French TV software player SoftAtHome launched a smart box for O2 Czech Republic at last week’s IBC event, built by KaonMedia on a Broadcom chip. It also showed off “voice” capabilities, cut an extended deal with Orange and extended its Smart WiFi to include Quantenna chips.
SoftAtHome is also behind O2 Czech’s upgrade to its WiFi system to support 250Mbps VDSL3 (or V-Plus), which uses 35 MHz of spectrum in the baseband over twisted pair together with vectoring to get the best outcome. Performances can go up to 360Mbps, dependent on the distance the device is from the home. O2 Czech Republic was acquired from Telefonica in 2013 by local interests, but still uses the O2 brand.
The SoftAtHome software manages the WiFi as well as home security, remote controls for home appliances and lights, fire alarm, with other services to be announced soon.
David Souhami, director of innovation and product marketing, described the system as “voice-ready” and showed a surveillance system driven by voice which he triggered using the name ‘Maestro’, his version of Amazon Alexa. He did a TV program search and played a movie using voice commands and also switched to surveillance mode.
He told us: “It was not supplied by us, but at Korea Telecom, the voice system there was supposed to sell just 100,000 last year, instead it sold 1m. People love the use of voice.”
He also said that WiFi quality and performance issues generated 120,000 customer service requests last year at O2 Czech Republic and SoftAtHome will be using the WiFi management built into its CloudAtHome platform to control which devices connect to a Z-Wave hub built into the home gateway. It looks like O2 will also be using advanced WiFi management features such as band steering and client steering, which were announced as part of the platform back in March, and which should have a beneficial effect on those call rates.
The Home Gateway is based on the Broadcom BCM63138 chipset, and as a home network router offers 4Gbps Ethernet connectors and Dual-Band WiFi with a theoretical throughput of 2.2Gbps, 1.74Gbps of which is from 5 GHz spectrum. To maximize coverage, it has 4 x 4 antennas and uses Multiuser-MIMO and beamforming.
Meanwhile, SofAtHome mentioned another design win of an electricity smart meter, using the established KNX technology for Direct Énergie, a French electric utility, serving 2.1m consumers in France and Belgium. KNX is a standardized OSI-based network protocol which works over powerline and twisted pair, and is well established as primarily a meter reading technology across Europe.
While we were there, Souhami demonstrated a set-top integrated with YouTube and Netflix, geared up for music services as well with headset connectors, which allow for multiple headsets connected which will eventually allow for two audio streams – either someone listening to the TV and another listening to music, or two different languages for the same TV program. On the same roadmap he promised to add video surveillance, and voice activation with both Nuance and Alexa, which he says has been a request from lots of operators.
SoftAtHome also said it had extended its contract with Orange, to the countries outside France and to 4K devices. The new box, that has just been released in Spain last month, upgrades performance to 4K for premium live content, and added a Videoclub catalog. Viewers in Spain can also access Netflix content in 4K quality or Wuaki 4K content.
Finally it uncovered the deal it has with Quantenna saying that its SoftAtHome Smart WiFi runs on the QV860 chipset. In the past it has operated an any chipset policy on what it calls Smart WiFi and by adding one of the most popular SoCs at present it should make for a better WiFi experience for its operators.