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Canal+ Set-top box prototype

Development of a new set-top box generation

Canal_banniere

Canal+ is one of Frances’ and Europes’ premium cable television providers. Late 2014, it held around 14.6 million subscribers, to whom it provides numerous multimedia services through its set-top box. In an audiovisual industry rapidly and deeply shifting, the group wanted to design the next generation of the set-top box, to be able to offer quickly new services and dedicated applications with modern and fluid interfaces.

CHALLENGES

The set-top boxes relied on a proprietary architecture, which meant important delays for software evolutions and little control by the company. This is why Canal+ was in a strategic phase of new set-top boxes design. We worked with the group during the prototyping phase, with the following goals:

  • Demonstrating HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript capacities to offer powerful, engaging and modular interfaces
  • Delivering in a short time high-quality functional prototypes
  • Developing HTML5 application (for TV, tablets, smartphones) and API prototypes

METHODOLOGY AND OUTPUTS

During a first step, we designed in less than three months a prototype running on a computer as well as an HTML5 application allowing to access information on the program being seen, to change the channel all from a tablet. We have proven that the architecture we set in place allowed the capability of adding new screens.

However this first prototype was not subject to software or hardware constraints existing for embedded development. This is why we had to confirm the feasibility and performances of the system on a standard set-top box - replacing the whole subscribers boxes fleet for a new generation would prove itself very costly…

So we developed the most complex and critical interfaces to test their behavior when embedded. To maximize the performances and take into account the set-top box’s limited data processing capacity, we’ve optimized our code and used native JavaScript rather than a framework. We have also developed an API so the application can access the set-top box software and hardware layers.

RESULTS

Thanks to our iterative approach, centered on added value, we were able to quickly deliver the prototypes, and in priority the features with the highest user value. Thanks to the prototypes, Canal+ has validated the core technical and architectural choices of the project. Their performances allowed for the planning of a pre-standardization phase.

The first prototype showed the relevance of web technologies to offer smooth, dynamic and responsive interfaces. The results of our intensive testing on the second phase proved that its’ performances were at least equal and even better for some features, to the standard set-top boxes’, even on quite old models.

Screenshots

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