The history & evolution of smart internet set-top box
- 03 Sep 2021
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When talking about the history of set-top boxes, it started in 1990. During those years, the TV set-top boxes were also called the first generation of TV set-top boxes, or analog TV set-top boxes. They dominated the family living room for 15 years until 2005. Due to the unidirectionality of content and low definition, and with the withdrawal of CRT TV from the historical stage, cause the second-generation set-top box - digital TV set-top box appeared. Although the definition of digital TV set-top boxes has been greatly improved, the unidirectional content of both the first and second-generation set-top boxes still can't satisfy users’ demands. Therefore, internet STB came into being.
2005- 2007 - 2011: smart internet set-top box was born
The internet set-top box, also known as OTT box, began to rise in 2005. OTT not only provides free video viewing without the monthly rental fee but also can realize on-demand service. At this time, the internet set-top box can only realize the function of online viewing on-demand. Until 2007, Amlogic solved the problem of decoding, and the internet set-top box added the local playback function, but the decoding ability is general, since then, the internet STB has developed in two directions: one is to continue to strengthen the network on-demand function, the other is to form a hard disk player based on local decoding and playback, and the local decoding function continues to be strengthened. Subsequently, in 2011, the entry of the Android TV platform made a qualitative leap in the internet set-top box industry. The OTT industry changed from "pseudo-two-way" to full two-way. The Android TV platform fundamentally solved the problem of openness. Since then, the internet set-top box has entered the era of the smart internet set-top box, while the set-top box industry has entered a period of rapid prosperity and development. SDMC took the industry-leading position to develop smart internet set-top box (OTT Smart TV Box) products in this period.
2011-2015: 32-bit processing system
The original smart internet set-top box was not as powerful as we thought. The 32-bit single-core processor and Android version 1.6 were more like a water test product, with the lack of various compatibility and software. Moreover, the set-top box manufacturer also lacked the development experience of relevant products, and the system optimization was not perfect, making the user experience not friendly; From 2011 to 2015, with the processor from 32-bit single-core to dual-core to quad-core and then to 8 core, the memory from 512MB to 1GB, the hardware performance tends to be improved, and the Android version from 1.6 to 4.2, the software is becoming more and more mature. At this time, the smart internet STB industry relies more on stacking hardware to compete, and the threshold is low. Therefore, the miscellaneous army has sprung up, and the online service of application services has become chaotic.
2015: 64-bit processing system
As another turning point in this industry, the processor has entered the 64-bit era from the second half of 2015. The installed representative is RK3368. The Android version has also begun to enter the 64-bit Android 5.1. In 2016, the 64-bit processor era began. The original chip manufacturers such as Amlogic, HiSilicon, Rockchip, etc. have also launched 64-bit processors. The Android version has begun to enter 6.0 or even 7.0. The double data stream processing speed makes the hardware no longer limited to the development of smart boxes, 1GB or even 2GB dual-channel memory boxes spread everywhere. Accompanying the processor upgrade is the HDMI version transitioning from 1.4a to 2.0 version. The transmission bandwidth of up to 18Gbps brings the big screen home theaters experience.
2016: 4K ultra HD era has arrived
When the development of smart internet STB comes in 2016, the hardware and content become stable, the competition between STBs begins to turn to application services, decoding performance, system UI and characteristic functions.The newly-listed internet TV boxes are equipped with popular elements such as "4K HDR, HDMI 2.0 version", and provide the ultimate experience for living room audio-visual entertainment.
2016 - till now： Android TV boxes have become popular
Android TV was released to the public in the form of an NVIDIA device. This was followed by and an inclusive, standalone television set in 2015. In 2016, Google announced partnerships with more Android TV device manufacturers who will be creating Android TV devices.
In 2017, SDMC launched its first Android TV box DV8219 for Telkom South Africa which makes it become one of China's leading OEMs that got Android TV certification. A special edition called Android TV Operator Tier is provided to service operators that implement Android TV on the device they provide to their subscribers to access media content. In this edition, the operator can customize the home screen and services on the device. Afterward, more and more operators are joining the Android TV ecosystem, up to 326 operators till now.
At Google I/O 2021, Google announced they have over 80 million monthly active devices on Android TV OS. Android TV is widely used since its launch because of its many highlights such as endless popular content, Google Assistant and Chromecast built-in, etc. It redefines the TV watching experience, makes OTT set-top boxes become a center of smart home entertainment.
From ultra-high-definition, voice interaction, multi-screen interaction, entertainment terminals to smart service platforms, the innovation steps of OTT set-top boxes never stop.
With the implementation of 5G and AIoT, the OTT set-top box will bring more possibilities to the large screen in the future.