RDK Americas Summit: It’s a Wrap!

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the 2019 RDK Americas Summit in Philadelphia on March 19! Your presence elevated the event to “biggest ever” attendance – 350 of you, representing 15 operators, 20 exhibitors, and 25 countries.

We were fortunate to be at the new Comcast Technology Center, with its sweeping views of the Philadelphia skyline, and a uniquely intimate, theater-style vibe. The hallways and rooms flanking the theater area served as a compelling backdrop for demonstrations, networking, and dining. By all accounts, the 18th floor of the Comcast Technology Center is an impressive and elegant place to host an event.

Speakers and presentation topics followed an overall conference theme of “What Will You Build Tomorrow,” buttressed by companion themes of control (by you, of your destiny), innovation (from SoC to app, and everything in-between), and community (an ecosystem of thousands of engineers.)

“Tens of millions of RDK-based devices are deployed, globally,” noted Steve Heeb, GM of RDK, adding “it’s at a scale that gets the attention of SoC companies, OEMs, and premium app providers – and it’s a trajectory that’s only going up.”

Bill Warga, VP of Technology for Liberty Global, said that the company’s NPS scores were “some of the highest we’ve seen” with a new video product launch in markets outfitted with RDK-based devices, and that work is underway to upgrade several million deployed set-tops with RDK – in the field, without having to revisit customers’ homes. “That’s huge,” he said, “because those set-tops went into the field nearly 10 years ago, and have substantially different memory footprints and processing power.”    

Keynote speaker Fraser Stirling, SVP of Digital Home, Devices and AI for Comcast, described the advancements his team is making in WiFi and connectivity – like a complete refresh of the “speed test” portion of the company’s “xFi” experience, that gets to the heart of what customers really want to know, when they run a speed test. “Nine times out of 10, people run speed tests because they can’t do what they want to do – whether that’s streaming Netflix or accessing Facebook,” he said. “RDK-B frees us to do two things – focus on the software on the device, and add value.”

With the refresh, xFi customers can tap into details about the maximum speeds attainable by smartphones – an iPhone5 taps out at 100 Mbps, for instance, while an iPhone 10x can run up to 650 Mbps. That kind of helpful detail, plus a range of “contextual messaging” (“solid performance,” “that’s fast,” “room for improvement”), deliberately uses language people can easily understand.

Continuing on the WiFi thread, AirTies’ Oz Yildirim and Comcast’s Jon Cave covered current events in WiFi, mesh networks, and how they integrate with RDK. It was a lively session that included relevant data points and anecdotes about WiFi and mesh deployments around the world.

In a “data analytics speed round” session, executives representing Tata Elxsi, Backtrace and Quantum each had 10 minutes to walk the audience through three different use cases that apply machine-level data, derived from RDK devices, to fix problems before they occur, and optimize performance – from analyzing app crash data to bring apps back up more quickly, to proactively identifying patterns in the network and on gateways/set-tops in ways that obviate performance issues.

Labeeb Ismail, SVP of RDK for Comcast, detailed the roadmap for several RDK device profiles, and Charles Moreman, Executive Director, Systems Architecture for Comcast, explained how the RDK is being outfitted to run on access networks like DSL, EPON and GPON.

From an RDK for Video perspective, ARRIS’ Phil Cardy, showed off the new “Lab Accelerator,” an RDK-based IP set-top box designed to enable the rapid development of apps and app stores’; core to its design goals is overall ease-of-use and swift setup on commercially available hardware. (More on this to come in a subsequent blog.)

Comcast’s Matt Zelesko and Metrological’s Albert Dahan covered how RDK is evolving as common platform for all kinds of apps, both consumer-facing and internally-oriented. The Q&A session was wide-ranging, from how companies are embracing the app developer community, and how the RDK is evolving to enable and simplify apps.

In the closing keynote, author and Harvard Business Review Josh Seiden likened the focus of his book, “Sense and Respond,” to the software methodologies happening within the RDK. In his talk, he offered five key principles that work when building a continuous innovation – embrace continuous change, manage via outcomes, create a two-way conversation, create collaborations, and create a learning culture. “We all have annual business rhythms, like budgets, which is natural,” he said. “But there’s another rhythm we can use to operate, and that’s the rhythm of software.”

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RDK Management is an open source consortium that manages the Reference Design Kit (RDK). RDK is an open source software platform for the connected home that standardizes core functions used in broadband devices, set-top boxes, and IoT. It enables operators to manage their devices; control their business models; and customize their apps, UIs and data analytics to improve the customer experience and drive business results. The RDK community is comprised of more than 500 companies including: CPE manufacturers, SoC vendors, software developers, system integrators, and service providers.  For more information on the tools, training, and events provided by RDK Management, please visit: www.rdkcentral.com.  

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