Skip to main content

Acronym Soup: INTX Tech Talk

CHICAGO — People always ask about the “big things in tech” when coming out of a big industry show like last week’s INTX: Internet & Television Expo. Two plump acronyms stood out: RDK-B and DSTAC. One’s good, one’s not so good.

Let’s start with DSTAC, which stands for “Downloadable Security Advisory Committee.” People tend to say it as a word — “dis-tack.” (Quips invariably follow about whether antibiotics are required, mostly because it sounds like a low-grade infection.)

DSTAC is the not so good. It’s a do-over of a regulatory headache that dates back as far as the original CableCard — a technology foisted upon cable operators (but not any other type of video providers) more than a decade ago.

Many view DSTAC as a precursor to another round of “All-Vid,” the thinly disguised effort by the over-the-top (OTT) community to disaggregate subscription video.

Here’s a more candid phrasing, from a recent batch of INTX notes: “This is the OTT side saying, ‘That’s a nice little video service you’ve got there, cable, satellite and phone operators! Why don’t you do all the work of assembling the lineup, and then hand it over to me, channel by channel, so that I can turn it into a different service, under my name, and offer it to consumers — and we’ll call that competition!’”

RDK-B popped up all over the Imagine Park stage, and in particular during an Internet of Things (IoT) demo put on by Comcast Fellow Mark Francisco . Picture a makeshift blue door, rigged with IoT sensors. When he walked in, the entry lights came on, and the TV turned on with a “Welcome home” message.

When he sat down on the couch, the TV turned to his favorite channel. The lights dimmed. Just then, ding dong! A friend stopped by. Inside, the friend’s mug showed up on the TV. He was doing what all friends do during convention demos — delivering a light bulb.

When Francisco installed the bulb, the TV responded: I see you’ve just installed a new bulb — what room? And so on.

What does any of that have to do with RDK-B? All the things of the IoT are based on IP (Internet protocol); the “B” of RDK-B stands for “broadband.”

So, RDK-B does for cable modems and gateways what the original RDK did for video — applies open source components, all the way down to the silicon level, to make it faster and easier for operators to roll out new devices and the services that run on them.