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    Sofia Digital – top expertise on connected television in Tampere

    Visit Tampere Sofia Digital Laura Vanzo 2 2

    Sofia Digital is a Tampere-based software company with world-class expertise on connected television – and 20 years of experience. Also, the company’s TV laboratory is unique and enables extensive testing.

    Tampere is already renowned as a rising European centre of audiovisual productions. The region has a long TV production history which is a good basis for the development of a competitive audiovisual ecosystem. According to the local film commission Film Tampere, the region’s assets are audiovisual expertise, facilities and a regional production incentive.

    While film productions make headlines, there are other tales to tell as well. This one is about high-tech company Sofia Digital. Hybrid TV and Smart TV applications are the core expertise of the company. In more general terms it is about connected TV that combines two things seamlessly for the viewer: watching TV and using internet-based content.  

    Unique TV laboratory

    Visit Tampere Sofia Digital Laura Vanzo 6
    Photo: Laura Vanzo, Visit Tampere

    First we’ll take a look at Sofia Digital’s TV laboratory. Over the years, they’ve built up a lab that is one-of-a-kind in Finland – and on a global scale, too. There are over 100 different television sets in the lab. Sofia Digital has maintained excellent relations with TV device manufacturers, which means they tend to get the newest models for their lab.

    Therefore Sofia Digital is able to offer the most extensive range of TV application testing services in Finland. The demand for testing is increasing along with the amount and variety of hybrid TV and Smart TV applications. Easy access to testing is useful for Sofia Digital’s other lines of business as well, both domestic and international.

    – For example, when we make an update to a Finnish application, we’ll test it in our own lab to make sure it works in all the devices currently in use in our country, says Sofia Digital CEO Ari Pöyhtäri.

    – We can use the lab to solve our international customers’ issues just as easily. If there is an error message from the customer’s system, we can repeat and examine the incident here in Tampere, adds Sofia Digital COO Mika Kanerva.

    Visit Tampere Sofia Digital Laura Vanzo 17
    Photo: Laura V anzo, Visit Tampere

    From Tampere, Finland to anywhere in the world

    Well-known Finnish expertise and quality are Sofia Digital’s assets in the international markets. The company has gained a solid foothold in Southeast Asia, with for example Mediacorp in Singapore and RTM Malaysia.

    Sofia Digital’s latest big customer news are about Cellnex, Europe’s leading operator of wireless telecommunications and broadcasting infrastructures. Sofia Digital helps Cellnex build their own HbbTV Platform that provides hybrid TV services for millions of people in Spain.

    – What’s noteworthy in our international business, is that we have been able to serve our customers from Finland. Of course we have visited their sites, but we are fully capable of performing Tampere-based development and maintenance, Kanerva says. 

    Hybrid? Smart?

    When we bring together television, internet and applications, our random TV viewer is showered with tech terminology. The main difference is this: Smart TV applications are installed on one’s own television set. Hybrid TV applications (based on HbbTV standard) are delivered in the broadcast signal. Sofia Digital knows the whole range of these applications.

    – Smart TV applications are the growth market with their use in sharp increase. As for HbbTV, it is specially our field of expertise since we have 20 years worth of experience and deep understanding of its requirements, says Pöyhtäri.

    If you use hybrid TV or Smart TV apps in Finland via your television, you are probably operating an app developed and maintained by Sofia Digital. All the hybrid TV apps provided by major Finnish TV channels are made by Sofia Digital, and they are a part of everyday life for many Finns.

    For easier and smarter interaction

    Connected (or interactive) TV is doing well in Finland. Interactivity is not a new idea, but it’s only recently that the new hybrid TV apps have really inspired people to participate from home in live TV shows. So, when Putous (Comedy Combat) or Masked Singer is on and the host encourages home audiences to press the blue button, up to 60 per cent of the viewers will do so.

    There is an increasing need to develop the apps further. There will always be new TV models with improved performance, viewers prefer smarter apps and better programme guidance…

    – It is paramount that viewers will find easily and quickly the programmes they are looking for. Or something to their liking they didn’t know before! There’s been a lot of effort to make apps that are able provide smart and personalised recommendations, says Pöyhtäri.

    TV ads are traditionally same for all viewers with the addition of some regional extras. Interactive TV opens new opportunities for advertising as well.

    To the top in 20 years

    Sofia Digital was established in the year 2000 to develop digital television services, and it’s business model and ownership have remained the same ever since. Digital television standards have changed a couple of times along the times, and nowadays Sofia Digital’s HbbTV standard expertise is top notch globally.

    That’s why they have developed test applications for DVB, the industry-led consortium of broadcasters, manufacturers, network operators, etc. The applications will be widely used by the entire industry, and Sofia Digital was also awarded for their application.

    – The top expertise of Sofia Digital is built by our long-term employees. Our workforce turnover is very low and the staff is extremely talented, which has enabled our know-how to keep on growing for 20 years, says Pöyhtäri.

    It is evident that television will persist as a very popular device for audiovisual content consumption, although there are several other options available. For Sofia Digital this means that there will be plenty of interesting TV-related opportunities and development projects ahead.

    – Viewers prefer to watch the best content, like movies, on a television screen, as long as the user experience of TV applications matches that of mobile phones and tablets. This is where we can be of assistance to the television industry, Pöyhtäri says.

    Author: Päivi Stenroos

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