CableLabs Expands the Tent with ‘Outward-Facing’ Event

Under the direction of former Hewlett Packard technologist Phil McKinney since 2012, CableLabs has broadened its mission to not only develop next-generation broadband network technologies, but enhance the overall vision of how these advances could change the way we live, love, eat and work in the near-term future.
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Under the direction of former Hewlett Packard technologist Phil McKinney since 2012, CableLabs has broadened its mission to not only develop next-generation broadband network technologies, but enhance the overall vision of how these advances could change the way we live, love, eat and work in the near-term future.

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With that in mind, the cable-industry technology consortium has launched the fourth installment of its short video series, titled “The Near Future.” It’s also replacing its cable industry-only Summer Conference with an ambitiously open event it says will draw 1,500 attendees to Denver on June 22-23 of next year, 4Front.

“The goal is to bring these innovators together to drive different conversation around innovation and answer the question, what does that three to eight years out look like?” McKinney said in an interview. “We want other people to get in the room with us.”

He describes 4Front as an “outward-facing event,” relative to the more “inward-facing” Summer Conference.

CableLabs is targeting more than 150 executive speakers from more than 100 companies situated in 20 countries around the world. Nineteen hours of sessions will be delivered from June 23-24 at the Gaylord Rockies Event and Convention Center.

The discussion at 4Front will be built around four themes: Live (which includes tips like health care), Learn (education), Work (collaborative tech) and Play (video entertainment and gaming). The event won’t feature an exhibition hall with booth space.

“Obviously we’ll be talking about the 10G networks,” McKinney said. “We’re going to create the best platform for others to innovate on top of. The question we’ll be asking is, ‘What do those innovations look like?’”

CableLabs held its Summer Conference last week in Keystone, Colorado, but said that was the event’s final go-around. It had already eliminated its Winter Conference several years ago. Cable still has a big annual tech event in the SCTE/ISBE Cable-Tec Expo, McKinney noted.

In conjunction with the 4Front announcement, CableLabs also debuted the fourth installment in its four-film The Near Future series, which showcases applications that will be emerging or somewhat ubiquitous three to eight years from now, and how our work, home and social lives will be transformed by them.

McKinney has worked with the same small cadre of filmmakers since his days as HP CTO under Carly Fiorina. Three years ago, this group began shooting short experiential vignettes, examining how technologies currently consigned to labs and trials will change everyday life in the, well, near-term future.

The latest vignette, titled “Diverse Thinkers Wanted,” is the most challenging to date, attempting to showcase not just how technologies like light-field display and AI will change the way we collaborate at work, but how this world will self-initiate to meet our needs before we make the ask.

The video’s protagonist, a young woman sent to an unfamiliar city to deliver a presentation, finds herself being unwittingly tested by a prospective client. It’s this woman’s ability to thoughtfully and creatively interact with the various next-generation technologies at her disposal that passes the test and wins her company the contract.

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