RDK’s Forecast: Cloudy With a Chance of Apps

The Reference Design Kit (RDK), the preintegrated software stack backed by some of the world’s largest cable operators, appears to be headed to the proverbial cloud.

ActiveVideo, which has developed a cloudcentric platform for video applications and services, has become a key licensee of the RDK, the platform for Internet protocol-only and hybrid IP/QAM devices that’s now managed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global.

Support by ActiveVideo could help bridge a historical gap with the RDK, namely an application and service framework that could ride on top of it.

ActiveVideo is already active with MSOs connected to Liberty Global, including Liberty Puerto Rico, UPC Hungary and Ziggo of the Netherlands, which have all deployed non-RDK implementations. However, Liberty Global is also planning to implement the RDK in tandem with its coming rollout of a cloudbased version of its Horizon user interface.

The license will pave the way for ActiveVideo’s small (100 to 200 Kilobyte) set-top software client to become part of the RDK stack, Sachin Sathaye, ActiveVideo’s vice president of strategy and product management, said.

The presence of that client could come in handy for MSOs that work with ActiveVideo and are also deploying RDKbased devices. The role of the client is to collect keystrokes and button presses from the remote control and relay them upstream to the headend, where ActiveVideo’s system processes and renders the results back to the set-top as a video stream. In addition to cloud-based interfaces, the architecture can be used to deliver other types of apps, including interactive ads, games and over-the-top video from such sources as YouTube.

The advantage of packing that into the cloud is it that it will enable devices (such as an HDMI streaming stick) outfitted with an RDK stack to support mediarich applications, Sathaye said.

Comcast and TWC have also been testing or deploying ActiveVideo in limited ways, but they have not announced if they will use the vendor in tandem with their RDK deployments.

More than 160 companies, including a mix of set-top makers and silicon and software vendors, have licensed the RDK. According to an RDK official, 15 multichannel video-programming distributors have also licensed it, but so far the organization has only named Comcast, Liberty Global, TWC and Kabel Deutschland. Others believed to be on board include Rogers Communications of Canada and Jupiter Telecommunications, Japan’s largest cable operator.