Transcribed from a webinar hosted by Itamar Levin, Product Manager
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So, the Consumer Place-Shifting Devices started coming out in the early 2000’s, and what brought that adoption was internet speed increase. These devices hooked up to the Set-top box and allowed the owner to watch a TV from anywhere they have an internet connection. This was really groundbreaking technology at that time, very innovative and it kind of set the expectation of how video could be delivered – and really paved the way for OTT. Soon afterwards, organizations quickly took notice and began deploying these devices widely across the network, whether it was in their labs or remote on man location, with obvious value in the troubleshooting around it. It allowed for an increase in edge visibility as well as helped troubleshoot interactive and local channel. It saved a lot of time and money however, it became clear that these devices lacked reliability and manageability and carried hidden cost.
This cost emerged all the way from the installation and deployment phase as well as during device software updates which required knowledgeable technicians to be present. Besides the device itself, there were other pieces involved; they needed to be configured in order for things to work. Everything from LAN IP changes, reporting needs to be reconfigured all resulted in frequent downtime and downtime that is usually only detected when you need to use the device. All in all, with the amount of effort required to manage and maintain these devices, total cost of ownership is significantly higher than first it’s expected. In fact, there is no tap on these costs over the lifetime of the device.
Fortunately, we have a product, the RPM, which has features that was designed and built for enterprise use. The RPM probe can connect to anywhere from one to six Set-top boxes, RPM 100 to 600. Each Set-top box is on IR blaster and IR isolating shelf in order to prevent external interference and as the contact flows from the Set-top box, it is being analyzed and recorded locally on the probe. The amount of storage that we can record to 7 days minimum, but that can be configured to pretty much any period or any preferred duration. The probe can work with multiple inputs; can work with positive component inputs or in more advance cases, for example if you want to record AC3, we can take in the component, pass it to a converter and input that at HDMI. We can also take an HDMI directly from the Set-top box.
The Scout is actually the most affordable RPM Probe platform there is. It has a 1RU 14 inch chassis and it can be put on the rack or it can be placed anywhere an organization may currently have their current consumer place-shifting device on a cable or work bench. The Scout can work with the same inputs as the RPM and it comes with 3 days of storage by default.
RPM deployments over a large geographic area can be mixed and matched between the different RPMs that we have. We can have RPM 400, RPM 300 and Scouts to put it all along the system and it depends on the configuration required. There’s essential a browser-based server that is used as a single point of access to the system, and manages all the probes and configurations. It is also responsible for aggregating various help and service messages from the probes and sending them out via SNMP to a default management systems, for example, or via email and SMS. The entire deployment is connected over a network. It can be connected over the internet like the current place-shifting device can, or we can actually run in over a VPN, which makes it more secure and easier to deploy and maintain. The users connect first to the Central Server. They log in and they get to see the resources they have available to them. From there, a user can initiate streaming directly from the probe. One user can have remote control access and the other user can see what’s going on. Each user has an independent video stream so one user can be paused, the other user can be fast forwarding or playing, and of course, if one user changes the channel, the other user is going to see that channel being changed. Thus, users can also stream from multiple probes, at the same time, and can see multiple players together at once. When the system is idle, when there are no users logged in for example, there’s no streaming being initiated then there’s no banners being used.
The RPM captures recording, full frame rate video whether it’s SD or on HD, and provides a virtual [MIDI] control interface which allows users to replicate over to customer’s experience. On the RPM system, we can actually pull up the video, we can take remote control ownership by clicking an icon. What this lets us do is have the remote control ownership and this locks out other users from being able to change the channel at the same time. Once the piece is up, we can open up our remote control interface and press the button here to change the channel, for example or we can access the shortcuts menu that we have. We have a shortcuts menu, so we can actually program long sequences of commands. For example, if you’d like to pull up the OCD dials or any kind of engineering interface on your system and then quickly recall them in the future. We can see the long presses or if you need to hold the button down for a few seconds, we can limit that as well through this interface.
Another feature that we have is being able to view multiple streams at the same time in the same interface which allows us to quickly troubleshoot in an entire area. Over a certain region, we can all pin up all these players and actually look at what is playing at a certain time. Click CNN, we hear that CNN is having issues. In one city, we can open up the CNN in other cities around it and see exactly where the problem lies.
Another feature that differentiates us from the classic consumer place-shifting device is the amount of users that can access the system at the same time. The current devices are limited to have one user, logged in at a time. The Observer RPM allows users to troubleshoot with multiple people. People all over the internet can connect to the devices to help troubleshoot a problem.
One thing with the storage, because we store all the contacts that’s coming from that Set-top box, we can actually then go back and recall, so think of it as DVR. Users can go back into the system and actually request to see any time period from the past few days and look at exactly what was playing. This also allows us to go back in time and with multiple players at the same time, and we can see exactly what was going on then. We have this feature called Sync-To-Me, so once we navigate with one clear to a certain time, we can actually click on Sync-To-Me which synchronizes the rest of the players to that specific time. This is like a time machine.
This configuration is probably the most affordable solution. If you’re looking for a way to remotely troubleshoot multiple Set-top boxes that are all in the same location. This allows us to essentially hook up pretty much an unlimited amount at Set-top boxes with single RPM, the Scout for example and through their interface, we can switch between those Set-top boxes.
Another thing that differentiates us from these devices is that the RPM is built for the enterprise, so when users logged into our system, all the user management is done in the central server rather than per device. We have roll-based permission and we can even further integrate with your existing authentication systems in order to provide features like single sign up. If you’re not integrated with your [LBAP] or active directory, we can have our own user management and we can edit each of the groups and give them the permission to specifically model your companies or organization hierarchy.
We also offer constant health monitoring and service monitors, so for example, if communication is lost with the central server, the central server will send out an alarm. Same thing if a video was lost on the Scout, for example. If the Set-top box is disconnected, there was technician there, or if somebody knocked out the Set-top box, we can actually detect that, send a message to SNMP or email, and notify you that this resource is no longer online. If that communication is restored or if the videos have been recovered, we’ll also send a clear message on them.
Finally, I’ll talk about a little bit about the RPM reliability compared to place-shifting device. The RPM is built to last, so it’s a professional equipment and we’ve designed it to work 24-7. It has the enterprise, ECC memory enterprise, hard drives enterprise, motherboard server components, they’re all going to increase the lifetime of the device way pass any of the consumer placing devices you have today.
Okay, so this is where it gets interesting. When you’re not using the devices, they’re essentially just sitting there doing nothing. What we have is ability to do proactive scanning and be able to go through all your channels and pass them for black screen, static screen and various audio level and if they surpass a certain threshold that we specify, we will send out an alert, so this actually makes use of your equipment already and you can find the problem before your customers do. We also offer Advanced Interactive Channel Scanning by providing a Pattern Matching System. This system allows you to navigate the complex VOD and menus that you may have, so you can quickly access an asset or test your VOD play out. This can also be used, for example for the new OTT in Cloud services that are offered to test their delivery to the Set-top box.
Another feature of the monitoring is the ability to automatically determine if an issue is isolated to a probe, a group, or to entire system, so if we have these problems on any channel, or across an area, we can increase the priority of a particular alert to let you know that this issue is not just isolated at one location. Again, because we have this DVR capability; because we’re recording everything that’s coming out of the Set-top box, we have a record of every service visit, we have a record of every fault that happened, so not just getting an alert saying, “Oh, okay.” We had a static screen. You’re going to get an image of it and then you can even log in and view the actual video of it, as it’s happening. For example, users can view the existing open issues, the recoveries, so over time, we can see an issue for example, at night, a service goes out but if it comes back in, we’ll recover, and we’ll send a recovery message upon it.
Another one of our features is the ability to do Loudness monitoring and Loudness measurements. The strength of this is that we have the content and we have the measurements. We’re able to do seven short form measurements and seven long form measurements at the same time, which makes it almost ridiculously easy to do a spot check. If you want to see a 24-hour period spot check, we can quickly look at the measurements. So over 24-hour period of time, we can quickly find spikes where it’s potentially out of compliance, and we can determine if that was a commercial or is that a regular content. Basically, when in finding these peaks, and if you determined that it’s a commercial, we can dig further in by zooming in, to determine if it was commercial. You can do full 24-hours spot checks in a matter of minutes using this method.
Few last things, I’d also discuss triggering. Triggering allows us to accept external trigger, the external events and react to those events. We have an API that can accept SNMP. It can accept HTTP and what it allows us is to react to the external events for example, off the hook, transport stream analyzer.
The RPM is a software platform. It means that we’re inherently flexible into making changes to this system. The company has been around for a long time, for 10 years now and we’re consistently delivering software updates and enhancements to the RPM. We have a lot of new features on the roadmap and we’re excited to work with you and grow with your changing needs. Please contact us for more information. email@example.com