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October 9, 2013
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Open source UTK initiative designed to lower cost of HBB devices

There is a new initiative to make it easier, cheaper and faster to build hybrid DVB/IP receivers and initially it is aimed at the Tier 2 and Tier 3 Consumer Electronics market, although the company behind the new open source stack-kit believes that T1 connected TV device makers and even platform operators may eventually see value in their work. The new UTK stack-kit was officially unveiled at IBC in September and is driven by Pixsan Digital Software, which describes itself as the master gatekeeper for the stack.

Given its aims and the fact that licensees will have to share their own development with other users, this initiative has obvious similarities to RDK. But it addresses a different marketplace. “RDK is a big, heavy stack solution and will grow in cable first, even in DVB markets. We are an RDK licensee and think it is an excellent approach but this is something different that will appeal to a neglected part of the market,” explains Jon Williams, Managing Director at Pixsan Digital.

Pixsan is a software development company specializing in set-top boxes, DVRs and integrated televisions, with its product on seven million devices. In the hybrid environment it has fully compliant solutions for MHEG-IC and HbbTV, two key European standards behind Hybrid Broadcast Broadband (HBB) service delivery.

The UTK (Universal Television Kit) project intends to attract SoC vendors, set-top box vendors, television makers and associated developers to contribute into what will become a common framework. It will use this pooled technical resource to rationalize hybrid platform development, thus simplifying build and, it is hoped, encouraging higher device volumes. There are no intellectual property fees or royalties.

Like RDK, UTK exploits gstreamer (which will be available in a number of next-generation chipsets, according to Williams) and Qt frameworks (which has 450 developers working on it) to create what Pixsan claims is a compelling hybrid TV architecture. As well as being the ‘master gatekeeper’ Pixsan Digital is a lead developer and will assist other UTK licensees with modules for building into devices.

Harmonization is the name of the game, leading to lower costs for hybrid broadcast broadband. “The challenge is to try to bring applications into a single hybrid environment,” says Williams. “If you are putting apps onto a non-standardized platform you take each platform on its merits based on how much reach it can give you for the investment. We are trying to provide a single platform for more of the marketplace.

“Then, with the shared source and royalty free model we can attract vendors to take this solution because it will be a much lower cost of entry for more complex devices.”

Although initially aimed at the Tier 2 and Tier 3 CE market, Williams says the software solution could be used for Tier One televisions if they eventually want to reduce costs, although today their manufacturers have their own hybrid solutions. The operator set-top box market is a lower priority but is not ruled out.

One result of this initiative, if it is successful, should be that more low-cost Smart TVs should appear with access to catch-up TV services that previously only appeared on more expensive models.