October 10, 2013

Integrating DLNA with the CDN to optimize whole home TV

ACCESS has been presenting a vision of how Pay TV operators can start to marry their broadcast/VOD infrastructure with multiscreen/OTT delivery infrastructure and treat them as a shared resource to optimize the delivery of content to multiple devices around the home, including televisions. It uses its Netfront Living Connect DLNA stack and client software to provide a central view of what each device is capable of and what is currently happening on that device to then manage whole-home resources.

So if a tablet requests some HD content from the DVR hard drive, the DLNA stack will understand, from its integration with the operator CA system, that the user can only watch it in standard definition. But if it turns out that two other household members are already streaming from the DVR gateway and there is no local transcoding capacity left, the first request can be routed to the Internet and SD content will be streamed to the tablet from the broadband cloud instead.

ACCESS and Alcatel-Lucent Velocix, which provides operator CDN solutions, have been working together to ensure that DLNA can be used to discover content that is stored in the Internet as well as content that is stored on devices around a home. So now the CDN can be treated as another DLNA server.

A DLNA client can look for metadata about programmes as well as VOD or live streams from the CDN. According to Paul Larbey, President of the Video Business Unit at Alcatel-Lucent, “With DLNA a client can see content on a NAS (Network Attached Storage) and a PC or any other DLNA device in the home so why not extend that concept back into the network and use DLNA to discover Pay TV content that is in the cloud, rather than just content in the home?”

ACCESS can integrate its Netfront Living Connect DLNA stack with the Pay TV operator headend and its Conditional Access system and now with the CDN. That means that you can join the dots between the traditional closed ‘network’, the broadband Internet ‘cloud’ and the home network. The DLNA stack sits in the middle and acts like an air traffic controller who routes planes with an understanding of where they should be going, if they have permission to land, if the runway is a suitable length for the type of plane, and whether they can re-route.

Joerg Eggink, Product Director, Connected Home at ACCESS, explains it in television terms. “Because we are integrated with the broadcast and CA system we know the distribution rights for content into the home. Can someone watch HD content from the PVR? If so, we can distribute that content from the hard drive. If they have it stored in HD but are only allowed to distribute it in SD we can get another copy for them from the cloud.”

This is not just about rights management but resource management. If someone wants a DVR file but the device has no more transcoding capacity their request can be re-routed to the CDN, so they are streamed the same content in the correct, pre-transcoded format. If someone requests a live stream from the web they could be redirected to the same broadcast feed if the operator wants to save broadband bandwidth.

“Our DLNA stack knows the capability of the client and knows what codecs it supports,” Eggink explains. “The resource capability of the stack means it can look at how many tuners are available and if there is enough transcoding capacity or if there is an online copy of the same content. We are giving the best of both worlds.”

Content can be distributed using the new DLNA Commercial Video Profile-2 (CVP-2), which was developed with the cooperation of service providers to enable more secure playback of their content across multiscreen devices. It also gives them more control over the user interface on different devices. CVP-2 leverages HTML5 Remote User Interfaces (RUIs) and HTTP Adaptive Delivery and Authentication on top of the DTCP-IP-based link layer protection, which was already available. ACCESS is actually demonstrating NetFront Living Connect with CVP-2 at the DLNA Members meeting in Hawaii today (Thursday October 10).

In this new architecture, DLNA acts as an abstraction layer. Not only does it provide a unified view of activity across diverse devices, it also means platform operators can avoid writing native apps for each DLNA-enabled device. You still need a software client to reach them but not the unique applications development work. “DLNA is a way to overcome device fragmentation,” says Larbey at Alcatel-Lucent.

The user interface for each device can be delivered as an HTML5 app from the cloud and rendered in the device browser. That should mean fast deployment and a consistent user experience across devices.

For Alcatel-Lucent the integration of DLNA and CDN is part of a bigger vision, which is the migration to a world where all video content is delivered unicast via a CDN and set-top boxes start to disappear. And during IBC ACCESS was also demonstrating how mature HTML5 is becoming, providing the 2013 update on its high frame rate animations to prove that the standard does not limit what you can achieve on a user interface.