NextGen TV Targets Embedded and IoT Applications

By Curt Schwaderer

Embedded Computing Design

May 18, 2021


NextGen TV Targets Embedded and IoT Applications

Broadcast TV is typically associated with a somewhat antiquated, single-purpose, unidirectional network that delivers television audio & video to consumers using an antenna or satellite dish.

“NextGen TV” is a disruptive force that is radically changing the broadcast TV landscape. This best-kept industry secret extends broadcast station capabilities well beyond ultra-high-definition television into a wide variety of IoT applications and use cases.

NextGen TV is based on a suite of standards from the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) under the term “ATSC 3.0.” The ATSC 3.0 standards are Internet Protocol based – a fundamental shift for broadcast TV networks. And with it comes significant disruption in IoT and other networked embedded applications.

What does NextGen TV have to do with IoT and Embedded?

For those conceding that the default network for IoT applications will be 5G, think again. NextGen TV and the ATSC 3.0 standards have significant advantages for many IoT applications:

  • Uses free spectrum which generally means lower transport cost versus 5G;
  • Increased geographic reach to rural areas 5G operators may not cover;
  • Distribution outlets among the thousands of broadcast stations across the US;
  • Uniform content delivery across all broadcast stations for easier application development;
  • ATSC 3.0 is being adopted worldwide for single standard, international market access;
  • Designed for rich audio/video services which some IoT applications may find attractive.

ATSC 3.0 is an international initiative. For example, South Korea adopted ATSC 3.0 in 2016. The government allocated spectrum and mandated a 10-year transition to ATSC 3.0. South Korea executed the first ever ultra-high-definition broadcasts of the Winter Olympics in 2018. ATSC 3.0 services now reach over 70% of the South Korean population. Things are also accelerating in the United States where dozens of markets are now broadcasting ATSC 3.0 channels with an aggressive plan to dramatically increase in the coming years.

ATSC 3.0 Overview

The ATSC 3.0 protocol stack & standardized services are shown in the figure below (courtesy of BitRouter It shows the ATSC 3.0 client services stack defined by ATSC 3.0.

It’s important to understand that ATSC 3.0 is not just a delivery standard. ATSC 3.0 is an integrated delivery + transport + application standard. This is a more complete, structured solution that promotes end-to-end interoperability compared with generalized IoT environments where there are many protocol options and integration holes between IoT device, gateway, and back-end systems.


ATSC 3.0 Software Stack (credit: BitRouter)

The ATSC 3.0 software stack defines an environment where the control and content channels are multiplexed on top of IP transport. Various table map channels, programs, and associated services. The ATSC 3.0 environment allows for service discovery, software updates, and dynamically downloaded applications. The display rendering is HTML5/CSS/Javascript based for easy portability between televisions, kiosks, tablets, and mobile devices.

There are many direct parallels between the NextGen TV paradigm and many general-purpose IoT applications.

The table below lists just some of the ATSC 3.0 standards and features that client side software already implements. These features represent already finished software that can be leveraged to address many challenges associated with IoT system development and deployment. It just takes a little imagination to think about the broadcast TV paradigm and how it may map into an IoT application as shown below.

Further, there are content providers that are creating multimedia content using ATSC 3.0 standards. IoT systems can produce content/applications in the same way for higher quality production value user experience while not sacrificing the functionality of the IoT system.

ATSC 3.0 Goals == IoT Goals

The stated requirements for the ATSC 3.0 standards are:

  • High quality multimedia

  • Higher capacity – delivery of content with more programs
  • On-demand services
  • Interactive engagement
  • Personalized for each user
  • Delivery to fixed large screens, tablets, and mobile devices

For all you IoT engineers out there, sound familiar?

Emerging ATSC 3.0 IoT Applications

There are already IoT applications being implemented using ATSC 3.0 where its particularly attractive to use ATSC 3.0 for cost and geographic reach benefits.

Distance learning

The educational system dramatically changed during the pandemic. Particularly hard hit were rural and low income areas where the internet is not available making remote learning impossible. Using free broadcast ATSC 3.0 bandwidth to deliver multimedia and lesson material to an embedded device running the ATSC 3.0 stack allows schools to deliver classes and learning material to students without internet access.

Automotive Infotainment

An ATSC 3.0 planning report identified a variety of applications that include robust broadcast updates for telematics and navigation, sensors for autonomous vehicles, and in-car infotainment systems. These applications tend to fit the one-to-many paradigm of a broadcast system and of course infotainment involves rich multimedia which is a key ATSC 3.0 focus area making it an ideal solution. ATSC has been working with auto OEMs and fleet owners to explore infotainment, software/firmware updates, and advanced emergency information where there are already completed standards and implementations. Applications that are further out involve intelligent transportation systems, smart road equipment, and maps/telematics/emergency information distribution.

Emergency services

Emergency services is another area where ATSC 3.0 may play a key role. Broadcast TV has always included the notion of emergency broadcast services and these can be leveraged within the context of ATSC 3.0 to provide a small device that can deliver emergency services information to first responders in areas where the internet does not reach or in times when the internet infrastructure may not work.

Don’t Sleep on ATSC 3.0

ATSC 3.0 is silently growing and its deployment is accelerating. It promises to be the worldwide standard for broadcast networks which has significant implications and opportunities for IoT system deployment. If you’re doing work in the automotive, education, or emergency services sectors and haven’t explored NetGen TV and the ATSC 3.0 standards, you may be missing out.

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