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Question 4/9 – Application programming interfaces (API) for advanced content1 distribution services within the scope of Study Group 9
(modified former Question 4/9)

Motivation

The design of the next generation set-top boxes for future advanced content distribution services for consumer use will require the smooth integration of dozens of hardware and software components. These components will communicate with each other through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). A detailed knowledge and the ability to control each API is of great importance; indeed, since some APIs can grow to take control of and "warp" other APIs, and since even one such closed API in an otherwise open set-top box makes the entire box a closed environment, control of practically all of the key APIs is of paramount importance.

A further purpose of defining these APIs is to enable service operators to deploy advanced set-top boxes in the future, while ensuring their ability to keep costs low, choose among flexible architectures, maintain a multi-vendor, modular environment, and obviate the need to compromise on features and functionality.

The problem is not limited only to content distribution services. There are so many types of services such as linear-TV with trick mode, network PVR, user-generated content, and so on, and such new generation of services makes delivery on new interactive services possible via this mechanism. This in turns leads to the same need for APIs.

It is of course also highly desirable that the specified APIs should conform to "open", published standards rather than to proprietary standards, and that they should incorporate a well-defined mechanism for adding extensions. However, adding extensions in an uncontrolled manner will lead to development confusion and incompatibility, to illegal "warping" of other APIs and to the risk of addition of proprietary extensions.

It is thus important and urgent that APIs for use in the advanced content distribution services to next generation set-top boxes be studied and specified to conform to the operating requirements delineated above.

Question

  • What are the relevant advanced content distribution applications and the functionality that each API should be able to provide in order to meet the requirements? (APIs are required for the support of applications but are also required for downloading purposes, display purposes, for network control and for security.)
  • What specification of the open API or APIs can be recommended for use in each application, paying attention to their desirable interoperability with other APIs recommended for use in other services and their use in next generation set-top boxes for the reception of advanced content distribution services via interactive systems?
  • What specifications can be recommended for the mechanisms to be provided in each recommended API, to allow its future extension to further functionalities?
  • What enhancements to existing Recommendations are required to provide energy savings directly or indirectly in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) or in other industries? What enhancements to developing or new Recommendations are required to provide such energy savings?

Tasks

Tasks include, but are not limited to the preparation of new Recommendation(s). These will eventually fully specify all the open APIs recommended for use in the advanced content distribution services via interactive access networks.

An up-to-date status of work under this Question is contained in the SG 9 Work Programme.

Relationships

Liaison in the study of this Question should be established with ITU-T Study Groups 11, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17 and with ITU-R Study Group 6.


1The ITU Terminology database defines “content” as “program material and related information of any variety”

 

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Updated : 2008-12-09