CableLabs, the research and development consortium for the cable television industry in the United States, will release a source code reference implementation of the MHP based tru2way specifications. It aims to accelerate the development and deployment of interactive television devices and applications. In conjunction with the Canoe Ventures initiative, it has also announced a reference architecture for advanced advertising systems. The cable industry is slowly tooling up for interactivity and talking up the technology at The Cable Show.

With the support of its member cable operators, CableLabs plans to launch the reference implementation later this year under both as free open source and under a commercial licence.

CableLabs will make the reference implementation of the Java software available for use on personal computers, making it easier for device manufacturers and application developers to design and test new features and services on the tru2way platform.

As new features are added to the tru2way platform and approved for inclusion in the specification, CableLabs also will issue an updated version of the reference implementation and a new compliance test plan.

The move was welcomed by the leading cable multi-system operators in the United States, who have committed to deploy the tru2way technology.

“Comcast is among the leaders in enabling devices with tru2way technology that connect to our cable system, like new tru2way TVs,” said Sree Kotay, senior vice president and chief software architect for Comcast. “As we launch tru2way capability in additional markets and on other devices, including set-top boxes, providing our equipment manufacturing partners with a reference implementation supports our goal of bringing more interactivity to more customers.”

“With CableLabs providing a reference implementation and a compliance test plan, tru2way vendors and developers will have immediate access to a common source code that implements new features and functions on the tru2way platform,” said Phil Won, senior director for product management at Time Warner Cable. “This open access will greatly enhance consistency which will be beneficial to all parties within the industry.”

“At Cox, we are excited for the customer benefits of the CableLabs reference implementation,” said Craig Smithpeters, director of interactive services engineering. “Made available under an open source license, the reference implementation will allow the industry to work with a wider community of technology contributors.”

In cooperation with Sun Microsystems, the reference implementation will be hosted, developed and evolved in an open source community within the OpenCable Project located at

The tru2way specifications are based on the Sun PhoneME Java stack, the same Java core that powers Blu-ray and the DVB Multimedia Home Platform. CableLabs will continue to support tru2way device manufacturers and developers in ongoing events.

The tru2way technology is a software platform that enables interactive cable television services to be delivered to two-way plug and play televisions, set-top boxes and other devices. It also helps to establish a national footprint for the creators of interactive services to develop products that work on cable systems across the country. Major cable operators have committed to support the tru2way platform on systems covering more than 90 million homes in the United States by the end of 2009.

Meanwhile, EBIF or the Enhanced Television Binary Interchange Format, which is being rolled out by cable operators across the country, enables interactive television features on legacy systems. Written in binary code and executed via a user agent, EBIF applications bring interactivity to set-top boxes which lack the Java-based tru2way middleware.

CableLabs and Canoe Ventures also announced a new draft reference architecture specification called Advanced Advertising 1.0, created to further the development of cable television advertising.

Advanced Advertising 1.0 comprises a set of component specification and standards that, individually, allow cable companies to provide more innovative types of advanced advertisements, such as interactive advertising, video-on-demand advertising and advanced forms of addressable advertising.

The suite includes a basic ETV specification based on EBIF, designed to run on almost any cable system in North America.

“We are pleased to see this specification released,” said Arthur Orduña, the chief technology officer of Canoe Ventures. “In supporting the specifications, MSOs can present a unified package of capabilities, built upon their two-way infrastructure, which advertisers can more easily buy, use and measure. With this development, we’re closer to achieving Canoe’s goal of improved accountability and measurability that marketers expect from digital media.”

Again, the development was welcomed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications as a standards based approach to advanced advertising systems.

Cable Show
A number of tru2way interactive TV applications were on display at The Cable Show at the Washington, DC Convention Center for the annual convention of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

“These exhibits feature real-life technologies which demonstrate that interactive TV has moved from the laboratory to the living room,” said Kyle McSlarrow, the NCTA president and chief executive. “Tru2way is a national, open and interactive platform that is supported and contributed by multiple industries and has the potential to transform the viewing experience.”

“As Comcast continues to rollout tru2way technology across our footprint, we’re encouraged to see more developers, programmers and manufacturers embracing CableLabs technology,” said Mark Hess, who heads video product development for Comcast. “This year’s Cable Show is packed with great examples of how the industry is moving from developing a common platform to being able to deploy applications on it that will continue to change how consumers interact with the programming on their televisions.”