Set Top Box (STB)/or Set Top Unit (STB/STU) Overview

Before starting the introduction of the “Testing” part let’s just understand the basics.

What is a Set Top Box?

A set-top box is a hardware device that receives, decode and display the digital signals on a television. The signal can be a television signal or Internet data and is received by cable or telephone connection. They can have one way which actually means that end user can not interact or modify the channels and two way communications allowing for interactive features like for the end user that they can control or choose what they want on their televisions or whatever type of system they are using.

STB is an device that contains a tuner which connects to a television and takes inputs in signal that can be named as source signal and converts them into a form that they then can be visible on the television or in other words we can say that the set top box is a hardware system that allows a signal to be received, then decoded and then can be visible on a television. The signal type could be a television signal or Internet data and is received by a cable or telephone connection.

There are five types of televisions in India:

  • Broadcast or OTA(Over the Air) Televisions
  • Unencrypted Satellite (Free to air)
  • Direct to home (DTH)
  • Cable television
  • IPTV (Internet Protocol TV)

Today, most of the STB systems are two-way communication, before elaborating two way communication lets understand the one way communication, as the name itself suggests one way which means you can just see whatever is visible on the screen you cannot alter the channels in the television but at the same place in the two way communication the consumer can choose the services or the channels one wants to see.

The set-top boxes can be classified into the following categories:

Cable Converter Box
It can convert any type of channels broadcast from a cable television service into analog radio-frequency signals on a single VHF channel. This box can covert a non cable ready television to cable-ready television. The least number of these cable converter boxes can also de-scramble the signals to manage many channels that are carrier-controlled and access-restricted.

TV Signal Sources
It includes various signal sources:

  • Ethernet cable
  • Satellite dish
  • DSL connections
  • Coaxial cable
  • Broadband over power line
  • VHF or UHF antenna

Professional Set-Top Box
They are also referred to as integrated receiver/ decoders. They are designed especially for robust field handling and rack mounting environments. These are commonly used in the professional broadcast audio or video industry like news channel companies and include a unique feature for producing uncompressed serial digital interface signals.

Hybrid
The hybrid set top boxes came into existence in the late 2000s and became popular among both pay-TV and free-to-air set-top box businesses. These set top boxes provide the usual TV broadcast from cable, satellite and other providers and mix it with the video output provided over a network and personal multimedia content. They give users a variety of viewing content, eliminating the need for having a separate box for each service.

IPTV
These types of set-top boxes are kind of small computers that allow two-way communication that was explained in the second paragraph, it works on an Internet Protocol network and they decode the streaming media video.

STB Architecture

Customer Premises Equipment (CPE)
Set-top box or computer that receives the cable signals coming from the cable modem termination system (CMTS).

Set-Top Box (STB) – There is equipment named as Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) that can access subscription and pay/per View broadcast television services and interactive TV services. Each set-top box is a member of one or more multicast groups in a DSG (DOCSIS Set-top Gate way) network, which allows the STB to receive the OOB (Out of the band data) messages that are needed to receive the programs they are authorized to view.

Point of Deployment (POD) module – Removable security card that is plugged into a STB to uniquely identify and authenticate the STB, which allows the CA (certificate authority) servers to securely identify the set top box and can determine the received programs and services are the one for which the set top box is authorized.

Conditional Access Server –A server systems that encrypt video programs using Conditional Access (CA) techniques which allow only authorized subscribers to decrypt and view the programs.

STB applications
These applications are software programs such as program guides or image organizers that are processed run within the set top box device

  • Application Platforms

The combination of hardware/software and programs that enable the running of other software programs.

  • Resident Applications

These software programs are stored within an STB and are ready to use.

  • Downloadable Applications

These are software programs that can be transferred into an STB.

STB Testing Approaches

  • Functional / Services Testing
  • Signal (Video/Audio) Quality Testing
  • Interface Testing
  • Performance testing

Testing Challenges Scenarios with Real Estate Startups

The majority of the commercial real estate start-ups start utilizing some of the trendy technologies such as intellectual analytics, machine learning, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, etc. Besides, the frequency and impact of the project complexity factors has evoked the necessity to use software testing technologies that are able to facilitate the process of development, as well as coordinate the software solutions for real estate business. Consequently, Entrepreneurs from different industries have started using the power of advanced new technologies & testing tools to survive and thrive and to bring more efficiency to business processes. Fortunately RE start-ups have adopted plethora of software solutions, so we can observe numerous real estate startups thrives from rent management to virtual home tours.

Challenges of IoT implementation: Subsequent Challenges

a) IoT apps are ridden with manifold, real-time scenarios occurring in combo, which can be very painstakingly difficult or complicated.

b) Determining the scalability scale is at all times a knotty affair. It’s difficult because there are future upgrade concerns.

c) Testing scenarios are monitored and heavily controlled contrasting the real-time situations, which are vulnerable and volatile with millions of sensors and different devices working in synchrony. The fact the IoT apps, which may have scored a perfect score in testing, might fail to bring the best results in the actual ecosystem.

d) With IoT expansion, the security concerns over safety and data integrity persistently grow and are compel test engineers to keep their heads for corrective plans.

The present challenges of IoT implementation are overwhelming, attributable to the highly complicated and exceptional characteristics of IoT apps. This mandates diverse test scenarios for general use, day-long simulations, and peak points, to ascertain if these apps ensure total scalability and performance of the IoT architecture. Generally, IoT test scenarios are classified into 6 types:

1. Performance Testing: This includes real-time and far more cumbersome aspects, such as streaming analytics, load testing, timing analysis, and time-bound outputs to validate and guarantee consistent performance of data writing, data reading, and data retrieval.

2. Security Testing: Handle out an onslaught of data is fundamental to Internet of Things operations, and hence, companies must conduct security testing to remove vulnerabilities and manage the integrity of data. This concludes scrutinizing several aspects of the system, comprising data protection, device identity authentication, encryption/decryption, & more.

3. Functional Testing: It examines the quantitative and qualitative functional deliverability of deployed Internet of Things applications in the actual conditions. Aspects, like environment conditions, network size, and topologies, are put to test.

4. Compatibility Testing: Compatibility Testing assesses if the existing working combination of software, protocols, hardware, and OSs fall on the Internet of Things interoperability radar, and are compatible with the specifications and standards of conventional IoT industrial framework.

5. Scalability Testing: This comprises the testing of all functional as well as non-functional use cases to guarantee whether the system is easy to scale to accommodate future up gradation.

6. Regulatory Testing: Regulatory testing determines the compliance of Internet of Things applications with privacy regulations.

For this reason, it will be important for Real Estate startups to create a great testing strategy to face challenges that molds to their competence and application development requirements.

  • Use the MVP- When you are a startup business looking to make the most of your software testing opportunities, the minimum viable product is going to be the MVP you require. If in case project fails, it does not have to go to production, and major funds can be saved from using the MVP to appraise the overall concept. For startups business, getting the most value out of your hard work is imperative. Building a minimum viable product will cost less money and take less time to produce than create a monolithic program. Startups can’t afford to ignore this major testing strategy and should aim to use it as an essential point for their projects.
  • Invest in helpful resources- In addition to assess and utilize people that can take on testing tasks, these individuals should be provided with the best assets possible that will help them to be successful. It is better to first consider investing in agile test management. In an agile software development environment, collaboration and communication are highly praised, and test management can facilitate such practices. Even if your business starts out small, the test management techniques and tools easily scale along with your company, guarantee that you do not need to pay for added support. It will help teams make vital decisions and quickly patch up bugs in the build.
  • Utilize everyone to test- If you are a startup that has an elite and dedicated tester or QA team provider as a backup, you are miles ahead of the game. However, several startups and smaller organizations may not have the dedicated resources to devote toward Quality Assurance and testing. Software Testing provider like ImpactQA noted that everybody from developers to sales associates and business analysts can contribute to the testing effort. Testers can easily and assess the navigation and functionality of a program. Developers can assess and make changes straight to the code to fix any issues and promote a positive UI/ UX experience. “As a startup, you’ve got to prioritize,”

Automation is another crucial tool that you ought to consider. Not only can automation integration take off some recurring test cases from the workload, but it can also empower your QA team to expend extra time on GUI & exploratory testing. As a startup, you should consider choosing automation testing tools offered by QA Consultants wisely. Fortunately, QA Outsourcing companies in US like ImpactQA offers a wide variety of options, so you will be able to find one that fits your particular business needs.

“Taking the time to thoughtfully craft your testing strategy and the time to modify it as you progress will allow your startup to begin testing in the way that makes sense for you,” Thomson wrote.

Why I talk about Context-Driven Testing?

As we know sometimes Testing Practices and Testing Techniques become very rigid and imitation based. So there must be some way by which we can easily shift our testing practices, techniques and even definition as per the circumstances or requirements. This is exactly Context-Driven Testing.

There can be different circumstances with every project we are going to deal with-

●    Requirements can be documented or not.
●    Enough time vs fighting schedules.
●    Tools Availability.
●    Clients Requirements.
●    Selection of best process for the project.
●    Trained employees’ vs untrained employees.
●    Time zone issues between the Development and Testing teams.

The Testing team working on the Context-driven testing are going to select their testing objectives, techniques, and deliverables (contains test documentation); also find out the details of the specific situation, the wishes of the stakeholders, etc.

The utmost priority of it is about doing the best with what we are having in our pocket. In Spite of applying “Principal practices and industrial testing standards”, we can accept each and every different practice or even different definition which can work best under different circumstances.

Basic principles of Context-driven testing –

●    The actual return of any practice is directly dependent on its context.
●    In context, there are good practices but not best practices.
●    How people are working together is very much important.
●    Over time, project unfolds in many ways, which are often not predictable.
●    The product is a kind of solution, if the problem doesn’t solve, the product doesn’t work.
●    Good Software testing is challenging deep thinking and intensive reasoning task.
●    Can we do the correct work at the correct time to do productive testing of our products via appropriate judgment, skill, and unified work?

Some testers may favor life-cycle models and organizational models. Let’s consider the V-model; it is a kind of disjunction between Testing group and Development group, here the testing team demand for all code along with detailed specifications. Context-driven testing has no room for this kind of philosophy. Also, agile development is related to a particular set of values that belong to only one kind of context. Context-driven testing is far broader than that. Testers get what they get, and they know how to cope with what comes their way. More importantly, a tester is basically a customer advocate. Testers should try their best to understand the customer position and make the best case when they feel it isn’t being addressed.

So the final call will be before ensuing Context-Driven testing, we should ask our self –

●    Do we value more in individuals rather than their interactions over processes or tools?
●    Do we value more in seeing working software over documentation?
●    Do we value more in responding to change over following the plan?

Expert testers can better explore how the product should work from a user’s point of view, and identify and address barriers that prevent users from fully adopting or accepting the product.

Context Driven Testing is not for every organization, and it’s not a replacement for other forms of testing.