NDS enters a new dawn
Chris Forrester

Occupying its usual prime position at IBC most visitors to the giant broadcasting technology show recognise NDS for their smart card and content protection skills, but there's so much more to this global business.

Indeed, NDS should be viewed as a ‘full service' design and creative consultancy as far as its high-end work on EPGs, and exploiting the full functionality of a set-top box's inner workings are concerned. NDS has a powerful portfolio of hard-earned experience and skills on using middleware - its own as well as its rivals - to bring out the best User Interface. They'll be showing plenty of compelling examples at IBC, for satellite broadcasting, cable and IPTV usage.

NDS say, justifiably, that the requirements put on EPGs are dramatically changing - from cross platform unified appearances, to the need to incorporate hybrid functionality based on new advanced solutions such as home-networking, social interaction on the television and the integration of on-demand services. "We have solutions to meet these needs and they will be on display on the NDS stand at IBC," says a spokesperson.

Their EPG product portfolio is impressive and includes Snowflake (short listed for the CSI 2009 Best interactive TV technology or application award) and the Master UI (deployed by Comstar-UTS in March of this year) alongside customized deployments for BSkyB, DirecTV and Sky Deutschland all of which have more than played their part in cementing NDS' position as global experts in EPG/UI design.

The award-winning ‘Snowflake' is a concept that could be of significant interest to any EPG, but is specifically designed to deliver the same look and feel across a wide number of viewable platforms, broadcast (of course) but also PCs, PMPs and cellular. Snowflake's intuitive design uses a minimalist 3D grid overlaid onto live TV. It is controlled by a remote control with just six buttons: up, down, in, out, left and right. Snowflake can also be controlled by iPhone or iPod Touch devices. Snowflake can also handle stored photos, music and radio programmes.

These NDS digital TV user interfaces were designed and built by engineering-led companies and focused on the user functions. NDS next generation UIs take a different approach - they are designed by graphical designers with a focus on being easy-to-use rather than being feature-oriented.

It is also worth remembering that whether looking for content through the branded EPG, playing games, or ordering a vacation, the User Interface (UI) has become a critical service differentiator for TV platforms. NDS is present via its EPGs in more than 100m homes on more than 20 leading pay-TV platforms worldwide. NDS EPGs run on everything from low-powered legacy STBs to the latest pre-release chipsets.

NDS designed EPGs are geared for delivering a next generation TV experience that matches the HD content available today. Leading broadcasters, such as BSkyB, DIRECTV, FOXTEL, Sky Deutschland, Sky Italia, Tata Sky, and others have already deployed NDS EPGs for their latest HD multi-tuner Digital Video Recorder (DVR) products. NDS' EPGs support both NTSC and PAL standard definitions through to 1080p.