SCTE locks up its first industry patent, with more to follow

On the cusp of its 50th anniversary next year, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) has scored its first industry patent.

The SCTE and its global arm, the International Society of Broadband Experts (ISBE), announced that a U.S. patent was granted in the area of energy management. It's a pivotal moment for the SCTE, which has focused on developing standards and training for the cable industry while working in tandem with CableLabs and the NCTA.

"We're really actually part of an ecosystem and therefore the purpose of this patent is really focused on our industry and differentiating our ability to compete in the marketplace," said Mark Dzuban, president and CEO of SCTE•ISBE, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "These patents are important. What we want to do is make sure our industry could capture this so that our operator partners are the beneficiaries and our tech partner vendors understand what they have to do to implement this over time.

Mark Dzuban, SCTE

"Our main mission here is applied science. For the first time, we're capturing intellectual property around that applied science. In other words, the deployment and operation of the networks and science that could differentiate us from others, and make that a much more efficient and a much more practical operation in the future."

Specifically, U.S. Patent No. 10,139,845 is for “System and Method for Energy Consumption Management in Broadband Telecommunications Networks via Adaptive Power Management,” and it provides a framework for aligning network energy consumption with network usage, which is a cornerstone of SCTE 216 2015, the Adaptive Power System Interface Specification (APSIS) developed in conjunction with SCTE•ISBE’s Energy 2020 program.

The SCTE launched its Energy 2020 program in 2014 with the goal of having energy and power-related best practices and standards in place by 2020. The Energy 2020 program marked a cultural and business model shift for the organization.

While the patent covers more than 20 ways in which the cable industry can support APSIS, it boils down to four foundational pillars that are central to managing energy consumption in networks, according to the press release:

  • Based on such natural and man-made influences as “weather forecasting, storm tracking, major events of high energy usage, rolling brown out, rolling black outs, real-time network data, outages in other sections of the network, network energy costs, past network performance or any combination thereof.”

  • Based on information from facility elements, including “heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, security for people and equipment or the dynamic traffic needs of the network.”

  • “By coordinating facility energy management system functionality with functionality of the equipment within the network,” including individual or combinations of shut down modes, reduced power modes, and/or sleep modes; and

  • By monitoring energy consumption metrics, including “energy consumption over a specified time interval, energy consumption variability, peak to average energy consumption ratio, peak energy consumption, energy availability, cost of energy, or any combination thereof.”

Between 73% and 83% of cable energy usage occurs in headends or hubs. Better energy consumption can include reducing the footprint of a headend and powering off or powering down devices, such as Cable Modem Termination Systems, when they aren't in use or when traffic is a low point.

"This is really a very aggressive way to look at energy consumption," Dzuban said. "What's interesting is some of the benefits are the more you can reduce the heat generation in the core technology, it improves the mean time between failure or the performance reliability of the network. There are some side benefits that are pretty attractive."

On the cable operator side, Dzuban cited the contributions to the patent by Comcast, Liberty Global, Charter Communications and Cox Communications, although it's worth noting that APSIS can benefit operators of all sizes. Vendor contributors include Alpha, Arris, Cisco, and Hitachi.

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Dzuban said that the SCTE has four additional patents in the works that are related to protecting its intellectual property.

"We have things that are surfacing out of this that we're looking at right now that are actually very cool," he said. "Some of that applies to artificial intelligence, which ipeople think is new but actually it's not.  It's looking at problems that have data points and these data points can give you some direction or action that you can take preemptively and that's what we're looking at doing in the network.

"So as soon as those patents start to surface, I think you're going to find some of these are very interesting relative to the industry and how the industry would apply them."

While the SCTE is getting its arms around its applied science technologies, and the lessons learned Energy 2020 program, Dzuban didn't rule out some sort of licensing agreements that would allow telcos or even Facebook, Amazon, Netflix or Google, to use them as well in, for example, data centers or central offices.