Television Viewing – Clearing the Way for More Information


Cartoonist Gary Larson once drew a picture of a dinosaur standing in a classroom setting with other dinosaurs in attendance. The standing dinosaur had a pointer and he was motioning to a chart which stated, in essence, the problem:  the ice age was coming, the forests were dying, food was scarce and their population had the brain the size of a walnut. I think of this cartoon quite often in regards to the demand for faster, sleeker technology and the intense competition to stay ahead of the curve.  Good thing the human brain is slightly larger than the size of a walnut.

Television is one area of technology that seems to be in need of some updating,  but how do you update what is already a remarkable invention?  One of my pet peeves is the constant streaming of secondary information that now takes up a lot of the screen.  Whether it is breaking news in some distant land or information about a baseball player’s current statistics, it gets tiring trying to discern the picture puzzle. Some people probably even lose interest in trying to watch. How can we get additional information we may desire without cluttering up the screen?

Looking to Akamai Technologies for a solution makes sense primarily because this company’s mission is to provide services to companies with internet content who wish to quickly and efficiently interface with users browsing the web. Akamai (which is a Hawaiian word implying smart and witty) went to Nielsen, the company that has analyzed television viewers’ behaviors practically since television programming was first broadcast, for current trends.  The statistics revealed that a large number of today’s television watchers are multi-taskers.  A full 40% reported that they also use smartphones or tablets while watching television.

Based on this revelation, Akamai went to work on detecting what programming a viewer is watching and stream “secondary content”  like that mentioned above to these devices in as close to real time as possible. Whether you want to know from whom Angelia Jolie purchased a gown she is wearing at an awards show or the latest stats on your favorite basketball team, it will all appear via this app, thus clearing the television screen for a clean picture.  Of course, this would also allow you to turn off this feature as well.

The methods for obtaining a viewer’s program selection(s) are still on the drawing board.  Akamai is looking at added software in the television itself or a box such as those provided by DirectTV now. Even if a viewer is channel surfing, this app is expected to be able to collect sufficient information about what is being seen to provide relevant information.

Though the technology has yet to be perfected, these types of developments are known in the industry as “second screen apps.” The remarkable projection about this technology is that it is expected to be a 5.9 billion dollar industry in just four years.  For some of us, it may be a little too “big brotherish” but for many people, it’s a perfect fit for the seemingly, unending quest for real time information.



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