Internet connectivity is becoming a key feature of many new appliances and devices being released in the consumer electronics market, and televisions are no exception, with smart TVs progressively becoming a more common fixture in living rooms around the country.
Broadly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), this next wave of internet-enabled devices is slowly but surely finding its way into homes, and in the new connected ecosystem smart televisions are likely to play a key role.
Roy Morgan Research data from the beginning of last year showed that one in eight Australian households have a smart TV, representing an almost a sixfold increase over the previous four years, with this doubtless having grown further over the course of 2015. Roy Morgan noted that 1.125 million homes contained at least one television with an in-built internet connection, with this not including other external devices that connect with televisions to provide connectivity.
Across a range of platforms, from the Tizen operating system employed by Samsung to LG’s smart TV webOS and Google’s Android operating system, smart TV manufacturers are increasingly focusing on connectivity as a selling point. So, what are some of the services and functions that users can expect?
Turning televisions smart
Before looking at smart TV services, it should first be noted that in-built connectivity is not the only way to bring the internet to television sets, with a host of third party devices also offering varying degrees of internet functionality. Such devices, designed to work in conjunction with televisions, include a range of set-top boxes, media streaming players and Blu-ray players, along with game consoles, such as Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One.
Devices designed for streaming include Google’s Chromecast, via which users cast entertainment and apps from a smart device to their TV, Apple’s Apple TV and Telstra’s recently released Telstra TV, which provide access to streaming services such as Netflix. As with the various brands of smart TVs available to consumers, the functionality and services available on these devices vary from device to device.
Before purchasing a third party device or smart TV, it is worthwhile for consumers to consider the sort of services they require, and also the device’s potential for future system updates, which serve to keep it current with the latest services on offer.
SVOD: Netflix makes an impact
Streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) would likely be one of the first things that comes to the mind of most consumers when considering the services currently available via smart TVs. SVOD has in recent times made quite an impact on the local television market, with the arrival of US streaming giant Netflix in April of last year in particular bringing significant attention to streaming services, with other providers Stan and Presto TV also having arrived in 2015.
To put this into context, Roy Morgan data released last year showed that 2,677,000 Australians had Netflix in the home in October, with the number of households with a Netflix subscription rising in the month to 1,039,000 (11.4 per cent). The research house further noted that for the majority of Netflix subscribers it was their first time paying for TV.
In addition to the paid services on offer, there are also many free services, such as the ABC’s iview and SBS’s SBS On Demand services, which are also worth taking into consideration when looking at smart TV SVOD services.
Internet TV is clearly increasing in popularity, and the manner in which Australians access television entertainment is undergoing a fundamental shift, and while smart TVs are not the only way to access services such as Netflix, they are clearly a convenient way of doing so. Among consumers in the market for a new TV, SVOD-compatibility would likely be a motivating factor for many.
Other smart TV services
In addition to SVOD, there are a range of other services that have been introduced to smart TVs, available across the various platforms.
Games are another big selling point of smart TVs, with platforms such as Android offering a range of games (in Android’s case via the Google Play store). Of course, for users keen on the utilising the gaming capabilities of smart TVs a compatible games controller will be needed. In addition to a dedicated library of games, both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One also offer internet connectivity and a variety of different services.
An IoT hub
Smart TV’s can also be used as hubs to control IoT devices in a smart home, with manufacturers such as Samsung and LG including IoT integration in their latest smart TV models. Samsung recently announced that its entire 2016 smart TV line-up will be IoT-ready, connected with its SmartThings platform, allowing users to connect, manage and control smart devices and IoT services. LG also recently announced that its 2016 smart TV line-up delivers smart home management functions via its webOS 3.0 platform.
Connected devices may range from lights, locks and thermostats, to appliances and cameras, with Samsung using the example of an outdoor camera connected to a Samsung smart TV allowing users to check when visitors arrive as one of the functions of its IoT smart TV hub. Users may also pair devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs to their smart TV system, building a connected ecosystem of devices.
Many smart TV platforms include social media apps, such as Skype, Facebook and Twitter, while users also often have the option to add a variety of social media apps to their platform. Social media apps can be used for networking in a variety of ways, from keeping in touch with family and friends to making recommendations and sharing videos online.
Smart TV users can also browse the web and access various other online features in doing so. As with PCs, tablets and smartphones there are a range of web browsers to choose from, with users able to navigate via their television remote or a third party device, such as a smartphone, tablet, laptop or wireless keyboard and mouse.
Smart TVs are the new standard?
In the IoT age it certainly seems that smart TVs are set to become standard, with it likely that the majority of televisions produced in the near future will feature internet connectivity. A study released last August by technology analyst firm Telsyte found that the Australian IoT at home market “is set to skyrocket”, as more and more appliances come with in-built internet connectivity.
With the average household currently containing nine connected devices, Telsyte forecast that by 2019 this will rise to 24 devices, with this not only indicating that smart TVs, among a range of connected devices, are set to become a more common fixture, but also pointing to the need for a hub to control various devices.
Given the television’s prime position in many living rooms around the country, it may well be that it becomes the go-to device in the ever-expanding IoT ecosystem of devices, with smart TVs acting as a hub for various appliances and devices.