A variety of consumer electronics (CE) vendors, chip manufacturers and video service providers is bringing client/server architectures to the home, using such emerging remote user interface (RUI) technologies as RVU and CEA-2014.

“This new approach promises to dramatically lower the cost of offering advanced services to every TV in the home,” said John Gleiter, senior director of marketing at Broadcom.

In the traditional model for delivering interactive services for tru2way, EBIF and other proprietary technologies, services are delivered directly from a server in the headend to each and every set-top-box client. In the RUI approach, video and other data services would be delivered to a single media gateway server in each home, which would communicate with less-sophisticated set-tops. The most expensive components for delivering such services as multiple tuners, a DVR, a hard drive, and CableCARD security could be consolidated into one location. The clients can be integrated into a digital TV, a stereo or other CE devices, thus eliminating the need for a set-top.

To take advantage of this architecture, cable operators will have to rethink the ways in which services are delivered. Today, video service providers like Verizon and DirecTV are driving RVU, while consumer electronics vendors like Samsung and Philips are the impetus behind CEA-2014. Broadcom is providing the underlying chips to enable this transition, with two new families of chips for delivering RVU and CEA-2014 to IPTV and MoCA set-top boxes.

(Editor’s note: In January, Broadcom decided to support the RVU Alliance’s RUI technology on its latest set-top box and digital-TV system-on-a-chip [SoC] solutions.)

“RVU and CEA-2014 complement rather than replace tru2way by allowing the gateway server to manage tru2way interactions on behalf of all the devices in the home,” said Adam Powers, director of standards and emerging technology at Rovi and chairman of the Ecosystem Committee for the Digital Living Network Alliance. In theory, a cable system could use the tru2way interface for sharing the display with other devices. “RVU adds the ability to share your screen over the network using proprietary technology, much like WebEx or Live Meeting do for sharing a PC desktop over the Internet,” Powers explained.

Cable operators and other video providers have been looking at several different presentation protocols, including RVU, Flash, HTML and Java, to replace the proprietary interface. One of the main draws of RVU is that it allows complete control over the user interface, down to a single pixel. This contrasts with the work being done with HTML, in which the menu can change depending on the TV and the browser.

The first application of RVU is for multi-room DVR but, Gleiter said, once you have the network in place, you can stream video to any kind of IP device. Eventually, RVU could run on PCs, other video devices, iPhones and laptop computers.

What Are The Perks?

The RUI can operate over virtually any type of network in the home, including MoCA, HomePNA or Wi-Fi. According to Gleiter, MoCA has become the lowest-cost solution because it has been integrated into multi-purpose, SoC designs. MoCA has been adopted by Verizon, which uses it on both the WAN and the LAN.

In the RUI architecture, the tuners, storage and decryption are centralized on the server, which is connected to the service provider. This helps reduce the cost of the other equipment in the home while still providing advanced functionality.

The new crop of RUI-enabled SoCs allows a media gateway to support as many as six tuners, letting the entire household to watch and/or record six channels at once and more, if some of the channels are in the same transponder band.

There also is security across the LAN: Video is decrypted and displayed on the gateway server, re-encrypted and stored or sent to any client across the network. In this new framework, Digital Transport Content Protection (DTCP) provides the security, DLNA is the underlying communications protocol, and MoCA provides the physical network protocol. The RVU RUI protocol provides the user interface.

“Ultimately, this architecture promises to be less expensive, especially when putting in two or three set-tops or more,” Gleiter explained. “The server will be slightly more expensive, but the other high-definition client devices will be less expensive because they don’t need a hard drive, tuners or network security. They will be smaller in physical size, as small as four inches by five inches, which is smaller than current standard-definition platforms.”

–George Lawton


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