The very latest waves of Flat Screen Digital TVs hitting our shores this year are being marketed as "Smart TVs". What does this mean, and what benefits do they have? Let's try and explain this concept in a simplified manner.
First – A very quick history on TV evolution
Television technology has advanced rapidly over the years, progressing from the basic "Square" 4: 3 Analogue CRT Tube. The introduction and sharp rise in popularity of DVD then saw the implementation of widescreen TVs to suit this format. As the trend towards viewing movies in widescreen digital became the standard, similar steps had to be made for day to day Television viewing. So the integration of digital set top boxes began, and our Television networks began to broadcast our TV programs in digital to coincide with that. As the public began to embrace the "cinema" experience, the next natural progress was larger screens, so Plasma, LCD and later LED panels were introduced. In the years that followed, besides obvious improvements in clarity, sound & design, the only major change made to TV technology was size – demand called for bigger and thinner TVs. Over the last year or so, the introduction of 3D Technology was the next "big-thing", as well the call for more eco-friendly panels.
So we've seen TV's develop from a bulky, square Picture Tube with a choice of five stations to view in analogue, to large, ultra-slim, Full High definition panels capable of displaying 3D images, and a choice of over twenty channels broadcasting many programs in widescreen digital. Add to that a very sharp decline in price, and an ever increasing focus on environmentally friendly performance – we've certainly come a long way. So where to from here?
Introducing Smart TVs …
The internet is now a dominant part of our daily existence. Our mobile phones have now evolved from devices used just for making phone calls into "Smart-Phones" – basically mobile phones with internet accessibility. The same technology has filtered through to our TVs, and coined the phrase – "Smart TVs". Today's new waves of Smart TVs have a very large focus on online interactive media such as Internet TV, media streaming, social networking and web browsing. In a similar way to how internet browsing, web widgets and software like games or applications are integrated in today's smartphones, the same trend towards such connectivity has now become part of today's TVs, creating a convergence between computers and Digital TV. Smart TVs allow viewers to search for and find movies, video clips and photos on the internet, stored on a home hard drive, through to your TV, using your remote control.
Smart TVs will eventually change the way we access media in our homes
This convenience will eventually change the way we access media in our homes, or more precisely, from where we access our media. One example would be not having to run down to our local video stores anymore just to rent a movie. By pressing a couple of buttons on our TV remote we suddenly have access to hundreds of movies available for streaming from the comfort of our lounge. Applications (or "Apps" as they are commonly referred to) add yet another facet for us to explore. There are a limitless number of apps that can be created. If you are an I-Phone user, you will already have encountered dozens of dozens of ingenious applications that you now find hard to live without. There are apps for everything, ranging from live weather and news forecasts, to TV Show catch-up episodes, the latest sports news for your favorite team as well as live scores, and of course the whole social media forum such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. These are now right at your fingertips, transforming TVs into a very diverse media network. The ability to Skype call is also an option, with the aid of a brand-specific Skype camera. While a small number of these features, in some form, have been available over the last year from some television manufacturers, in 2011 we will see the introduction of unrestricted web-browsing in some models. This opens up a limitless array of possibilities by transforming your TV into a fully functional web browser.
Smart TVs – Bringing the internet into your lounge room
There is a distinct advantage of not having to take the effort to boot up your PC, which is usually located in another room, to perform tasks such as purchasing items on eBay, checking your E-mail, or to Google something that has just taken your interest on TV. With large high definition screens, and web pages fully optimized to suit, there is certainly a distinct advantage in browsing the internet from the comfort of your lounge instead of through a little laptop screen or sitting at your computer desk. Even if you have photos, music, movies or video files stored on your home computer, you can access all of these wirelessly through your home network and stream them directly to your TV.
So, in summary …
Smart TVs are the next generation of Flat Screen Digital Television, integrating your TV and computer's functionality into one.
With the ability to stream high definition movies, connect with your friends using Facebook and Twitter, stream TV Shows, and get instant access to news, sport and weather – all from the comfort of your lounge and on a large High Definition TV screen. Some of the higher end Digital TV models will offer built in web browsers – opening up unrestricted web browsing directly to your Television Set. As Plasma and LED Screens have evolved to become thinner, more energy efficient and providing us with stunning Full High Definition clarity. We now have a limitless array of media applications opened up to us, providing us with versatility and cross functional capability like we have never had before.