RDK4 Takes on Android TV with App Focus

At the 2018 RDK European Summit, RDK Management unveiled a new app programme to make it easier to develop and launch apps consistently across RDK-based set-top boxes.

RDK has for several years engaged in a battle with the rival Android TV platform for set-top software dominance among operators globally. On-boarding and maintaining video apps has become critical for service providers, many of who harbour ambitions to be content super aggregators, and RDK4, the newest upgrade to the open source software stack, represents the latest move to entice operators.

RDK proponents now want to be seen as app-friendly to third party integrations as Android TV, one of the features that has increasingly attracted payTV operators to the Google platfrom (at last count numbering around 150 deployments, mainly smaller Tier 2 and 3 operators across 60 countries), and RDK4 marks something of a culmination of a process that really got serious around IBC time last year when Metrological was acquired by Comcast, the original creator of the RDK. As such, RDK4 can be seen as a more formalised way of boosting the RDK app ecosystem.

RDK4 provides a carrier-grade software stack optimised for deploying apps and managing core technical functions of set-top boxes, making it easier for companies to develop and deploy TV applications, independent of their RDK expertise or experience. It provides standardised APIs that enable operators to integrate new user interfaces, apps and app stores, using the Lightning app development language and open source SDK.

Lightning is used to create lightweight, high-performance apps and UIs, optimised for use with Firebolt and RDK’s WPE WebKit browser. Although RDK4 is designed for use with Lightning, it also supports the use of HTML5 Web apps and native streaming video apps integrated through Firebolt.

As part of the RDK Video Accelerator program, RDK4 is available on a portfolio of set-top boxes that are pre-loaded with the Metrological App Store and enable operators to develop new Lightning-based user experiences and apps. CommScope, Humax, KAON, Skyworth boxes come pre-integrated with the Metrological App Store and RDK4.

The RDK community is now working actively working with leading app companies to pre-integrate with RDK4. No names were given for the initial announcement.

“RDK4 is the culmination of joint development between the RDK community and leading app companies,” said Steve Heeb, president of RDK. “Our newest software release makes it even easier to develop, test, and deploy video apps across set-top boxes. And the new modular plug-in architecture makes it simpler to implement specific technical features or services, based on the individual needs of service providers. Ultimately, RDK4 continues to enable service providers to benefit from common community development, while retaining control of their apps, device data, and customer experience.”

The new release was announced by RDK Management at the 2020 RDK Virtual Euro Summit. According to the RDK, the combination of the Firebolt App Platform, Lightning App Language, and Thunder modular approach gives service providers even greater versatility.

In terms of the technical architecture (see diagram, above), Firebolt sits at the top of RDK4 stack. Firebolt provides a common way of supporting Lightning, HTML5, and native streaming apps within RDK. It works with a wide variety of DRMs and SoC video security integrations, and includes a full-featured WPE WebKit browser. With Firebolt, the RDK community aims to help service providers accelerate the certification processes required by today’s premium video app providers.

Beneath RDK Firebolt is an architectural communication layer, or modular microservices layer, called Thunder, used for app life cycle management that facilitates communication between Firebolt and RDK core components. RDK core components are used by operators to help manage essential video functions, including video tuning, diagnostics, telemetry and operator-specific requirements, such as DVB, Wi-Fi management, and others.


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