It has been a big year for the eight-year-old Reference Design Kit (RDK) and Irdeto is capping it off with two big announcements that are set to give the middleware technology a further boost.
The first sees the company bringing a hybrid video accelerator for satellite to the market, offering pre-integrated security solutions, Global App Store, and a security certification process for pay-TV operators deploying a hybrid satellite RDK-V based service. The new solution, called Irdeto RDK Hybrid Stack, is powered by RDK4 and offers a fully featured OTT/Hybrid launcher UX reference (the user interface has been bolted on with RDK Lightning), all in a working and demonstrable satellite platform (originally meant to be demonstrated live at IBC this December before the physical show was cancelled).
The second and related development is a defined set of security requirements and the certification process for RDK, which the company calls the Irdeto Certified Secure Experience (ICSE). The ICSE covers the security and the integrity of the experience for premium app vendors, achieved through a scalable premium app certification strategy. This has been a big gap with RDK in the past, and a huge challenge for Operators for both pure OTT and hybrid deployments.
With the Irdeto Secure Certified Experience, the company is defining the full suite of 360 solutions, putting reference architectures there and a certification in place so that operators can test their platform and check it meets all their requirements, aligned with the premium app vendors. Here, Irdeto is taking a holistic approach beyond security and offering a complete end-to-end solution in the RDK space for operators to position as ‘Super Aggregators’.
“We’re in the right position to create that baseline set of requirements and then to certify that. This is something that has been incredibly difficult to do in RDK, these are landmark things that are coming,” Bruce Curtin, Product Director at Irdeto told CSI during a virtual briefing.
“We are launching the new solution to give our customers the confidence that if they go with us in RDK we’ll make sure that they can bring the platform to market and be ready for premium apps.”
Irdeto has been closely collaborating with Netflix to ensure that ICSE is fully aligned with the new Da Vinci scalability partner programme from Netflix.
“A fully featured OTT stack from RDK is there and it works and you can use it as a pay TV operator to put a box out there,” Curtin said. “We’ve been able to take the RDK Video Accelerator open source, produce a stack with hybrid satellite and demonstrate that in a real platform in a very short time to market. What we recommend to our operator customers, especially when it comes to the OTT stack, don’t go and try and build your own one. Depending on the needs and complexity of the broadcast side of the business, it still pays to have that middleware partner with suitable experience. This is a key thing that we advocate to be successful as a super aggregator.”
The announcement ties in with recent RDK developments that have seen it make the app on-boarding experience much smoother and more cost-effective. RDK has been seen as a cable-centric open-source middleware, which is not the case anymore. The latest release, among others, has given it an app store that is closer to rivalling Android TV (see our analysis here for more: https://www.csimagazine.com/csi/RDK4-takes-on-Android-TV-with-app-focus.php).
The premium app vendors are the ones attracting consumers to connect and as an operator that’s trying to be a super-aggregator, they are having to have those premium apps on their platform. And these premium app vendors, just like Hollywood in the past with MovieLabs, they are looking for ways to get the requirements and the security to ensure that those apps are going to run on the platform. This is that part that the Irdeto Secure Certified Experience is squarely aimed at – helping operators certify the platform and bring in the app experience securely in the RDK environment, even if it is added after launch.
“For the big premium app providers, like Netflix, they are increasingly looking for that security that we have the experience with, to secure both at launch and operationally,” Curtin added.
Because it is positioned as an end-to-end platform, Irdeto will be looking at helping operators collect data and trial targeted business models, such as advertising and interactive features.
“You want to be able to seamlessly search and move around those apps as consumers, and if you’re an operator you want to bring in the analytics side as well, and there’s a lot more of that that we will be able to do with the RDK going forward,” said Shane McCarthy, COO of Video Entertainment at Irdeto. “We see that as a key pillar for us strategically moving forward, particularly in the traditional CA (conditional access) business.”
With this launch, Irdeto now offers pay-TV operators the choice of the industry’s two leading platforms to support their super aggregator strategy – Android TV and RDK-V. The company has had an Android TV solution since 2016 and is one of the leading enablers of hybrid satellite Android TV, deployed in millions of boxes across India, for example. It also had its own proprietary legacy middleware. The company says that it is some of that knowledge and IP that is allowing it to embed in with RDK and accelerate those programmes for operators, who are now looking at open-source solutions and not getting locked in with costly and long time-to-market platforms.
Another benefit Irdeto is bringing with its hybrid satellite video accelerator is flexibility. Traditionally, RDK has been a one-chip platform, while Irdeto claims the new RDK and the Irdeto solution is chip-agnostic, giving operators alternatives to second-source their SoC or OEM partners if they are too expensive or moving slowly, without adverse re-engineering costs affecting the migration.
Both ICSE and the hybrid stack will considerably reduce the time to market and total cost of ownership for pay-TV operators – according to Irdeto, it would cut off at least 6-9 months of what a typical project would take for a satellite operator. This is because it comes with the CAS and UI as pre-integrated in a working reference platform, including pre-integrated Irdeto Cloaked CA, watermarking and multi-DRM solutions.
“We’re talking massive reduction in risk. An operator might decide to customise some components and go with something different, but the reference is there, it’s validated on satellite, and the box is working. We are very optimistic with what we have do so far,” Curtin said.
Irdeto’s developments are set to take RDK further beyond its core base of Tier 1 cable operators, something that the open-source platform has struggled to do so far. There has been a lot of interest in the technology over the last 12 months from different types of suppliers and service providers as RDK has come out with a fully featured OTT stack. And 2022 is shaping to be the year that RDK, first created by Comcast in 2013, finally becomes a more universally adopted pay TV middleware platform.