– First of all, what is your vision of the market?
“There are many segments to the market and each one develops in a different way.
In Europe the focus for operators is very much on customer retention, especially for the tech-savvy younger generation. With OTT content available in every household our customers need to re-invent themselves and ensure that this market segment gets a tailored solution that fits with their needs of all content everywhere. On the same note, we see a growing elderly generation that is looking for ease of use, simplicity whereby technology is working for them in the background.
“In other markets like many countries in LATAM, world is still analogue. In some areas we see a continued need to the traditional Set Top Box where in other regions they leapfrog the traditional digitisation and go straight into an IPTV/OTT environment.
“At EKT we are catering for all needs for digitisation with Standard STBs, IPTV, OTT and Hybrid models that are integrated with the lasted middlewares.
– EKT is not ‘one of the big boys’, so how does the company try to differentiate itself from the competition?
“Through innovation, out of the box thinking and a flexible approach EKT has been able to offer a quality alternative to the large established companies. We call ourselves the East meets West company; this means that we are able to combine the advantages of an Asian base (cost, quality control, flexibility) with our westerns strengths (communication, management style, up to date technology, innovation).
“With our background as an ODM design house the quality systems and design principles have always been in place to cater for the needs of the most demanding customer. By adding innovation to the mix, we now have a compelling alternative that allows our customers to deliver new propositions to their clients.”
– At this year’s ANGA COM you were showing a STB “behind” the TV set.
“One of our customers asked us to for a dongle solution which we investigated. However, it is not possible to create a dongle that meets our minimum standard of a guaranteed lifetime due to the heat dispersion. Furthermore, the dongles still need to be powered by an adaptor.
“We then took a different approach to the problem and started with the power socket and built a super compact STB around a power-plug.
“Our STB in a Plug is a truly compact STB that plugs straight into the power socket. With its Bluetooth remote and WiFi connectivity it can even be placed behind the TV and as such it the true invisible STB.
“The consumer now has the complete user experience without having to locate a Set Top Box somewhere in the room. As such the STB in a Plug thé answer to combine the wishes of the consumer and the operators. At least for existing TV sets in the market.”
– At this year’s IBC you will be showcasting the “operator smart TV”; can you tell us what this is all about?
“In a perfect world, the consumer would have TV set whereby the operator has a guaranteed the user experience, without the use of an external STB. At the IBC, EKT is proudly presenting the first truly independent SmartTV that is driven by an operator middleware.
“Imagine a TV set that is pre-certified with a CA, has a guaranteed User Experience without the need of a Set Top Box. Imagine that the operator no longer has to pay for a separate device but can use these funds to deliver a complete TV set to the user. Imagine the customer acquisition and retention possibilities.
“We offer a range of 3rd party high level HTML5 middleware solutions running on top of solidTV (EKT’s proprietary low level STB middleware) as well as 3rd party platforms such as UTK or RDK. This means that there is now a TV set with many market ready solutions already integrated.”
– When an operator choses a certain STB and software solution, they are usually locked in with one partciular vendor. I understand your solution offers more freedom, can you expand on that?
“EKT believes in supporting industry standards. Our solidTV is delivering on a long list of standards such as HbbTV, HTML5, TR-069, TR-135, DNLA, unicast/multi-cast, various streaming formats, CA’s, DRMS etc.
“This means that we provide the engine of the STB and that the operator has the complete control over the user experience. It also means that if our customer is upgrading or changing its backend system in the future and is looking for an alternative user interface / middleware integration, the STB can change with it and as such keep its investment value.
“The STB processors are now so powerful, that there really is no longer a need for a “thick port”. By letting us do the tricky work on technology platform integrations, our partners can focus on deliver the content and the user experience.”
– How do you see the future of set-top boxes, as there is currently talk of “the end of STBs”
“With the leading TVs becoming smarter it offers a possibility for the operator to deliver it content directly to the TV set. Such STB as an App is certainly an option for those parties looking to fight their way into the market. However, these new SmartTVs are also offering alternative content and as such inherently are becoming a competitor to the operator.
“Furthermore, if you do not control the software, you do not control the viewing experience. In today’s fast changing world of technology, it will be an extremely challenging task for anyone to guarantee the user experience on all the models of TV sets with all those versions of hardware and software. Not having the control will inevitably lead to unhappy customers.
“With its STB in a Plug and the SmartTV for Operators, EKT offers 2 innovations that can help the operator (re-) gain control of the user environment. Equally important, by placing the operators RCU in the hand of the consumer, it can now help the consumer find the right content within their own portfolio.
“Simply said, by delivering a combination of compelling content and a user experience that meets todays discerning users, there is no need for anyone to look for alternatives. Only an ‘invisible’ STB or a true SmartTV for Operators can deliver such a solution.”