GNR: 027/98 - ITA
First IEC Industry Technical Agreement underway
Multimedia specification set to benefit consumers, service providers and manufacturers alike
The IECs first Industry Technical Agreement (ITA), now underway, is aimed at defining the specifications for standardized multimedia platforms that will allow end-users to access a range of multimedia services via a single platform. The Open Platform Initiative for Multimedia Access (OPIMA), a consortium currently comprising more than 40 companies and organizations and which is open to all interested parties, agreed in September to use the IECs ITA mechanism to bring this specification to market. This first ITA is scheduled for completion by September 1999.
The consumer, service provider and hardware manufacturers are all set to benefit by the development of the specification for the OPIMA. Todays consumer who wants to access multimedia services from several providers is forced to have multiple terminals with different interfaces - televisions, decoders, radios and personal computers being the obvious examples. This is an expensive and confusing situation and one which, according to OPIMA, is slowing down the adoption of digital services.
The ITA currently under development is based on the belief that the multimedia market would see faster development if a standardized technology existed that would allow the consumer to use and pay for services, without having prior knowledge of which services would be consumed, in a simple way such as by operating a remote control device. The actual technology required to reach this goal already exists, but OPIMA believes that some aspects of it need to be standardized, thus enabling the system to work openly and efficiently. The ITA will also cover security and privacy requirements, types of transactions, device types and connection types.
The ITA being developed envisages a platform that will have to support services such as: free TV/Radio and subscription TV/audio, near video-on-demand and on-line internet services. Optional services could include: targeted advertising; information services (stock exchange information, traffic information), games, polling and home shopping and banking.
The OPIMA initiative was originally launched in March this year with a call for proposals issued in May. OPIMAs charter was drafted last month and can be accessed on:
The IECs ITA is a new product, which delivers industry specifications for fast-moving technology sectors in months, rather than international standards which serve the traditional industry sectors but which can take years to develop. ITAs are designed to enable industry to launch new products or start production once the ITA specifications have been agreed. ITAs are different from international standards in that they do not go through the same consensus procedure and are not produced within the committee structure used for developing standards. ITAs were launched by the IEC in response to calls from industry for a new and rapid means of achieving de facto industry specifications.
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