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Lightbridge: The 3-in-1 device for convergence

Bharat Kumar

With one remote control directed at the box, you can do all that you do now separately with the TV, telephone and through broadband.

Recently in Taipei

If Mr Fisher Lee has his way, information on the Internet will not be confined to PC owners alone.

Mr Lee is Chairman of Digit Shuttle Corporation, in Taiwan, that has come up with an invention that can help reach the power of the Internet to rural masses whose attention rarely wavers from their TV sets.

The box, about three-fourth the size of our set top box, can take in three lines — the telephone, the TV cable and the ADSL broadband.

He says that anyone who watches TV is a target for his product, named LightBridge, priced at $100. "Through this, you could get kids to answer questions just after they have watched an educational programme. You could have a promotional campaign for soaps or polls on elections. You can access stock information through text scrolling in from a Web site you select, whatever... " So long as Web site content owners and TV channel owners have tied up with Digit, the box should give you what you want.

With one remote control directed at his box, you can do all that you do now separately with the TV, telephone and through broadband.

The box, LightBridge, helps categorise different kinds of vendors. If you are looking for international news on the Web, you could choose from a list of partners that Digit would have. Likewise, for sports programmes or even stock brokers whose sites LightBridge could help you access. Apart from Web or TV content, it also acts as the telephone directory. So, at the press of a button, you could summon a taxi through the phone linked to the box.

The box's value increases in a rural setting where people buy TVs but not a PC. He says, "We could get five children in a village to watch these educational programmes and then have the box ask questions on what they observed."

Mr Lee is interested in bringing Bollywood content under the remote's control. He says, "We could work on the iTunes model — allow one-time downloads for a dollar. Or, we could allow for content to be recorded on the box for a bigger fee." Lightbridge, which already acts as a set top box, does not have a hard disk yet. But, the next version of the product should, he says.

Looks for tie-ups

Currently, eight publishers across Taiwan, China and Japan work with Digit.

Mr Lee is looking to tie up with Indian content owners and with Indian distributors who could help reach the product across the country.

Digit is working with a leading global TV brand to integrate the LightBridge into the TV. Without naming them, he says, "They have a powerful chipset. LightBridge can now use that power."

Revenue sharing is the model Digit wants. "Partners with Web content, telecom services and TV channels, need pay no upfront fee."

When you send an SMS, for instance, the text appears on the screen but uses the telephone line to reach the intended phone number. The telecom company would share the revenue with Digit. Likewise, he says, "a discount store could pull in viewers through us and pay us every time someone buys stuff online."

Patented product

The product is patented and took eight years to evolve to its current status, says Mr Lee.

How about e-commerce using LightBridge? Mr Lee demonstrated a railway ticket reservation exercise using the box. But, "We do not want to burden our users with the act of digitally entering credit card information for a transaction."

Instead, future versions of the product are to have add-on card readers. Cards swiped through this can be read and details transmitted to the relevant Web site to authorise payment.

Finally, he surprised this writer with yet another application. Using the Web camera right next to his TV, he took a picture of this group of people and sent the image to his phone number, (connected to his TV at home).

From there, the `TV talked' to his PC and the image was sent to the writer over e-mail.

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