BBCi Labs Blog

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Innovation and One in Ten

  • TVP
  • 28 Nov 08, 2:02 PM

Ruhel Ali writes:

The BBC has always been at the forefront of innovation. From producing the first television transmissions; the creation of Ceefax; to taking the UK digital, the BBC has enabled new technology and ideas to flourish.

We have seen a massive change in the way people interact with their TVs from the introduction of digital services on Sky, Virgin, Freeview and Freesat to more recently seeing BBC iPlayer available on PC and the cable platform. The BBC Red Button service has allowed viewers to access extra audio, video and text content on the TV, as well as enabling them to play along with quizzes, enhance their experience of certain TV programmes and in general expect a broad choice of BBC interactive content to be available when they want it.

As more features are introduced on other platforms, such as the BBC Online, a question comes to mind - how do we keep the Red Button service as interesting and relevant for our viewers?

We have done quite a lot in the background and under the bonnet of our service but since 2007 we have also been experimenting with different ways of working to get fresh ideas and services on air for the public to enjoy. One method was to introduce the One in Ten programme.

What is One in Ten?

One in Ten was introduced last year in the Red Button team to allow staff there the time to work on innovative ideas every one work day out of ten. This has allowed staff to explore ideas which they are interested in and which may also be of benefit to BBC audiences or to the BBC internally.

The projects that were submitted had varying levels of success. Some have not progressed far, some have come up against technical hurdles, whilst other have been very successful and made it across the line! All of them allowed the in-house team to explore and investigate ideas that otherwise may have not been looked at as part of usual work stream.

Below are some examples of projects that have made it through to closed user testing.

Generic Real Time Tracker

The Generic Real Time tracker is a prototype system to demonstrate real-time submission of location information from a GPS enabled mobile device via the internet, which in turn is displayed on a BBC interactive TV application.

James Sheppard showing the initial prototype on a cable set top box.
James Sheppard showing the initial prototype on a cable set top box.

Screenshot of the final version.
Screenshot of the final version.

The system was used to track ten celebrity runners of the 2008 London Marathon and was broadcast as a "cloaked application", allowing BBC staff to access it but keeping it hidden from public view. This proved the concept worked on a live environment.

Red Button Arcade

The idea behind the Red Button Arcade project is to provide BBC digital audiences with 'classic' arcade games playable from their set top boxes. By carefully selecting the games we choose to develop, it should be technically possible to give audiences a suite of playable retro games, across all TV platforms. Mark Hatton will be explaining his work on the Red Button Arcade in future posts.

BBC News content on Windows Media Centre


The application above was created to test how BBC News might look like on the Windows Media Center TV platform. Unlike traditional interactive TV applications, this one gets all its content over the internet via RSS feeds from the BBC website.
The purpose of this application was to provide a much richer user experience utilising the graphical capabilities of Windows Media Center and distribution capabilities from an always-on internet connection.

The application provides the user with BBC Red Button content overlaid onto BBC channels, similar to the MHEG applications on existing platforms. The application was written in C using the .NET framework. Shalim Khan will be writing in detail about this in the near future.

Where to now? As we continue to innovate within the Red button team and through One in Ten, you should be seeing more cross platform ideas. The ideas we are looking for should, where appropriate, work across Red Button, Mobile, Online and other future platforms as they come online.

Watch out for further blogs about One in Ten over the next year.

Ruhel Ali is a Development Producer working for the RAD Unit/Innovation Culture

Welcome to Selkirk, West London

  • Andrew Bowden
  • 7 Nov 08, 8:37 AM

There's a new addition to our office in West London. Sat in front of a green glass screen, where everything is surprisingly dark and difficult to photograph, is another part of the country. Selkirk in fact.


Well okay, the television of Selkirk to be accurate.

As we're in London, we don't normally get to watch Scottish Freeview, however Selkirk has today begun the process of switching off analogue TV. To support this, we've had to set up a whole batch of new systems and servers, which will later be used for other regions making the switch too.

But how do you test that your new systems are working correctly, when in another part of the country? Well thanks to the wonders of modern technology, it's possible to watch Scottish Freeview in London. As long as you're in our office anyway.


As the sign above the Selkirk TV set says "You are Here. (The rest of us are 300 miles in this [southern] direction)".

Andrew Bowden is a Senior Development Producer for the BBC Red Button Service.

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