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TECENOLOGY USED IN SET-TOP BOX
CONTENT: Introduction STB HARDWARE COMPONENTS Antenna Power supply Front panel Front end Digital decoder CPU Digital storage CA module Return path Other peripherals FLOW OF DATA Memory Conclusion Reference
With the advent of digital television set-top box (STB) has become a buzzword. Transmission of television signal has gone digital most TV are still analogue. Therefore an STB is required to convert the digital signal to analogues signal so as to enable a viewer to watch digital content on the TV set. However an STB is not merely a digital to analogous signal convert it also provides a host of other services to enhance the TV viewing experience-provision of electronic programmed guide to keep track of the content is one such example.
STB HARDWARE COMPONENTS
The STB mainly consists of following components,
The antenna is not essentially the part of a set-top box, as it is fitted outside an STB. It contain low-noise block (LNB) that receive the satellite with a frequency of approximately 12Ghz and perform a down conversion to a frequency range to 950 to 1450 MHZ. subsequently the signal is passed on to the front end inside the set-top box.
Power supply provides the requirement voltage to run various peripherals inside an STB. In some cases, it can be used to power mechanized antenna to alien them in various direction in order to receive different signals.
It is a small microcontroller based hardware peripheral inside an STB that receives the user input and interacts directly with the main CPU control (processor). It contains an IR receiver to listen to remote control input. Also it directly linked to some input buttons or keys present on the outer frame an STB.
It is also known as network interface module (NIM). Front end is a peripheral device that interfaces with the antenna to receive the down converted signal and send it to digital decoder in the form of transport stream. Basically the front end consists of two major components turned and demodulator. The turner listens to single received from the antenna and passed it on to the signal received from the antenna and passes it on to the demodulator for generating the transport streams. Different types of NIMs are satellite QPSK, cables QAM, terrestrial COFDM, 8-VSB and Telco ADSL.
A digital decoder receiver the transport streams sent by the demodulator inside the front end and then demultiplexes and decompresses the requested video by the user. It then converts the digital stream to an analogue signal which is sent to RF port. The task of the demultiplexer or a demux is to separate the entire data stream packaged together by Head End in the specified format. The data contain audio video and DVB (digital video Broadcasting) specified data like SI/PSI tables. After the demuxing, decompression is done by a specified format like MPEG-2 or MPEG-4. The specific Data or information is given to CPU for processing for advanced features and memory storage and to be used in graphics.
Just as in a regular PC the processor inside the CPU takes care of interaction of all the hardware peripherals and software modules inside a set-top box. It manages the real time operation system (RTOS). The processor also takes care of memory devices and other forms of digital storage like hard disk or flash drivers.
Digital storage is another optional compound inside a set-top box. It need for persistent storage of any kind of data including audio/video. It communicates with the processor and it controlled by STB software module and storage drivers. In facts it is a hard disk which acts as a digital storage media inside an STB.
The conditional access (CA) modules can be considered as the most important component of a set-top box. This module is virtually the lifeline of all the leading set-top box solution provides. This peripheral called integrated condition access modules (ICAM) is placed before the demultiplexer to be used for descrambling the encrypted signal and also provide a smart card interface for various security features.
This is an optional component. Return paths are used by an STB to communication back with the head end and send data packed. The return path can be present in various forms like a PSTN line connection a cable modern in case of case STBs or an Ethernet jack in IP set-top box using ADSL brad band modern. For example a return path become a necessary compound is a user needs to purchase PPV events directly from the set-top box using credit card.
There are other optional peripherals present inside an STB like RS-232 port USB port, wifi enablers, and Bluetooth devices. These peripheral are used inside an STB for enhanced interactivity with the consumer and provide better user experience. Basically there components or peripheral can be used for creation advance features like file sharing and plugging in external devices.
FLOW OF DATA
As you must have understood the roles of various hardware modules inside an STB let moves on to the next level where we will go through the flow of data between this hardware while we turn an STB to a particular channel.
The tuner receives modulating digital transmission from the antenna and passes it on to the demodulator. This demodulator takes in to account the type of demodulator and forward error correction to give out a transport streams which is a digital stream of bytes known as data packers. According to DVB standards a transport streams is of the size of 188 bytes. It then goes into the demux where the content is separated in audio/video packetized elementary stream.
(PES) and data packed known as section as per DVB standard. PES is mechanism to carry audio/video elementary steams in packer’s format inside an MPEG-2 transport stream. Section is the data packers containing information regarding audio/video content and other
media data. Once the demux does its job audio/video is sent to MPEG-2/MPEG-4 decoder which gives the output to the RF port to display the video on television.
The packets are sending to the processor user by the STB software to enable viewing. This data can be persistent or kept in RAM as per the needs and performance. Any kind of user request is it turning or a purchase goes through the CPU. In between the most important functionality of descrambling is performed by a descramble embedded inside the ICAM part of the chipset. In some several of STBs a descramble can be a part of a decoder or it can exist independently. The descramble takes care of decryption the encrypted transport stream using the control world technique. Generally these descramble and control word algorithm are closely guarded secrets with CA solution provide to prevent hacks from decrypting the signal. These are developed in conjunction with chipset vendors in much secured environment.
Moving on further let discuss some of the memory types used inside an STB. It contains various memory types for different roles. DRAM (dynamic random access memory) is used to store all the software needs and volatile working area like static variables. Video DRAM is used in an STB for storing the decoder video image that is being output to television or video recorder. NVRAM (non volatile random access memory) is needed for persistent memory needs of the STB. Generally STB configuration is written into NVRAM to keep the setting persistent during power cycle and provide consistent user experience. There are two types of NVRAM used inside a set-top box namely electrically erasable programmable read only memory (EEPROM) and FLASH, EEEPROM is phasing out slowly as it is very expensive to perform frequent read and write whereas FLASH uses batch mode for read and write and enhances the life of NVRAM. Also FLASH can be used for storing parts of code segment for software performance reasons. ROM/OTP (read only memory/ one time programmable) as the name suggests this is the memory written on to once in a lifetime of set-top box. It contains some crucial software pieces like boot loader and other security related code. The book loaders enable the STB to check the integrity of the software and let it work only if it contains authentic software. This is only of the key memory areas which protect the STB from hackers to write illegal software into the box. As mention earlier the most important part in an STB design in ICAM or CA module which is responsible for viewer access to the content available on air. It maintains all the transition and perform validation to check the entitlement. ICAM module consist of entitlement control message (ECM) and entitlement management message (EMM) acquisition and management descramble and smart card interface.
The set-top hardware architecture is very similar to architecture of any recorder and replay devices. But its unique lies in its security model and the enhance interactivity with viewers enabling them to perform various action during live video and also pay only for the content they watch.
REFERENCE www.wekipedia.com www.efymagzine.com www.ehow.com
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