In today’s world, digital is the way to go. The TV industry has evolved from analogue systems to adopt a digital format that opens up a new world of possibilities. Aside from the benefits these developments offer to content creators and service providers, there are many opportunities for set-top box (STB) application developers.
Set-top box application development refers to the design, development, testing, and maintenance of the various applications that run on the digital TVs on the market today. Developers are responsible for creating applications capable of adapting to a rapidly changing technological landscape while keeping their products accessible to the average consumer.
In this article, we’ll take a dive into the world of STB app development, taking a look at what exactly goes into it and what we might look forward to in the future. We’ll try and figure out what it takes to create a powerful set-top box app in the current technological climate.
Let’s get right into it.
Set-Top Box Applications Defined
In traditional terms, set-top boxes were hardware devices that made it possible for digital signals to be received, decoded, and ultimately displayed on our television sets. They allowed cable television and internet data streamed to our homes via underground cable connections or telephone lines.
These devices would allow end-users access to a much broader spectrum of channels and had the capability of filtering out channels that the viewer did not want to see.
Over-the-top (OTT) apps can be directed to your digital TV, smartphone, or tablet and will most often be related to communication media, entertainment, games, or videos.
The appeal of this innovation is that it is generally much cheaper than classic conduits and allows for much greater flexibility or freedom, benefitting the end-user. For these reasons and more, the set-top box application development market is currently experiencing explosive growth with no signs of tapering off.
Developing Powerful Set-Top Box Applications
One can use various developer tools in the process of creating STB applications out there. Depending on your skill level and familiarity with the programming language of your choice, manipulating the APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that work at the core of your application will primarily be a matter of your preference.
The core steps you will need to go through are as follows:
Here you will be looking at just how likely it is that the market will accept your STB app. Careful study of the current data concerning consumer uptake across the various hardware platforms on the market will be your first and significant area of focus.
You will then need to consider the amount of work it will take to develop an app that works for your target consumers’ content preferences, but whether or not you will deliver a viable product within a reasonable timeframe and budget.
The design phase of your development project will not vary on any significant points regardless of the results of your initial feasibility studies. STBs are only as good as the application software that underpins them. All good STB apps will come with intuitive GUIs (graphical user interfaces) that make it easy for users to navigate through the system.
A rich sampling of advanced applications such as content aggregation, recommendations, and an integrated browser that allows users to access the media-rich realm of the wider internet is a must in this day and age.
The design stage is perhaps the most crucial in the entire process, as this is where the software will be ultimately defined and realized. Quality conditions and parameters will be outlined and expounded here. The implementation stage and all that comes after will hinge upon the app design, and errors here may thus be very costly down the road.
Here things become more straightforward. As long as your code is clean and abiding by the guidelines set out in the design stage, it will only be a matter of shaping your output to align with the projections laid out. One significant hurdle here, however, will be figuring out the most effective ways to enable the compatibility of the software across various hardware platforms.
Here you will be making trial runs of your STB app to determine its capability to perform its tasks. Depending on the scope of your application, this fundamental trouble-shooting exercise should quickly expose any significant bugs in your system and allow you to rectify them before the launch of the product.
From that point, you will need to keep your eyes and ears open to respond to any bugs you might have missed and implement software upgrades whenever it might be required. Customer feedback and reviews are a great way to keep up with your application’s market desires.
Challenges Facing STB App Developers
The most challenging aspect of this endeavor is that there are so many competing hardware platforms or operating systems that developers will need to adapt their apps to Roku, Google TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and many more. This scenario is similar to what faces mobile application designers who need to take the iOS (Apple) or Android ecosystems into account while developing their apps.
The trouble here is that there is a wider variety of platforms in the digital TV market. Each of them is currently striving to beat out the competition by hosting the more significant market share in terms of the applications running on their platforms, which ties in closely to the number of clients using their services.