IRT has developed a concept which allows HbbTV apps of different broadcasters to push links to websites or mobile apps to companion screens. These may provide additional information on a show, which viewers can retrieve during or after. A prototype app called Universal Launcher was developed by IRT to showcase the posibilities. Communication between the HbbTV app and IRT’s Universal Launcher runs over the local network and all information is stored on the companion, giving users full and exclusive control over their data. The concept addresses broadcasting groups, startups and initiatives.
HbbTV version 2 defines an API for HbbTV applications to trigger the launch of applications on companion screens. The implementation of this API is the responsibility of the TV manufacturer, who needs to provide a companion app, the launcher app, that talks to the TV via a proprietary protocol. However, there is no commercial incentive for manufacturers to build this kind of app, which may impact the availability of launcher apps and thus the potential reach of services that depend on launcher apps. Moreover, there are no guidelines on how the user interface of launcher apps or how the user journey in these apps should look like. The resulting heterogeneity makes it difficult for providers of companion apps to explain to their users how they can use their services.
IRT’s Universal Launcher solves this problem by providing a single app to which HbbTV applications can push information. Being fully compliant with the HbbTV 2 specification, IRT’s Universal Launcher is designed to be deployed to all major mobile platforms (including Android and iOS) and to be interoperable with any HbbTV 2 compliant TV device. IRT’s Universal Launcher uses the discovery feature from the HbbTV 2 specification to find HbbTV 2 devices on the local network. It sets up an App-to-App Communication channel on discovered TV devices through which the HbbTV application can send launch request to Universal Launcher.
IRT’s Universal Launcher notifies its users when new launch requests arrive. A history in the app also allows users to retrieve the information at a later time. All information is stored in users’ personal installations of IRT’s Universal Launcher on their companion devices. A sharing feature allows users forwarding information to their friends via email or any instant messenger available on the companion device.
We expect a high commercial impact of a TV-to-companion-push technology as provided by IRT’s Universal Launcher. The impact of TV commercials can be extended beyond their duration, e.g. in the form of coupons sent to the companion. Transactions can be carried out directly on the companion device, as it offers convenient input modalities for payment and address data. TV commercials may send more targeted information to people’s personal devices, instead of only addressing the whole family sitting in front of the TV. Also, the technology could improve the quality of targeting as data on viewers’ Web or mobile-app usage and TV usage can be combined.
We believe that the TV-to-companion-push technology as offered by IRT’s Universal Launcher is a key enabler for the convergence of media usage on TV and mobile devices. For example, the playback position of a TV show can be sent to the companion device to allow viewers resuming on the go. Background information or links to clips with background information in the broadcaster’s VoD portal can be sent to the Companion. Broadcast dates upcoming episodes of a series can be stored on the Companion as reminders. In addition, the possibility of sharing information with friends holds potential for multiplier effects.
The demo video gives a brief impression of the Universal Launcher’s look and feel.