Android conquered mobile, now how about TV?

Crossing the showfloor at IBC 2017 this week will be CTOs of telcos and pay TV providers from Europe and beyond, diligently investigating whether to deploy their service on Android TV. They would be in good company. As of mid-2017, Irdeto reports more than 20 well-known deployments around the world, totaling 45 million set-top boxes.

Undeniably part of the attraction is the middleware’s support for both broadcast and OTT services. Its open source nature means you can easily add popular OTT apps in your region to keep millennials from going to competitive OTT devices. Indeed, allowing subscribers to download apps from Google Play is the #1 driver for choosing Android TV according to analysts Ovum.

However, the open nature of Android TV can also cause the same operators to pause. Since operators cannot stop their subscribers from installing third party apps from the app store on their box, does this increase the exposure to piracy and cyberattacks? Will an app adversely affect how the STB runs? Worse still, what greater risk is there of subscriber credentials and other private data being stolen?

Since the Google Play store contains more than 3000 Android TV apps – a number that will keep going up to give customers more choices – the flip side is potentially a greater operational headache. When it comes to Android TV this is the elephant in the room. So let’s address it head-on.

“What’s important to bear in mind is that open doesn’t necessarily mean insecure,” explains Frank Poppelsdorf, Director Product Management, Irdeto. “As long as the platform is very deterministic and security measures can be effectively applied, it can be just as secure, if not more so, than a proprietary platform. Google specifies many security requirements in the software stack. Partners in its ecosystem must meet these requirements to ensure a level of protection on Android.”

In addition, Google mandates that set-top manufacturers keep up with software releases. By constantly improving security and ensuring software updates are getting implemented, Google reduces the attack surface for Android.

“Further protection of the platform can be taken by working with the right security partner,” maintains Poppelsdorf.
Irdeto can assist operators by monitoring all apps that are supported on the box and then reporting any rogue activity to Google. Google will then revoke the app.

“We have additionally defined specific security requirements to enable Android TV deployment with Irdeto’s conditional access (CA) system,” says Poppelsdorf. “We’ve worked with leading chipset and device manufacturers on Android TV to give you best-in-class, integrated solutions.”

These solutions are debuting and demonstrated at IBC on Irdeto’s stand 1.D51. They include Irdeto CA integration with Technicolor STBs working on the Broadcom chipset; and CA certification on MStar chips integrated onboard Skyworth Digital STBs.

Poppelsdorf predicts that Android TV is going to be a serious option for many operators, giving an alternative to proprietary middleware that was never really available before.

He says, “Now, operators prospecting for service launches can achieve the rapid time to market promised by Android TV and give customers what they want, which is access to choice at the same time as upholding stringent security for premium content like 4K UHD, right out of the box.”