Today’s set-top boxes (STB), digital media hubs, and entertainment gateways offer a long list of exciting features. Direct access to amazing content, stunningly realistic images, support for professional-level audio – there are a lot of compelling reasons to upgrade your home-entertainment setup.
But getting your new TV Box to play with your existing in-home network can be painfully tedious and time-consuming. Sure, going wireless means there aren’t a bunch of confusing cords and cables to work with, but getting started can still be hard.
The commissioning process, which adds your new STB to your home network, often involves clicking through a number of screens and using a remote control to key in user names and passcodes, so you can identify, select, and log onto the right network. If there are any hiccups along the way, you’re likely to have to start over from the beginning, keying in all that same cryptic information one more time. It can be frustrating, to say the least.
The same is true with pairing, which lets you connect a new remote, add in speakers, headset or mirror the screen of your smartphone or tablet, so you can share videos and pictures or play games on a larger screen. Getting the STB to recognize other devices can be tedious, involving so many screens and key entries that the process is less than fun. Everyone who ever went through the process of typing long passwords over the arrow buttons of a remote control, knows that pain.
This is where Near Field Communications (NFC) can make a big difference. When it comes to pairing and commissioning devices, nothing could be easier than NFC. Just bringing two NFC-enabled devices together is all it takes to create a secure connection. Commissioning your new STB to the local gateway, becomes very easy, you can even use your NFC phone or the remote for transferring securely the network credentials between the 2 devices. What’s more, NFC can also trigger other protocols, like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. There aren’t any unintended device connections, and none of the device conflicts that can happen with Bluetooth. That means it’s easier to commission new devices or expand your home network.
As consumers, we’ve come to expect a high degree of personalization when dealing with technology. Whether it’s telling a thermostat how cool to keep the bedroom at night, teaching a car how to have the driver’s seat adjusted, or configuring a laptop to present a particular application at startup, we’ve grown used to having things just the way we want. Home entertainment is no exception, and STBs are some of the latest devices to enter this era of true personalization.
When NFC is designed into the STB, any NFC-enabled phone, tablet or NFC tag, can communicate with the STB in just one tap. Let’s take parental control as an example, assuming you want to ensure that your kids only watch suitable channels for a specified period of time. Todays’ common parental control features require you to create a “not-so-easy-to-guess” password. With NFC, parents can create one user profile per family member as they write each profile into an NFC phone, card or figurine. All it takes for each family member’s personal TV experience it to tap their device to the TV box for identification and you will immediately access your personal environment.
Or imagine you’ve started to binge watch your favorite series on your phone on your way back home, you may feel tempted to continue watching on the big TV screen but are discouraged by the time spent for booting up the STB, selecting the right program and enter your registration details to the subscription service. In an NFC world, tapping your phone to the STB will be all it takes to immediately complete the login and hand-over the streaming video credentials to the TV. Here you are, continuing your series seamlessly on the TV. It goes without saying that is also works the other way around, should you have to run out of the living room to the burning pizza in the oven.
Having had my STB for a while now, it’s learned a lot about me. It knows who I am, where I live, and what I like to watch. I’m okay with that – I like getting recommendations based on my watching habits, and I like being able to use my active account information to access pay-to-view content or make premium purchases while gaming. What I’m not okay with is sharing any of that information with strangers. I value my privacy and want to protect the personal data my STB uses to make my viewing experience better.
When combined with a dedicated security IC, such as a Secure Access Module (SAM), the NFC function can be relied upon to keep private information safe and secure. NXP’s SAMs are secure crypto coprocessors that can be used to encrypt data involved in an NFC transaction. The SAM can also verify encrypted data for authenticity, before the transaction, to make sure things like online purchases can be trusted. NXP’s approach also empowers devices like STBs to house trusted applications, as well as their associated credentials and cryptographic data in a secure environment.
NFC creates the ultimate plug-and-play experience and is a key factor in generating brand confidence and consumer loyalty. Several leading STB manufacturers, including China Mobile and Sagemcom, already offer STBs with NFC onboard.
As a leading supplier of NFC, with the largest product portfolio and vital partnerships with leading ecosystem players, NXP is an important part of this STB trend. In fact, 90% of all NFC gateways and STBs that includes NFC readers use our technology. Our latest NFC controller for home-automation applications, the PN7150, is optimized for fast design-in. It lets developers add simplicity, security, and interaction to STB applications that run in Android, Windows, Linux, or any other OS environment. The chip comes with embedded NFC firmware and provides all the relevant NFC protocols as pre-integrated features. A full set of reference designs, modules, and applications, along with dedicated support teams and easy-to-use design-in tools, complete the picture. To learn more about NFC and how it can take the pain out of setting up a new set-top box, visit the NXP website.