RDK Video Accelerator – a quick guide for operators
What it is, what it isn’t, and how you should use it to get to market, faster.
Our RDK Video Accelerator guide for operators
In this guide, we are going to focus on RDKs Video Accelerator (VA). The latest version of RDK-V (v4.0) has been implemented on production-ready hardware and is pre-integrated with the Metrological application store, giving operators access to all the major OTT applications and 300+ other applications.
That said, VA isn’t an off-the-shelf ready solution and there will be gaps you’ll need to fill and things you’ll need to think about during development.
What is RDK?
The Reference Design Kit (RDK) is a collaboration between some of the world’s largest pay TV operators. It provides software which can be used to create set top boxes, video services and connected media devices (RDK-V), broadband gateways (RDK-B) and recently IP cameras (RDK-C).
RDK provides most of the essential code needed to create these products and focuses on the lower and middle layers of the software stack, leaving the operator to add their specific user interface and customisations. To date RDK has been used in over 60 million devices.
All the RDK variants have one or more reference platforms – for RDK-V the standard reference platforms are the Raspberry Pi 3b and an x86 emulation. RDK-V has been ported to various other development platforms including the Creator CI20 and the NXP MX8MQ but to-date all the deployed STBs are based on Broadcom or Amlogic.
While Broadcom have been involved with the RDK since its inception and offer the most mature support for RDK, Amlogic have recently launched in the Multichoice DStv Streama. At Consult Red we helped Amlogic deliver their first RDK product and we’re now working with other silicon vendors who will soon be revealed in product launches. In short, other providers are moving into this space providing more options for operators
Is the RDK Video Accelerator just software?
By working with STB manufacturers (or OEMs), namely Skyworth, Commscope, Kaon and Humax – the latest version of RDK-V (v4.0) has been implemented on production-ready hardware. RDK 4.0 is also pre-integrated with the Metrological application store giving operator access to all the major OTT applications and 300+ other applications.
Packaging RDK-V with production hardware and an application solution productizes RDK and can significantly reduce time-to-market, risk and cost. There is no migration to target hardware and operators can immediately start user interface development and backend integration. The Video Accelerator is proving popular with operators and that’s is attracting more OEMs and silicon vendors to RDK (good news for operators).
What’s ‘missing’ from the Video Accelerator? What gaps will operators have to fill?
The key components an operator typically needs to add to the Video Accelerator include:
In order to meet diverse operator requirements, Lightning can be extended using a plug-in framework known as ‘Thunder’ that allows development of platform micro and nano services. RDK also offer a PC emulation of Lightning known as Firebolt for rapid development).
Lightning is not the only option for authoring the user interface – RDK also supports HTML5, Spark and native environments but these are likely to be less expedient and Spark is being superseded by Lightning. Within the RDK-V architecture the user interface is a significant component that typically integrates multiple content discovery services, such as SVOD, TVOD and linear channels, as well as interfacing with recommendations, search, voice, settings, etc… It should be considered a full application not dissimilar to an operator’s main application on a comparable middleware such as Android TV.
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
RDK has support for OpenCDM to ease DRM integration and various DRMs have already been integrated including Widevine and PlayReady but depending on the operator’s network and the requirements of their streaming partners they may need to integrate an additional DRM. DRM and CA vendors will insist all devices meet their security requirements and this can have platform wide implications.
RDK includes many of the tools needed to implement a secure software update mechanism but it does not include a complete and standardised mechanism. It’s fairly straightforward for the operator, OEM, CA provider or System Integrator to implement a secure update mechanism which, depending on the network and deployment use cases, may need to support partial updates for security patching and/or broadcast delivery.
RDK Management do publish a roadmap and there is a schedule of regular releases that include new features and security fixes. But it is up to the operator to instigate an integration and QA process that takes selected RDK releases, re-integrates the operator’s changes and components such as their UI, then tests, trials and deploys a new customer update to the devices in the field.
The need for regular updates means operators are familiar with continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) as this is to a greater or lesser extent common to all middlewares. This work can be a distraction from operator’s own roadmap and they may choose to outsource this work to an OEM or System Integrator.
RDK Management do not mandate an update policy – operators have complete freedom to choose which updates they deploy, but equally RDK does not provide a stream of deployment ready security patches. The operator and their suppliers need to plan and deliver this.
RDK does not provide a default secure bootloader, implementations tend to be determined by the hardware, software update mechanism, security system and operator’s network. RDK does provide the basic tools such as uboot that can be used as a basis for a secure bootloader – typically the OEM, security provider or System Integrator will deliver a bootloader that meets the operator’s requirements.
Why do operators choose RDK?
- Continuous investment and improvement: RDK offers a strong community of operators pooling investment to deliver a feature rich middleware and application authoring environment
- Broad choice of features: Lightning user interface & application environment, telemetry, DRM support, ad insertion, WPE browser, configurable memory footprint, subtitles, diagnostics and many more features
- By operators, for operators: RDK is designed and governed by operators for operators
- Retain control: the operator is in full control – they can change components, remove components, add component or integrate technology from best in class vendors
We are an experienced System Integrator with one of Europe’s largest RDK development teams
We’ve helped silicon vendors implement the RDK Video Accelerator and worked with some the world’s largest operators to launch their RDK products. Our award-winning team worked with Liberty Global to develop their One Middleware ‘Horizon 4’ solution, and recently helped Amlogic deliver their first RDK product. We are proactive members of the RDK community in the ongoing development of RDK.