Creating an Immersive, Tailored Media Experience Through RDK-V

The iPhone…yes, it’s basically the antithesis of open source technology, but bear with me here. What made it the most significant consumer electronics breakthrough of the 21st century? Certainly not the hefty price tag. Was it powerful? Of course, but the average consumer doesn’t camp out for a week on Fifth Avenue to get more processing speed.

What truly set that first smartphone apart was its UI — beautiful, simple, elegant — and you could literally touch it. Build that UI into an apps-based operating system, and you have a truly powerful device that was also easy to navigate for virtually any user.

Now, what if you could apply that same immersive, personalized experience to all of your users’ media needs — cable programming, streaming content, gaming, smart home solutions — using a relatively straightforward integration with an open source software platform? With RDK-V, you can.

RDK-V started out as a cable-focused platform for video set-top boxes (originally referred to as RDK) but has evolved to cover broadband gateways as well. It was developed in response to the poor user experience associated with old cable platforms and their cumbersome scroll-through guides, all of which were sold as one big monolithic solution by a third party.

This accelerated the distribution of next-generation video services. It has now evolved into an open source software solution incorporated into smart media devices and video services (RDK-V) and connected cameras (RDK-C).

RDK-V Advantages

For multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) like DirecTV and Comcast to stay competitive, they need to offer multichannel video programming solutions that are not only innovative but user friendly. Smart TV manufacturers need to reduce time to market and provide flexible services. Each can bridge the gap by leveraging RDK-V, as it enables various technology platform choices while still allowing an easily customizable UI with a host of tangible benefits:

  • It’s a royalty-free commercial source code license.
  • It provides the MVPD full transparency into the source code, allowing vendors to collaborate on the project efficiently.
  • As an open source code initiative, it enables community members to add new elements and correct issues according to their own timetable, and make contributions back to the community.
  • By design, it enables the MVPD to focus, innovate and differentiate at the application and services layer.
  • Community members can tap into the frequent, robust releases and tools which dramatically expand product development velocity.
  • It features rich graphics with smooth animation.

In practice, the tangible benefits of RDK-V manifest themselves in two main areas:

  • Hardware integration
  • MVPD adoption

On the hardware side, many companies lose quite a bit of market share to the likes of Google and Android TV. There’s significant competitive pressure between people who are using the RDK-V software development kit to build RTK-based products or custom apps and those who are merely integrating with third-party smart TV platforms.

The real difference with RDK-V is that the UI is an incredibly effective way to showcase the capabilities of a given hardware platform. As those capabilities become more powerful and more diverse, potentially including functions like voice and video communication and the ability to create a singular smart home and entertainment hub, it ultimately differentiates them from those companies whose hardware integration is limited to Android TV.

Using the likes of Alexa or Google Home integration, we can further control the home as part of this kind of singular experience on the most prominent electronic device that most people have in their homes.

On the MVPD side, providers already understand the competitive pressures of Netflix and other services nicking away at their packages. In response, the idea is to become a super aggregator, combining as many possible services as possible to recommend content for their subscribers. The problem there is that the streaming services still want to retain the UI when users view their content.

Seamless Content Navigation

Part of what the community hopes to do through RDK-V is to create an independent ecosystem of these services and their content. This could eventually enable providers to share user data, curate personalized recommendations, integrate content rights and entitlements, and become the go-to technology behind some of these next-gen experiences.

From a content provider standpoint, another relatively new use case made possible by RDK-V is non-console, cloud-based gaming, which is a significant market, especially for casual gamers. Having a product that leverages your bandwidth and your network not just for video content but also for all of their other entertainment experiences on a singular UI creates an incredible amount of value for a wide range of potential customers. RDK-V developers are starting to look at how they work with customers like Stadia and Microsoft to bring some of these gaming solutions into this platform as well.

In the end, RDK-V allows customers to navigate seamlessly between a myriad of content items across scheduled linear content and video-on-demand (VOD) platforms — as well as between various media, gaming, and smart home solutions.

By building video platforms and creating solutions for devices and applications using RDK-V, companies can produce a user experience that is much more immersive and will drive engagement, keep customers happy, and ultimately grow the business.

Robert Koch is the head of media and entertainment at EPAM Systems. Over the last decade, he and his team have helped pioneer several digital video technologies widely used today and have launched some of the worlds largest media platforms.

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