Sigma Designs

Technology Briefs

Reinventing Television: The Smart TV

In the world of consumer electronics, the “Smart TV” is all the rage these days. There is certainly no denying that televisions, and viewing habits, have changed dramatically in recent years. While TVs were once tucked in the corner of the room and turned on only to watch the nightly news or a favorite sitcom, today’s large flat screens dominate the room, and can now do so much more than just access content supplied by a broadcaster. In fact, Smart TVs represent a remarkable convergence of technologies from the traditional television, personal computing, and mobile communications arenas.

The TV becomes defined not by the channels it can tune, but the software it can run.

The key to any Smart TV lies in being connected. Supporting Ethernet or Wi-Fi networking (or both) opens up a range of new possibilities. The TV can now connect to the home network, enabling access to collections of photos, movies and music stored on the home PC. The TV can also connect to the Internet to deliver popular OTT services to consumers.

Processing power is the key

These new capabilities on the Smart TV are possible because of the advent of very powerful “applications processors” originally developed for use in smartphones. Comprised of an array of as many as four very fast CPUs, these processors rival modern personal computers in performance. With such high-performance computing added to TVs at low incremental cost, the TVs can now support Web browsing, multimedia streaming, interactive multimedia, videoconferencing, and downloadable “apps” or “widgets”. In effect, the TV becomes defined not by the channels it can tune, but the software it can run.

As the Smart TV becomes the go-to appliance for a wider variety of uses, it also becomes a logical point of control for applications related to automation of the home, such as security monitoring and energy efficiency. These applications are enabled through the use of special networking technologies that can reliably connect sensors of various types distributed throughout the home.

Each of the technologies needed for a Smart TV are proven and available: picture quality enhancement, applications processor design, home networking technologies, software architecture and integration, streaming media implementations and more. However, pulling them all together into a package that a TV manufacturer can quickly and reliably put into production requires a special background. The companies best able to do this are experts in both the traditional digital TV (DTV) market and set-top boxes (STB). After all, many of the features of the Smart TV were originally introduced as STB features, including OTT streaming and browser support. The Smart TV in many ways represents the convergence of the DTV and STB arenas.

Sigma Designs has been a long-term technology provider in both the DTV and STB marketplaces, and has business units focused on home networking technologies and home automation. Importantly, the Z-Wave low-power RF networking technology pioneered by Sigma offers an optimal solution for the inclusion of home automation capabilities into a Smart TV platform. As a result, Sigma Designs is leader in supplying the Smart TV segment and advancing the capabilities with each new generation of products.

Exactly what it means to be a “Smart TV’ will continue to evolve rapidly. Ever more powerful applications processor will continue to open up new possibilities. Expect Sigma Designs to be among the leaders in delivering on that promise.

Filed under: Smart TV, Technology Briefs