powered by Android, Apple, or Microsoft. In this case, users can access TV content on the larger screen, by synchronizing their phone with the TV and downloading all corresponding apps on the TV. You can also connect it to your car. In this way, they can stream High Definition movies via Netflix or Hulu, download YouTube videos of their choice, and even live stream live sports matches. For, a wider video call, you can also use the TV. With the cost of the internet globally reducing, this will be the new norm in a few years to come, and pay-TV will lose the market.
While current smart TV controls can be tedious and inputting text via a remote control pointed at the TV screen inconvenient, developers have come up with apps that make your smartphone remote control, allowing them to key in the text they want from their palms.
Innovators are also coming up with device control mechanisms that rely on machine learning to simplify how viewers access TV data or search functions. Apple TV, for instance, comes with voice commands to help users access, search, and use the various apps on synchronized iPhones. Even tablets are becoming universal remote controls, and this creates more usability. For instance, the use of screencasting on the YouTube app has been a game-changer because users can project what they are viewing on their phone to the smart TV.
Q. That now sounds a very dangerous path with regard to cybersecurity. How can Smart TV owners of the future withstand the constant cyberattacks when the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a reality?
A. It is true the IoT is becoming a reality, gradually, and users cannot escape the massive hacking attempts and Dedicated Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks but there is a remedy for that. Just like a PC, the TV, which will become the center of every smart home, will need constant online protection. While installing antivirus software may not be enough, users can engage IT security firms that provide a live cyber monitoring and analysis service. That means for a small annual subscription fee, malware, or botnets that try to attack the system are thwarted before they do any damage.
Online security is vital, since hacking one device in your IoT environment means the whole system can be brought down or denied access. Remember your smartphone records all your banking passwords, which is a major motivation for hackers. Secure your data. And the IoT devices are estimated to increase to almost 21 billion objects in 2020, that is why it’s vital to guarantee yourself complete data security.
Q. Forget about IoT. In developing economies, the biggest hurdle to accessing smart TV content has not been the availability of the TV sets, but rather the affordability of those devices and their durability. How can the cost be lowered?
A. Once internet access penetrates to rural villages of developing countries, a bigger market will be opened up for Smart TVs. This will create stiff competition among TV Manufacturers, which will eventually bring down the cost of the devices. My company Maser has the vision to provide high-quality electronic products at cheaper prices, and my plan has been to make them so affordable that each home could have a big-screen LED TV and enjoy their favorite channels at home.
To achieve a universal experience of TV content, the price needs to be affordable. Even as the talk about IoT gains traction, the cost of devices is what will actualise it. That is why am venturing into the African market, specifically starting with Kenya, then Tanzania, Malawi, and Gambia.
Q. Why are you specific about Kenya?
A. Research shows that Kenya is one of the emerging markets where digital products are in high consumption. And these consumers are young tech-savvy people. In fact, the census data of 2019 shows that over 75 percent of Kenyans are aged below 35 years and that makes the country a potential market for Smart TV experience.
The country, compared to its neighbors has a high adoption rate of emerging technologies, with Jumia, an online e-commerce platform providing online sales services to get people products to their homes in this contactless period of Covid-19.
Q. What have been the usage patterns for TV products during the Covid-19 pandemic?
A. Like businesses and communities around the world, the Covid-19 outbreak has also had an impact on our supply chain and exports on account of countries being under lockdown. However, Maser has also witnessed strong demand from retail consumers.
Under lockdown, there has been an increasing demand for smart TVs for people at home to stream content from digital platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. We have been working from home for the past few months. It has been a good opportunity to fine-tune our strategy, evaluate our performance, and develop a roadmap for the future.
The past few months presented many businesses with a steep learning curve. For the redistribution market, it will all depend on how sales resume post-Covid-19. There has been a surge in online sales, and I expect this to continue as people refrain from going outside and streaming platforms acquire exclusive content for smart TVs. Once the lockdown is lifted, I foresee another huge spike in demand as supply lines have been constrained the past few months. The challenge would be is to fill this dry out gap. This unprecedented situation has forced companies to relook strategies.
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