Ness recently launched a video delivery platform on behalf of a globally renowned telecom provider. The service delivers live TV and IP-based Over-the-Top (OTT) content - and localized content services - to an industry moving swiftly beyond costly satellite-TV provision.
A distributed agile delivery team of 50 Ness product engineers across three locations in two continents worked on the platform. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the team to work from home and use their ingenuity to overcome the issues arising from not being physically close to the Set Top Boxes (STB) which deliver the video streams. This unique scenario forced us to reimagine solutions for remote monitoring, testing and controlling of hardware; these can now be used in any industry.
Part of our delivery team is located in Romania, while the testing labs for the STBs were in the US. In order to test the quality of the video streams from 5,000 miles away, we needed to think creatively to design a Quality Assurance (QA) framework intelligent enough to deliver the same control, precision and certainty we would demand from a testing process where we could touch the STBs.
Prior to the pandemic we were already deep in conversation with our client to move towards greater remote troubleshooting and testing rather than rely on costly and inefficient onsite visits from service engineers. We proved the concept on a test device in our US lab before rolling out the final process in the field when the STBs were deployed commercially. We were actually 90% of the way towards full “remote control” for those US/Romania geographic reasons when the pandemic hit. To achieve the last 10%, we just needed to eliminate the need for human interaction with the STB.
COVID-19 forced us to reach 100% coverage for remote testing. We are now able to test updates, upgrades and software patches much more quickly and cheaply than sending an individual engineer on-site.
Ness Solution: Remote testing a set top box
To take control remotely, we had to abstract some physical flows and create virtual commands to mimic actions such as channel changes. We engineered code to inject our instructions into the software stack and also mimic the IR signal, using messaging over IP coupled to our Cloud and QA infrastructure. This process of Virtualization meant we were able to recreate that whole process of “being there”*. It’s easy enough to inject commands remotely into a system, but much harder to replicate the actual pressing of a physical button. The Ness solution delivers that capability. As there is no global standard which is trusted for security and privacy control by hardware manufacturers, we created a scalable, repeatable approach, using open-source customizable frameworks, to provide the solution for remote manipulation. We know this capability resonates with any company looking to control and monitor end point devices and we are currently in discussion with several streaming TV providers with reliance on hardware.
Our solution also interests broadcasters looking to run QA testing with emulator devices from another country, but facing similar issues checking content playback quality because of Digital Rights Management and Licensing blocks that prevent the emulator being able to display the real content. Broadcasters are not in the business of owning all the flavours of playback hardware that exist around the world, but they do need to know with certainty that their content works and looks its very best on a full range of supported devices. Our QA testing framework provides that certainty.
About Ness in Technology, Media and Telecom
Ness has product engineering DNA that helps us solve increasingly complex business challenges with technology. Our clients value the rigor, agility and innovative energy that we bring to work each day. We have developed end-to-end solutions and platforms in Technology, Media and Telecom for many leading global enterprises.
If you’d like to learn more about this specific use case or how we might help solve your technology challenge, please reach out to us: TMT@ness.com
* For this project we developed our own messaging broker and client on the STB using the IOT messaging standard MQTT http://mqtt.org/. This means that our QA framework communicates remotely over an industry standard. We can now run remote device testing for any device that uses MQTT.