By Steve Heeb, President & GM of RDK Management, LLC
2015 was a highly productive year for the Reference Design Kit (RDK), and the RDK community continued to grow as expected. Today, more than 25 Pay TV providers have licensed the RDK across Europe, North America, Latin America, and Asia. Millions of RDK-STBs have been deployed around the world. And, the RDK community now stands at over 250 companies across CPE manufacturers, SoC vendors, software developers, system integrators, and network operators.
However, the size of our community is just one indicator of the RDKâ€™s impact. What matters most is how the RDK is enabling the pay TV industry to innovate quickly and deliver tangible results.
As we all remember, the rate of STB software innovation for the pay TV industry was painfully slow historically. The RDK was created to alter this dynamic, while maintaining an operatorsâ€™ ability to manage their network end points and differentiate at the customer-facing services layer.
Acceleration and Results
Over the past year, itâ€™s clear that the RDKâ€™s unique approach has resulted in tangible improvements in new service innovation, development-operations efficiency, and customer satisfaction across the pay TV industry. Here are a few examples that come to mind:
- STB Development: Operators can now work closely with STB manufactures and silicon suppliers during their early design phase and chipset prototype production in order to minimize development cycles. In fact, STB suppliers can now take a new chip from RDK- integrated silicon vendors and have a working STB design in days. So, instead of taking the typical 18 months to have a new STB, RDK-based operators can have new boxes in the field in a few short months.
- Collaboration and Testing: Like traditional open source initiatives, RDK code contributions are visible to all members of the community, who are able to comment/review/modify the code. The code is then tested across multiple device platforms (hybrid QAM and IP STBâ€™s, IP-only STBs, DVB-based STBs, etc.) prior to release. There are now RDK code releases every 2-4 weeks. This compares to prior STB software cycles which could take months or years.
- Building New Prototype or Demo Apps: Before the RDK, it could take 6 months to a year for an app developer to develop a working prototype on an operatorâ€™s STB software. Now, thanks to the RDK App Emulator, companies can walk into their very first meeting with an operator and show a working app suitable for immediate lab or field trials. In fact, within the first six weeks of availability, the RDK App Emulator enabled more than 200 applications to be certified and tested for deployment on RDK-based devices.
- UI Enhancements and New Services: Operators can quickly change and enhance graphically rich, modern user interfaces like Comcastâ€™s X1 and Liberty Globalâ€™s Horizon, which are powered by the RDK. Thanks to the RDK, product enhancements and changes are no longer measured in terms of months or years, but rather in weeks.
- Experimenting with New Features: The RDK also enables operators to trial new features and quickly change these features based on actual STB usage data. This is something that simply was not possible under the legacy model, where each device had a different software platform and lacked uniform visibility into STB usage data.
- Fixing Software Issues: Thanks to the ability to access the RDK source code, operators can often fix issues in less time than it used to take to schedule a meeting with all of the relevant vendors. Operators are adopting continuous integration processes where the operator and all key stakeholders (OEM, SoC, Systems Integration, and UI teams) have source code visibility on RDK devices. This transparency enables all parties to identify, isolate, and fix code issues at a pace previously not possible.
It can be hard to remember that the RDK is still a relative new comer to the pay TV industryâ€™s tech scene. And, itâ€™s traction and influence continues to grow for network operators and their device ecosystem. Beyond STBâ€™s, our community is now focused on providing similar software commonality and standardization across modems and routers, an effort we call RDK-B (Broadband). For both video (RDK-V) and broadband (RDK-B), 2016 promises to be another exciting year for the RDK community.
To learn more about the RDK community or how to get involved, be sure to check out www.rdkcentral.com.