Zodiac Interactive Stacks Up at Charter

While companies such as Cisco Systems and Active-Video Networks soak up the spotlight as Charter Communications rolls out its new cloud-fed interface to legacy set-tops and the new IP-capable Worldbox, Zodiac Interactive is also playing a big technical role in the cable operator’s video future.

Charter is using Zodiac’s full PowerUp product suite, which includes a set-top box software stack and a cloud-based management system, Zodiac CEO Brandon Brown said.

The idea, he said, is to enable the client device to use the same interface and have access to the same content across all generations of set-tops. More than 40 end points across dozens of generations can now be powered by a single stack, Brown said.

That stack, able to support both quadrature amplitude modulation and Internet-protocol devices, uses a building-block approach that enables it to squeeze the necessary components inside everything from a shiny new Worldbox to a creaky Motorola DCT 2000. That includes the presentation engine — subscribers won’t know if they’re using a native one or a HTML5 browser.

Another optional/modular component is the Reference Design Kit (RDK), the preintegrated software bundle for video and broadband devices that is being managed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global. Charter has not announced plans to use the RDK in its nextgeneration video platform, but the stack Charter uses provides “huge flexibility,” Brown said.

On the network side, Zodiac’s PowerUp AMS manages Charter’s multitude of devices, distributing everything from electronic program-guide data, audience data collection, caller ID info, and parental control settings. The system is also set up to provide full, remote connectivity to “unmanaged” devices such as retail over-the-top boxes, Brown said.

Notably, Charter did demonstrate its new Spectrum Guide running on a Roku box at a press event at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas.

The setup won’t be limited to major MSOs. Zodiac, which also works with Cablevision Systems, has begun some work with its first tier-2 client, which it would not yet name.