In case you haven’t noticed, in the world of consumer electronics there is a continual effort going on to enable consumers to share content between their mobile devices and non-mobile devices like TVs. An example of this is Apple’s AirPlay system that gives users the ability to mirror iPad or iPhone content to their Apple TV. Apple’s solution enables some other features as well like initiating playback of remote content. Key to this is the ability to discover AirPlay capable devices. Great if you are part of the Apple ecosystem, not so great if you use other solutions or have hardware from other manufacturers. Netflix and YouTube hope to provide an alternative for non-Apple consumers and have launched DIAL with the backing of several other parties. Companies like Samsung, Sony, Hulu and the BBC are backing the effort to develop and implement the DIAL protocol.
DIAL stands for “discovery and launch” and is intended to be an open protocol to enable developers of “second-screen apps” to discover and launch applications on smart TVs or other connected devices. The nomenclature might be a little confusing, but a “second-screen app” would be an app that runs on a smartphone or tablet device. The “first-screen” in this equation would be the television or other device. An example of this already exists in the Netflix app which is able to browse the Netflix catalog on their smartphone and then launch the title on a PS3 gaming console. A couple things have to be true for that to happen though. First, both the smartphone and the PS3 have to have the Netflix app installed and second, both of them have to be launched on the respective device.
DIAL is intended to make things a lot easier than the Netflix/PS3 experiment. Instead of having to manually install apps and launch them, the DIAL protocol will mean devices can be automatically discovered and interact with each other. Going beyond the AirPlay model, DIAL will enable users to launch apps on their smart TV or direct the user to the app store for the device. The projects partners also think they will be able to enable the ability to launch web apps on your TV.
Indications are several vendors are invested in the DIAL project, both hardware makers and software developers. You can expect to see more news coming out this year about efforts to implement DIAL and eventually change the way we interact and use all of our digital devices.