Updating set-top box (STB) software is something operators do infrequently and only when they need new features or security functions. This is because any change can potentially impact viewers. With Android TV, this practice must change because Google mandates a software update policy. At ConnecTechAsia, operators attending Irdeto’s panel voiced their concerns and the main question they were asking was: “is keeping Android TV updated going to be a pain?”

Updating Android TV is simpler than updating traditional boxes

Google’s update policy applies to STB manufacturers (aka OEMs), who must comply to keep their Android TV certification. It states that when a new OS is released (e.g. Android Oreo 8.1), OEMs must apply the new release to all boxes in inventory. For deployed boxes they must update the boxes within 90 days, for at least three years after the initial box deployment.

Does this Google policy make your life as an operator more difficult? Well no, it actually makes your life simpler! Here is why:

  1. Scalable support from OEMs:

The system image to be updated is not unique per operator; it applies to all customers of the OEM. As such, OEMs must develop and test their system image for the new OS prior to Google’s public release to ensure they can start updating their customers’ boxes as soon as the 90-day countdown begins. If you have struggled with getting timely support from your STB partner to update your proprietary middleware STBs, you should enjoy better support on Android TV boxes.

  1. A proven update mechanism:

You can use Google’s Over-the-Air (GOTA) system to update STBs. Not only is this service free, it is likely more reliable and streamlined than any operator’s OTA process because it is used by more parties, more frequently. Think about Google’s experience in updating Android on smartphones and tablets – you will benefit from their experience.

  1. A modular approach to reduce risk and complexity:

In the GOTA software package, it’s possible to have separate partitions for the system image and operator-specific updates. Google’s mandate only applies to the system image. You have complete control over when to update broadcast features just like you do today on traditional STBs. If you use a UX solution for the Operator Tier, you also control when to update that component. All of these updates can then be bundled in the same GOTA package for convenience. As Android evolves, this process is becoming even more modular – all these components can be independently updated to make frequent updates easier in the latest Android versions.

Frequent updates reduce attack surface

A diligent software update practice on open platforms is key to keeping them secure, as it reduces the risk of attackers exploiting vulnerabilities on the platforms. Google’s Android update model is certainly different from what operators are used to. But with the right solution partners, operators should find it easier to manage updates on Android TV boxes than on traditional middleware boxes.