CableLabs released the fourth in its series of Near Future videos last week during its Summer Conference, but also shed more light on the fact that this will be the last event of this type hosted by the organization. In June 2020, a new era will dawn with a conference called 4Front. The goal is to bring innovators from a wide range of industries together to discuss what the technological landscape will look like in 3-8 years and how they can collaborate to get there.
Unlike CableLabs Summer and Winter Conferences, which have been only open to industry members and vendors under NDA, 4Front will be public and open to even the press. The aim is to bring together more than 1,500 senior and c-suite leaders across industries like technology, gaming, healthcare, automotive and security to discuss the future of how we live, learn, work and play. These, not coincidentally, are the themes that have made up the focus of CableLabs' Near Future videos over the past several years. With these videos, CableLabs has been painting a vision with 4Front in mind.
"There will be no show floor, no tech stadium, or vendors manning booths. The vendors, technology researchers (etc.), will be in rooms to have conversations in order to find opportunities to collectively (work together)," said Phil McKinney, CEO, CableLabs. "We can show a nice film, but it's really about finding ways to get over barriers and collaborate."
This year's video focuses on work and the role technology can play in collaboration with a team to help them respond to problems or changes and to be more productive. "The objective is to (show) how to make technology part of the team, rather than a barrier," McKinney said.
How accurate are the predictions in the Near Future films? McKinney said that the 2016 release, which dealt with the category of play, has come to fruition. One of the challenges of high-end gaming is latency. Since the video launched, DOCSIS 3.1 with parameters for full duplex and low latency, has dealt with this issue. Some of the features are being baked into modems, and in some cases modems that are released are software upgradeable. More mature augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies have come out, and patents have ramped up significantly.
When 4Front convenes June 23-24 next year in Denver, the hope is that by providing a venue for leaders across industries to collaborate, the "Near Future" can happen sooner rather than later. McKinney noted that cable has been recognized for its willingness to collaborate and has been asked by those in healthcare, for example, for assistance in creating organizations similar to CableLabs that could also facilitate working together. He also pointed out, however, that while CableLabs is good at collaboration, it is generally one-on-one, as with Google, Apple or Facebook, for example.
"I spent two hours with movie studios talking about what they are doing and the future content they are experimenting with. It needs enormous bandwidth," McKinney said.
4Front is about getting the right people into the room to talk about tech issues, policy issues, regulatory issues. "(It will not be) us having these one-offs. 'Have you talked with so-and-so with Intel? Let me introduce you.' We have been doing these one-on-one stitches. (Now) we will host a party and see where this goes. The response has been very strong," McKinney said.
The idea is that 4Front won't be just a "one and done" event, either. "How do we keep the conversation going? Not just one year at the conference, but have activities that get spun out of it. It doesn't even have to be cable-related. It's more about us providing … thought leadership and then getting the right nucleus of people," McKinney said.