Second-screen prototype hopes to boost couch commerce

Akamai Technologies' proof of concept offers complementary content to viewers

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless, Akamai, tablets

Akamai Technologies demonstrated a prototype second-screen system that presents complementary content on a smartphone or tablet that is synchronized with what's happening on the main television screen.

First users would need to sync their mobile device with their television. Akamai showed this using a QR code that could be scanned by the user watching the television. Every program on TV has a timestamp and content ID, which allows the mobile device to display complementary content just at the right time for the consumer.

"It's something that can be synced in near-real time," said Kris Alexander, chief strategist of connected devices and gaming at Akamai Technologies. "By the time somebody looks down from the primary screen it seems like the second screen is in real time."

In the demonstration at the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, Akamai showed the concept with some preloaded content that included a movie, television show and basketball game. When the movie showed an actor wearing sunglasses, the tablet displayed the model, price and link to buy the shades. During the basketball broadcast it offered up information on players who scored and an option to buy tickets.

"It's a lot easier to make content available that's not disruptive to the main screen," said Alexander.

There are other options to offer second-screen content, but they're not as elegant. For example, some television commercials encourage viewers to use the Shazam application to "listen" to the advertisement, which will in turn present users with additional content. Rather than pull the information, Akamai's concept offers a push model, which it thinks will be more enticing to viewers and advertisers.

Alexander said that the information would, in theory, be customized for each user. For example, once logged in and linked with a Facebook account, different users would get different information depending on their interests or recent status updates.

The Akamai Technologies demonstration used an HTML5 Web page so no stand-alone application was needed.

Alexander said that all of the technology is available now, but the company is waiting for content providers to partner with to develop it further. There are no immediate plans for commercialization.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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