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RDK in 2016: a retrospective on progress

CDF_3612Steve Heeb, President & general manager of RDK Management, LLC, says that the open-source TV technology  initiative has made rapid progress over the last year.

In just a few short years, the RDK (Reference Design Kit) has become a prime software development platform that power millions of set-top boxes and broadband gateways used by pay TV operators around the world.  The idea was simple.  In order to move at “Web-like” speeds and accelerate innovation, operators desired to embrace the best practices from the software industry, particularly open source and community collaboration.

As such, we set out to create an open and common software stack that provides greater transparency and standardization, while enabling service providers to rapidly customize their own applications and user experiences.  And, thanks to our diverse community of RDK member companies, 2016 was a year of significant progress and innovation. If you didn’t follow our efforts closely this year, here’s a brief look back at some of the key milestones the community accomplished:

Introduction of RDK-B (broadband):  This year, we significantly expanded beyond our video STB roots to meet the needs of service providers’ next-generation broadband devices.  We formally released the RDK-B software profile in open source, which provides the industry with a common method to manage a variety of complex broadband functions, regardless of SoC or hardware manufacturer.  Already, it has been embraced by the leading SoC and gateway providers, and is being deployed in North America.  Other operators globally plan to incorporate RDK-B into their roadmaps as well to help prepare for the growth of new innovative broadband services to be delivered on gateways.

Global operator adoption of RDK-V (video):  Most notably this past year, NOS launched its next-generation 4K service based on RDK in Portugal. Tele Columbus in Germany announced it completed the initial phase of an ongoing 4K Advanced TV field trial with the RDK.  Cox Communications in the US began offering its newest TV service which runs on the RDK.  And, Comcast and Liberty Global continued their RDK expansions.  To date, more than 25 total cable, satellite and telco providers across North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia are members of the RDK community and are in various stages of evaluation, testing, trials, or deployment.  Notably, about half of our RDK member operators are based in Europe.

Community expansion and contribution:  The RDK community has continued to grow to more than 275 member companies. This year, we saw a variety of new companies get involved that play key and varying roles across our industry, including: chipset and CPE production, UI and application framework creation, premium Wi-Fi, testing & quality assurance, and more.  At the same time, we’ve seen a group of companies taking strong leadership roles within the community, particularly those that have contributed code back into the RDK for everyone to use.

Driving business results:  With RDK as the foundation, operators are innovating faster and creating new user experiences on their STBs that are having meaningful business results.  Leading operators mention some of the benefits of having a new UI on the RDK such as higher customer satisfaction, greater television usage and higher VOD purchases. This shows what’s possible when operators are freed to focus their attention on the customer experience, rather than technical interoperability issues that the RDK solves for the greater community.

2017 promises to be a dynamic year for our industry, and the RDK community will play a central role in its evolution.  It will be interesting to watch the adoption of RDK V & B, and we will also examine new areas within the “connected home” for possible use of RDK-like software on new classes of devices. 

To learn more about RDK, visit www.rdkcentral.com.

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