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Cable Operators

CableLabs Looks for Silicon Valley Magic

Eyes Tech Corridor, Debuts Security Unit 11/11/2012 7:00 PM Eastern

Phil McKinney wants to move CableLabs into more innovative territory — literally.

CableLabs expects to open a new testing and certification facility in Silicon Valley by mid-2013, as an extension of its Louisville, Colo., operations and serving as a larger hub to connect cable with the high-tech community, according to McKinney, who was hired as the R&D consortium’s president and CEO this summer.

“We want to reintroduce CableLabs to Silicon Valley,” McKinney said.

CableLabs has not selected a site for the facility, which it is aiming to open by early next summer. McKinney said it will be located somewhere in the area between U.S. Route 101, California State Route 85 and Route 87. The new lab will consolidate Cable- Labs’ existing San Francisco office, opened in late 2011.

VALLEY ROOTS

McKinney is a habitué of the high-tech corridor, formerly serving as chief technology officer of Hewlett- Packard’s personal systems group prior to taking the helm at CableLabs on June 1. He replaced Paul Liao, the former Panasonic CTO who led the lab since June 2009 and under whose leadership CableLabs opened the San Francisco office.

With the Silicon Valley outreach, McKinney’s objective is to make cable “a platform for innovation for developing new services,” he said.

More broadly, CableLabs has shifted from near-term projects to focusing on technologies that will be appearing in the four- to eight-year horizon, McKinney said. “The charter the board has given me is to position CableLabs as being that center for innovation and thought leadership,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a project that was in the works before McKinney came on board, CableLabs has launched its first subsidiary — NetworkFX — a for-profit venture aimed at providing device-security services for a broad range of industries.

NetworkFX uses the same digital-certificate infrastructure CableLabs has used for the last 12 years to provide security for 200 million cable modems, set-tops and other devices that the R&D consortium has certified. The technology it uses is referred to as public key infrastructure (PKI), which uses unique, secure digital IDs to establish trusted relationships over a network.

CableLabs has never had to revoke a key for a single one of those 200 million devices (meaning the PKI has not been hacked), McKinney said.

“CableLabs has a great history of providing a security model that programmers are confident can be kept secure … and we have received a lot of requests outside the cable industry to use that same approach,” McKinney said.

Since CableLabs officially formed NetworkFX in July, the unit has engaged in discussions with 15 different standards groups and industry consortia, NetworkFX president Oscar Marcia said. It has signed several customers, but Marcia declined to identify them while the agreements are in final legal review.

“We bring 12 years of experience running an actual PKI,” Marcia said. “We are using the efficiencies we’ve learned over the years to bring on other customers at incremental cost to us.”

NetworkFX is targeting industries including banking, consumer electronics, healthcare and utilities. The CableLabs-developed PKI, which it claims is one of the largest in the world, can be applied to any networked device, including laptop PCs, smartphones, tablets, Blu-ray Disc players, game consoles, connected TVs, alarm systems and medical devices.

PKI RIVALS

Competitors for NetworkFX include PKI providers like Entrust and Symantec, as well as consulting firms, according to Marcia.

NetworkFX, which currently is based at Cable- Labs’ Louisville headquarters, has three full-time employees including Marcia. In addition, 10 other CableLabs staffers have contributed to the unit.

Marcia is currently in a dual role, maintaining his previous position as vice president of security for CableLabs. He joined CableLabs in 2001, after previously working for Deloitte & Touche.

TAKEAWAY

Under new CEO Phil McKinney, the operator-owned R&D consortium wants to establish a stronger Silicon Valley presence and is setting up a for-profit device-security subsidiary.

September