How About a Troubleshooting App?

Though smartphones aren't strictly a cable thing, their apps increasingly are. Multiscreen and virtual remote apps are probably the most common. But there's one that's conspicuous by its absence: a troubleshooting app. The idea isn't new -- Pangrac and As...

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By Ron Hendrickson

Though smartphones aren't strictly a cable thing, their apps increasingly are. Multiscreen and virtual remote apps are probably the most common. But there's one that's conspicuous by its absence: a troubleshooting app.

The idea isn't new -- Pangrac and Associates trialed an iPod-sized electronic gizmo 10 or so years ago that, though limited, pointed the way. It was intended for installers and service techs, and was basically an electronic FAQ device for commonly encountered problems in the drop and customer premises. At the time, it didn't really go anywhere, but now the technology exists to make the idea really take off.

The starting point would be a self-help tool for subs. It needn't be fancy, just a bell-ringer: Insufficient signal level at device inputs, lost connection, problems with devices themselves, things like that. It would ideally tell subs how to fix what they can themselves, like tightening loose connections or rebooting boxes. For things subs can't fix, it could give them the customer service number to call and perhaps a code to give the CSR that explains the problem.

A more advanced version might auto-generate and transmit a trouble report to the cable operator, then create a work order (ideally indicating the specific problem) for the tech and perhaps even send the sub a notice of when the tech will show up.

A still more advanced version could be created for installers and techs. This might include actual signal levels and other diagnostics, maybe even a FAQ-type interface like the old Pangrac device.

Not every sub would want the self-help option, nor would low-end CPE likely be able to support it. But the gold-plated folks and early adopters would be on it like white on rice, and their more sophisticated CPE ought to be up to the task. It shouldn't be hard to do if an op already has multiscreen and/or virtual remote apps, which already "talk" to the various boxes in the premises. Think DLNA, that sort of thing. Something like this would be a natural complement to Time Warner Cable's SignatureHome and similar services, as well as multiscreen plays.

A smartphone troubleshooting app could be a great little value-add for a cable operator. I bet subs would love it, and it should help reduce truck rolls considerably. Frankly, I'm a little surprised that no one's come out with one yet.

Drop me a line and I'll let you know where to send the royalty checks.

Ron Hendrickson is BTR's managing editor. Reach him at ron@broadbandtechreport.com.

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