NextBiT has a ready reference design of a set-top box (the hardware) along with a large stack of applications (the software) that can be customized based on what the customer wants. For example, a built-in web-browser and a remote control with predictive text that allows you to watch TV and surf the Internet. There’s more. At the click of a button, the set-top box lets you watch YouTube videos on your TV. “You don’t need a computer,” says Vishal. You can also plug in your Universal Serial Bus (USB) pen drive into the set-top box and watch the video stored in it.
Yet another application is video phone where a television screen is used as a dial-pad and attached USB cameras enable visual display. The more common features like pausing and replaying of live television, video-on-demand and interactive television are also part of NextBiT’s growing stack of applications.
Vishal Borker says once the set-top box, gains popularity, community-based application development will be encouraged. “Third parties will be able to develop applications for our box and upload it to a store, which can be accessed by end-consumers, who can then download whatever they want much like the iPhone,” he adds.
For the Indian market, NextBiT has customised this set-top box to cater to the out-of-home digital signage market. The modus operandi is simple. By copying the audio/visual files (advertisements or information that needs to be displayed) on a USB device and connecting that to the set-top box, a client can continuously play his content on the TV.
And because the product has networking capabilities, the displayed content can be scheduled and controlled from a centralised location.
He says current OOH solutions do not allow dynamic updates. “There’s a delay, as content has to be physically delivered to the service provider before it can be updated. Our solution allows you to update anytime and anywhere,” he adds.
The company has so far sold 150 boxes—mainly to malls, hotels and hospitals in Bangalore. Plans are afoot to take it to other cities across India. NextBiT is also negotiating with an Indian service provider to licence a set-top box with pause, rewind and forward functions that the latter wants to sell to end-consumers. Priced at less than $100 per unit, this will be cheaper than similar products in the market that cost $180-250.