Smart Content Summit Keynote: Interoperability is Paramount

When media and entertainment executives gather Feb. 23 at the Microsoft Technology Center in New York for the Smart Content Summit, they’ll be treated to a day of panels and keynotes tackling recent advancements and best practices in advertising and broadcast interoperability.

And when it comes to interoperability, perhaps nobody knows the subject better than author and lecturer John Palfrey, current head of school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. and former executive director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

His Smart Content keynote — “Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems” — is titled after a book he co-authored, which tackles the importance of interoperability, or the standardization and integration of technology. Palfrey gave the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) a preview of what attendees at the conference can expect.

MESA: Not to give too much away, but in broad strokes, what can attendees expect to hear during your keynote at the Smart Content Summit?

Palfrey: All about interop! I’ll introduce the theory of interoperability, which is the ability to transfer and render useful data and other information across systems, applications and components. That sounds very dry, but it turns out to be anything but. Have you ever wondered how you can place a transatlantic phone call so seamlessly or shoot an email to someone in Hong Kong and get an instant response? You don’t need to know about all the signaling standards and different types of undersea cables or orbiting satellites that make these communications happen instantaneously and without delay. Interop is the process by which all these different systems can work together to make something incredibly complex happen without a hitch — and without them having to be all precisely the same.

MESA: How has interoperability benefited the media and entertainment sector specifically (digital content, cloud services, etc.)?

Palfrey: Every major industry, including the media and entertainment industry, benefits from high levels of interoperability every day. There is an endless array of possible examples. Consider the experience of a consumer using the Internet on a daily basis, engaging with media and entertainment.

Consumers don’t want to have to fool around with installing lots of different plug-ins, browsers, and ways of viewing content. Interoperability allows for digital content—created once—to be experienced everywhere.

The cloud allows for data and content to be stored in a remote place and shared many places. These technological developments would not be possible without a high degree of interoperability. Advertisers and media companies are able to reach consumers across many platforms seamlessly thanks to interop.

MESA: Conversely, what are the downfalls the M&E sector faces when it comes to interoperability?

Palfrey: One big concern is data privacy. In order to give consumers a seamless experience across digital systems, companies share a fair amount of information about individuals across platforms. There is much more known about individuals and their consumer patterns than ever before in human history. There’s plainly a risk to individual privacy, just as media and advertising companies can anticipate their needs and interests more effectively. A high degree of interoperability doesn’t require privacy violations, but they are often correlated.

Another concern for some parties (and a big upside for others) will be that they may not be able to control everything the way that they could in the past. My guess is that there are large legacy providers of services to whom a high degree of interoperability and data portability is a threat to their ability to control the environment as much as they’d like; conversely, that’s often good for consumers and for those trying to serve them.

MESA: What do you see on the horizon for the standardization and integration of technologies for the media and entertainment space?

Palfrey: My hunch is that digital technologies will continue to be made more and more interoperable over time in the media and entertainment space. The reason for that is that I think consumers will expect it and it will prove to be more efficient and effective for advertisers seeking to reach those consumers.

It may result in various forms of consolidation of the industry and the rise of new players who can master this interoperable ecosystem. In the end, I think it will be very positive for most involved.



Produced by MESA, the New York Smart Content Summit is sponsored by TiVo, Crawford Media Services, MarkLogic and Microsoft Azure.

Association partners include Ad-ID, the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), the Smart Content Council and the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM).

To register for the summit, click here.