In July 2012, CalPlug’s STB work authorization from the Energy Commission signaled the commencement of the 18 month period for CalPlug to develop and demonstrate a prototype of next-generation energy-efficient set-top boxes. A “CalPlug STB Research Roadmap” has since been proposed to coordinate the efforts in both technology advancement and industry coordination (Figure 1). This roadmap is in sync with the CEC work authorization and external roadmaps, such as the Department of Energy’s STB energy standard (effective 2018) and CableLabs’ cable STB specifications. Inputs from CalPlug’s first STB workshop participants also contributed to the timelines.
The technology advancement panel in the upper half of Figure 1 sets the goal of “5W5s” in Spring 2014, when the final prototype will be demonstrated using less than five watts of power during “light sleep mode” and less than five seconds to fully wake up. The system development will be delivered in two phases. A standalone STB power controller box will be implemented at the end of Phase I, an integrated solution to complete Phase II.
The industry coordination panel of the roadmap targets a proposal of incentive program by the end of Summer 2014 in order to facilitate the promotion and adoption of efficient STBs. A special task force comprised of content providers, service providers, manufacturers, and utility companies will be working with CalPlug to design and test the efficacy of the incentive program. The goal is to distribute among the stakeholders the costs and benefits associated with STB retrofit or upgrade plans.
Figure 1. CalPlug STB research Roadmap. 1. Light Sleep Mode: currently defined as a state when the STB has no application requested from the user and network for a defined period. 2. 5W5S: 5 Watt power consumption during “light sleep” mode; 5 second wake-up time from “light sleep” mode. 3. STB project champions: experts and leaders volunteered from stakeholder organizations to coordinate with CalPlug in research and communications. Champions will work with CalPlug from August 2012 to Jan 2014. 4. STB workshop contents are subject to future changes.
To date, CalPlug has recruited eight “STB Project Champions” to engage with the five research tasks. The champions are experts and leaders volunteered from stakeholder organizations to coordinate with CalPlug in research and communications. Champions will devote their time to work with CalPlug during the 18 month period. Significant progress has already been demonstrated to CalPlug visitors, including Mr. Andrew McAllister, a commissioner of the CEC. The research tasks assigned to CalPlug under the new CEC contract are as follows:
1. Standard terminologies, labeling and testing recommendations for STB power modes
CalPlug will recommend a standard set of power modes to facilitate technical communications and consumer education. The objective is to have no more than four standard alternative operational levels for an STB, compared to the current mixture of existing terms, including “active”, “idle”, “light sleep”, “deep sleep”, “hibernation”, “shut-down”, “scalable power modes”, etc.
2. STB power testing and analysis
To acquire the first hand data, CalPlug seeks to generate a power consumption report for many currently available STB systems. The CalPlug team has been working with leading service providers from different categories to measure actual energy consumption in operational settings, using industry standard test methods. User volunteers may be introduced into the study of usage patterns. Under mutual agreements and permissions, CalPlug also conducts open-box investigation on certain STBs, in order to perform preliminary design assessment.
3. Sleep function with fast recovery and conditional access
CalPlug plans to demonstrate “light sleep” enabled STB platform in a laboratory environment. We will also explore hardware and software solutions to retrofit already-deployed STBs for the recommended “light sleep” function. Since restart/refresh time from sleep is critical to user experience, we will examine potential triggers from occupancy information and scheduled activities.
4. Incentive programs and consumer education
This task focuses on the effective marketing of efficient STBs. CalPlug will assist the design of an incentive program based on studies of consumer behavior and adoption pattern, in collaboration with utilities and service providers. Besides rigorous comparison of cost sharing models, how to stimulate consumer awareness of energy efficient products and programs is also important.
5. Beyond STBs: additional functions
CalPlug will work with the champions to investigate the various value-added features already being proposed for STBs, such as home energy management systems, home security systems and home telemedicine systems. Peripheral wired and wireless demand-response and power pattern recognition devices are also potential candidates for research. CalPlug’s role will be to ensure that these multi-function packages are energy savers rather than energy hogs.
The quest for efficient set-top-boxes has its unique risks and opportunities that go beyond technical solutions. This Energy Commission research is being conducted to demonstrate technical viability and generate support for potential adoption from all stakeholders. It is crucial for the CalPlug center to maintain active engagement with participating organizations through regular updates and workshops. The STB Project Champions play important role in technical advisory and communications. CalPlug’s STB research roadmap will continue to incorporate latest developments in both incentive program and codes and standards, while maintaining the ultimate target of “5W5s” STBs.
 Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. (CableLabs®) is a non-profit research and development consortium.