OpenCable Application Platform

The OpenCable Application Platform, or OCAP, is an operating system layer designed for consumer electronics that connect to a cable television system, the Java-based middleware portion of the platform. Unlike operating systems on a personal computer, the cable company controls what OCAP programs run on the consumer's machine. Designed by CableLabs for the cable networks of North America, OCAP programs are intended for interactive services such as eCommerce, online banking, Electronic program guides, and digital video recording. Cable companies have required OCAP as part of the Cablecard 2.0 specification, a proposal that is controversial and has not been approved by the Federal Communications Commission. Cable companies have stated that two-way communications by third party devices on their networks will require them to support OCAP.[1] The Consumer Electronics Association and other groups argue OCAP is intended to block features that compete with cable company provided services and that consumers should be entitled to add, delete and otherwise control programs as on their personal computers.[2] On January 8, 2008 CableLabs announced [3] the Tru2Way brand for the OpenCable platform, including OCAP as the application platform.

Technical overview

OCAP is the Java based software/middleware portion of the OpenCable initiative. OCAP is based on the Globally Executable MHP (GEM)-standard, and was defined by CableLabs. Because OCAP is based on GEM, it has a lot in common with the Multimedia Home Platform (MHP)-standard defined by the DVB project.

At present two versions of the OCAP standard exist:

  • OCAP v1.0
  • OCAP v2.0

See also

References

  1. ^ "Two-Way Communications". StoreFound.
  2. ^ "CE Industries Continue To Debate Interactive Cable". This Week in Consumer Electronics (TWICE). 2006-01-30. Retrieved 2007-01-05.
  3. ^ "Tru2way Brand to Succeed 'OpenCable Platform' in Consumer and Retail Settings". 2008-01-08.

External links

Cable-ready

Cable-ready is a designation which indicates that a TV set or other television-receiving device (such as a VCR or DVR) is capable of receiving cable TV without a set-top box.

The term originates with analog TV, which uses different frequencies for cable versus over-the-air. This gives more channels, and at lower frequencies, so that early systems did not have to be so broadband and were therefore less expensive to build.

For North American cable television frequencies, the VHF channels 2 to 13 are the same, while an extra 51 cable channels exist between there and over-the-air UHF channel 14. Thus, over-the-air channel 14 can be seen on cable channel 65. Conversely, those 51 extra channels (plus an additional five inserted at 95 to 99) cannot be seen at all on a device which is not cable-ready. A "181-channel tuner" receives 125 on cable (1 to 125), plus 10 (126 to 135) more for digital cable ready TVs, plus the 56 (14 to 69) which are not identical in both (2 to 13). Other cable channels, 0, 00 and 1, which along with channels 136-158 are ill-defined and thus rarely used, and often not included in otherwise cable-ready tuners. Those "lowest numbered" channels often reside between VHF channels four and five on HRC (harmonically related carrier) and IRC (incrementally related carrier) systems where the normally four MHz gap is increased to six MHz, wide enough for one NTSC channel. Similar situations exist in the rest of the world as well.

Another use of a cable-ready tuner is for receiving amateur television (ATV) in North America, where the main ATV band appears on cable channels 56 to 59, 57 being the most popular. Most repeaters output on these channels, while input from amateur operators is often in another band.

CableCARD

CableCARD is a special-use PC Card device that allows consumers in the United States to view and record digital cable television channels on digital video recorders, personal computers and television sets on equipment such as a set-top box not provided by a cable television company. The card is usually provided by the local cable operator, typically for a nominal monthly fee.

In a broader context, CableCARD refers to a set of technologies created by the United States cable television industry to allow devices from non-cable companies to access content on the cable networks. Some technologies not only refer to the physical card, but also to a device ("Host") that uses the card. Some CableCARD technologies can be used with devices that have no physical CableCARD.

The CableCARD was the outcome of a U.S. federal government objective, directed in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, to provide a robust competitive retail market for set-top boxes so consumers did not have to use proprietary equipment from the cable operators. It was believed that this would provide consumers with more choices and lower costs. Up to 2016, less than 2% of set-top boxes were purchased by consumers in the retail market since CableCARD was rolled out, indicating that CableCARD failed in its objective. Telecom lobbyists argued that the CableCARD initiative actually cost Americans billions of dollars in additional fees, increased energy consumption, and stifled innovation.

Connected Limited Device Configuration

The Connected Limited Device Configuration (CLDC) is a specification of a framework for Java ME applications describing the basic set of libraries and virtual-machine features that must be present in an implementation. The CLDC is combined with one or more profiles to give developers a platform for building applications on embedded devices with very limited resources such as pagers and mobile phones. The CLDC was developed under the Java Community Process as JSR 30 (CLDC 1.0) and JSR 139 (CLDC 1.1).

Downloadable Conditional Access System

Downloadable Conditional Access System or DCAS was a proposal advanced by CableLabs for secure software download of a specific Conditional Access client (computer program) which controls digital rights management (DRM) into an OCAP-compliant host consumer media device. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) proposed that DCAS be used as a substitute for physical CableCARDs, a standard also created by CableLabs for which products began appearing in August 2004 as part of industry compliance to the FCC mandate, which in turn is pursuant to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. DCAS is growing in popularity as a less expensive alternative for CableCARD, with major North American operator deployments from Cablevision and Charter. DCAS deployments can be expected to grow in the coming years, thanks to favorable regulatory view from the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014 and FCC appointing a Downloadable Security Technical Advisory Committee, and wider support for key ladder (K-LAD) functionality from system-on-chip (SoC) vendors and set-top box manufacturers.

DCAS in the early days, was a controversial proposal for a variety of reasons: it did not exist, had no set deadlines for support on all cable systems, no specification even in draft form was public, may not have satisfied FCC requirements that security modules be separable, and required an operating system (OCAP) that a majority of consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers did not wish to implement. The DCAS project was abandoned by CableLabs in 2009.

DCAS, as envisioned, removed the need for physical set-top boxes or CableCARDs to protect encrypted digital content. It was proposed that instead of a card with removable circuitry, a custom ASIC chip could be soldered onto the circuitboard of any digital cable-ready device. DCAS software would then run on this custom chip. Additional circuitry needed to run the OCAP operating system would be required. OCAP programs then would be used as the sole method of interacting with DCAS since it will enable cable companies to force the download of new security software. As set-top box ASICs have now advanced to SoC implementations, the minimum hardware circuitry to store key ladders (K-LAD) is embedded in the silicon, enabling much of the security functions to be implemented in software. Further, just as traditional set-top box functionality such as user-interface and middleware are moving to the cloud, DCAS enables much of the security functions also to move to the server side or the cloud. This allows thin client set-top boxes to be deployed that can be remotely managed, in lieu of the more expensive cableCARD based systems.

The basic purpose of DCAS was to implement DRM protection in software, supported by future OCAP-compliant consumer devices such as digital televisions, DVRs, and set-top boxes (still required to support legacy non-OCAP-compliant devices). This would secure the information transmitted in the link between the cable company and the consumer device. Besides decryption, the DCAS software would control how the content is used—whether it must be deleted immediately after viewing, or after a set period of time, which devices it may be transferred to and if transfer or recording is permitted. The scheme could possibly be used more broadly and was being advanced by Rupert Murdoch's company NDS as a DRM method useful also for portable media players and other devices not attached to cable networks. An allegedly working DCAS prototype was created by Samsung and NDS for the cable industry and was demonstrated to the FCC in November 2005.According to Brian Dietz of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA):

...we expect downloadable security to be supported nationwide by MSOs by July 2008.

It was asserted by proponents that DCAS provided greater security for the cable industry because it allows them to change their entire security structure by downloading new software into host devices. If a particular encryption algorithm is cracked, it could be replaced by another one. Detractors noted that if the physical circuitry is compromised, it may not be replaced as is the case with CableCARDs. Some DCAS scenarios could use removable cards: OCAP-based devices may incorporate internal support for a kind of "smart card" (similar to the current SIM chip in a GSM cell-phone) to identify the subscriber and provide further protection. Proponents asserted that DCAS is more supportable since DCAS devices would not require a qualified technician to install the card. Detractors asserted that the final version of DCAS may require a physical card insertion, and that technicians are not required to insert CableCARDs anyway, since they are merely the same kind of cards that consumers routinely insert in their laptops. It was asserted that if cable companies were finally forced to agree on a standard for two-way communication that CableCARDs will be able to be remotely configured as would be the case with DCAS devices.

The expectation of the appearance of DCAS as a possible future technology was used as a reason that the FCC should release cable companies from obligations regarding CableCARDs. Verizon FiOS wished to be released from having to support CableCARDs at all on its network. Cable companies point to DCAS as a reason that they should be released from their obligation to use CableCARDs in their devices, as the FCC directed in 1998. The Consumer Electronics Association representing major consumer electronics manufacturers disagreed with these applications for waivers pointing to the insubstantiality of the proposal and that cable companies are notoriously late and half-hearted in their support of their own standards, as evidenced by their behavior with their earlier CableCARD proposal. Detractors of DCAS point out that the proposal is being used to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the minds of consumers, CE companies, and the FCC. Consumers are motivated to hold off buying CableCARD devices, CE companies are wondering whether their CableCARD technology investments will soon be obsolete, and it causes doubt amongst FCC regulators whether they should enforce deadlines and restrictions placed on cable companies regarding CableCARDs. Detractors point to this as the latest in a decade-long set of delaying tactics that the cable company has used to avoid compliance with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Cable companies counter that CableCARD devices have failed in the marketplace and that it would be foolish for them to be forced to use CableCARDs when the superior technology of DCAS will soon be available.

Globally Executable MHP

Globally Executable MHP (GEM) is a DVB specification of a Java based middleware for TV broadcast receivers, IPTV terminals and Blu-ray players. GEM is an ETSI standard (ETSI TS 102 819, ETSI TS 102 728) and an ITU "Recommendation (ITU-T J.202). GEM defines a set of common functionalities which are independent from the signaling and protocols of a specific transmission network and enables to write interoperable Java applications for TV. GEM is not intended to be directly implemented, but rather forms the basis for broader specifications targeting a particular network infrastructure (e.g. US cable) or class of device (e.g. Blu-ray Disc players). GEM defines profiles for different device classes (targets) – these define the set of available features of GEM for this device class. Currently GEM defines targets (API profiles) for broadcast, packaged media (Blu-Ray) and IPTV. Combinations of these targets can be combined into a hybrid GEM platform, which enables to build devices with multiple network interfaces, such as a combined broadcast/IPTV set-top box.

Interactive television standards

Teletext was introduced in the analogue television in the 80's, leading to a limited interaction with television sets to obtain information about things like the schedule and weather. But nowadays this concept goes even far away and a new and improved way of interaction with the user has been developed. The early private broadcasters, as Canal+, were the pioneers in adopting this new form and today are preceded by their digital formats.

As a consequence of the Analogue Switchoff the Project known as Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) was developed creating a public digital format television with more features, in competition with private broadcasters. Among this features one can found interactive menus that, as in the case of the private broadcasting, give information to the user and let them adapt the product to their own needs. This user-television interaction is today known as interactive television.

All of these can happen thanks to the Set-top-Boxes (or STBs for short), the television decoders that households usually have at home, that see to receive and decode the digital signal to show it by the analogue television set. This device lets the users accede to the contents the digital television net offers. One of their many functions is running the interactive applications, being this the object of this article.

For interactivity, it is required that the STBs could be dynamically programmed and updated. For that, there are some different solutions in the market, among them, the definition of an intermediary software layer on which the applications, broadcast together with the audiovisual signals, run. This intermediary software layer is called Middleware.

OCAP

OCAP may stand for:

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

OpenCable Application Platform

OEDN

OEDN is an OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) EBIF Developer Network that was founded in October, 2007. It is an online developer network for the promotion of Interactive Television application and service development on digital cable television.

The goal of the network is to support the emerging and long-term needs of software engineers and product teams who are building OCAP (tru2way) and EBIF applications. The goal is to run it not only on digital cable television, but also converged applications and services spanning mobile and broadband devices.

OEDN.net is a networked Community of Practice with a membership constituency drawn from cable companies, ITV application vendors, content providers, programming networks, advertisers, academic interactive media researchers and independent consultants.

OpenCable

OpenCable is a set of hardware and software specifications under development in the United States by CableLabs to "define the next-generation digital consumer device" for the cable television industry. The consumer-facing brand tru2way was introduced in January, 2008.

OpenCable uses SCTE standards for the video, transport and various interface requirements, but also adds a requirement for a Java based software interpreter to support the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP). It also requires a decryption system for protected content employing CableCARDs or the proposed software-based Downloadable Conditional Access System (DCAS).

The goal is to create a common hardware/software standard for digital cable television within the U.S., hence promoting competition among licensed device manufacturers, while at the same time making it improbable that any one software company dominates digital television.

Tru2way is the brand name for interactive digital cable services delivered over the cable video network, for example interactive program guides, interactive ads, games, chat, web browsing, and t-commerce. The brand also appears as "" and is used to market cable services, applications, and devices that support the tru2way cable architecture. Tru2way is the successor, consumer-focused, name for technology known as OpenCable. Major cable operators have committed to deploy support for the tru2way platform in service areas covering more than 90 million U.S. homes by the end of 2008. As of December, 2008, Comcast and Panasonic are offering services and a limited number of consumer products that support Tru2way in the Chicago and Denver MSAs.

CableLabs, the industry’s research and development arm, licenses the brand to cable companies and cable programmers that deliver tru2way applications and services, as well as consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers that build devices that support such applications and services. Use of the mark on CE devices requires CableLabs certification testing for conformance to the tru2way specifications (also known as the OpenCable Host 2.1 Specifications). Tru2way includes a middleware technology that may be built into televisions, set-top boxes, and other devices. The technology enables cable companies and other interactive application developers to “write” applications once and see them run successfully on any device that supports the tru2way architecture. With tru2way technology, consumers can access interactive digital cable programming, including video-on-demand and pay-per-view content, without the need for a cable operator-supplied set-top box. The tru2way technology is capable of supporting all cable services now delivered to consumers via leased set top boxes, as well as future services written to the tru2way platform.

Switched video

Switched video or switched digital video (SDV), sometimes referred to as switched broadcast (SWB), is a telecommunications industry term for a network scheme for distributing digital video via a cable. Switched video sends the digital video in a more efficient manner so that additional uses may be made of the freed up bandwidth. The scheme applies to digital video distribution both on typical cable TV systems using QAM channels, or on IPTV systems. Users of analog video transmitted on the cable are unaffected. See diagram to the right for an illustration of how switched video saves bandwidth on a cable company's cables in the last mile where channels are transmitted via coaxial cable.

Tru2way

Tru2way is a brand name for interactive digital cable services delivered over the cable video network, for example interactive program guides, interactive ads, games, chat, web browsing, and t-commerce. The brand also appears as “” and is used to market cable services, applications, and devices that support the tru2way cable architecture. Tru2way is the successor, consumer-focused, name for technology known as OpenCable. Major cable operators committed to deploy support for the tru2way platform in service areas covering more than 90 million U.S. homes by the end of 2008.

In 2010, the FCC issued a notice of inquiry for a successor system to both tru2way and CableCARD, called AllVid, and has stated "We are not convinced that the tru2way solution will assure the development of a commercial retail market as directed by Congress."

Digital television in North America
Terrestrial
Cable
Satellite TV
IPTV
Technical issues

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