Set-tops get soft landing

Set-tops get soft landing
Melanie Reynolds at Earl’s Court A digital set-top box that uses software for decoding and demultiplexing could be the future for the market, according to Element 14. The Bristol-based company demonstrated the capabilities of such a box, containing “a potential future Intel chip set” at the Cable & Satellite Show. The main advantage of using software rather than hardware for decoding and demultiplexing is that the box can be easily altered to meet different standards. “What the software solution allows you to do is potentially build a single box for a range of deployments,” said Stewart Palmer, Element 14’s v-p for digital interactive TV. Evolving standards would normally mean changing hardware and hence production line alterations. Using a software approach just means downloading a different coder/decoder. This offers economies of scale and if a powerful enough processor is used then new services can be added to the box such as video telephony, or picture-in-a-picture. Although unable to confirm what processor is being used, Element 14 has always worked within the ARM environment. This suggests a set-top product based on Intel’s Strong-ARM processor. A chipset could be available from the middle of next year. The solution already offers a reduction in component count but Palmer is aiming higher. “As we move into the future, we can use more powerful processors which will effectively eat up other bits of silicon around the processor.”


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