Metrological has been especially busy of late, working with RDK on the newly available RDK Emulator, and collecting the Cable Europe Innovation award at Cable Congress (along with UPC) for their role in bringing OTT Apps to legacy set-top boxes.
With TV Connect just around the corner (of course they’re going to be at TV Connect too!), we caught up with Metrological’s Co-Founder and CTO, Albert Dahan to find out more. ..
IP&TV News: Can you give us a little more background on the Application Emulator that you announced with RDK?
Albert Dahan: We worked in close partnership with the folks from RDK to make app development on the RDK more accessible to the developer community. The end result is an SDK that emulates the RDK environment, giving developers remote access to test and see how their apps would run on RDK devices. The best thing is that it’s open to any app developer. A developer can simply download the software from the Metrological website to their PC and see exactly what the consumer would see on an RDK device.
How did Metrological get involved in the project?
We were actively involved in the RDK through our role in providing the app framework and enhanced browser performance capabilities for Liberty Global’s Horizon, which uses both RDK and our Metrological Application Platform. We met with RDK Management to discuss how we could give developers the ability to test their apps without having direct access to an RDK device. We adapted our app framework technology for the RDK environment.
Congrats on the Cable Europe award. Can you give us a little more background on the approach used by UPC Hungary?
UPC uses our cloud-based application platform combined with a cloud rendering solution, enabling them to offer a new cloud-based TV app store within their legacy UPC mediabox. When a subscriber presses the ‘Interactive’ button on their remote control, they are connected to a cloud-based browser that provides access to a variety of apps running on our application platform. Because the legacy mediaboxes don’t have a built in browser, the apps and OTT content play out on the UPC Mediabox using a multicast linear stream. In essence, the Metrological Application Platform enabled UPC Hungary to turn their mediaboxes into smart TV STBs.
Can other operators use this approach to delivering large online content libraries with legacy STBs?
Any operator with a two-way connected STB can use our Metrological Application Platform to deliver small or large content libraries via apps using the operator branded TV app store. Operators can manage and control the app store in real-time via our App Manager.
You are also deployed on Liberty Global Horizon’s effort with their next generation STBs, how is that going?
Liberty Global is a great partner and we’ve been surprised by how much consumers are interacting and using the apps. The Horizon TV app store experience is built into the live TV experience such that apps become part of the overall viewing experience. We’ve evolved the platform over the years thanks to the feedback from Horizon end users and OTT content partners.
What are the common misperceptions about TV apps?
I think the most common misperception is that an app store is simply putting a few of the most popular apps on a separate TV screen. An app store is really about making a wide selection of apps available that relate to what the consumer is watching on TV. This enables apps to be additive to the viewing experience.
Another misperception is that app integration needs to be done for each device, operating system or middleware component. By using a cloud-based framework approach, operators can run an app platform across multiple STBs, multiple middleware vendors, multiple browsers, and browser rendering solutions in the cloud using a single version of each app. This significantly reduces development costs and speed to market for operators deploying apps on a growing number of devices.
How much do viewers really use TV apps?
For consumers using our app platform, the apps are now a mainstay of the live TV experience. More than 68% of UPC Hungary subscribers with access to the service have tried more than 20 apps, and 86% of those customers have returned for more. In the first 3 months, UPC subscribers watched more than 1 million minutes of YouTube videos daily. We’re very pleased with the results so far.
Which apps are the most popular with consumers?
YouTube, video subscription apps, Facebook, news and weather apps are definitely some of the most popular apps, but many would be surprised to know that it also varies by geographic region. A TV app store helps operators meet the growing consumer interest in niche content such as live ethnic channels, sports, special interest content, and of course the ever-popular fireplace app.
What does the future hold for TV apps?
We’re just starting to scratch the surface on enabling interactions between the big screen and the second screen. There’s huge potential for social apps but also for recommendations, advanced advertising and more contextual and related interactions between the two screens. We believe that TV watching and OTT content should be merged into a seamless experience and personalized depending on time of day or mood of the end-user.