Nadav Avni, Chief Marketing Officer at Radix Technologies

Today’s Shortcomings of Android TV MDM for Telcos + OEMs

Nadav Avni, Chief Marketing Officer at Radix Technologies looks at the Android TV market.

2020 saw Android TV reach a few milestones that few systems can dream of. From its auspicious launch in 2014, it only took four years for Android TV to claim the lion’s share of the market. Android TV became the leading smart TV operating system worldwide by 2018, capturing a dominant market share of 40%. Android MDM (mobile device management) needs to figure more prominently given the rapid rise of Android TV in the smart TV market.

The Race to Dominate TV Platforms

For set-top boxes, the race isn’t as clear-cut for Android TV, but they are in the running. The top four systems Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku―all command significant market share. In particular, Android TV devices are starting to gain attention as many pay-TV operators see it as an inexpensive Over-the-Top (OTT) service solution.

Google’s middleware allows users worldwide access not only to top streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu but also apps on Google Play, like Disney Plus or Peacock, which are not yet available for most smart TVs and similar devices. Combining its function and ubiquity, Android TV looks to capture the dominant global pay-TV setup platform. Rethink research predicts that Android TV-based devices would pass 160 million units over the next five years.

Managing Android TV Devices

Managing a fleet of Android TV’s is far from a walk in the park. Deploying thousands or even millions of set-top boxes is simple. However, ensuring that each device is working smoothly and delivering its promised benefits is another thing. Making sure that each fleet device remains accounted for all the time remains a challenging task if left to manual methods. Imagine the logistics of getting service teams heading into different service areas to check on each device. Add the problems of an ongoing pandemic, and telco operators will quickly realise the complexity and inefficiency of managing fleet devices.

There are archaic ad-hoc remote connections that work with Android TV devices. Unfortunately, these legacy connections remain short-sighted and lacking in much-needed features. When they first made their appearance, protocols such as TR69 only worked to connect and collect. They primarily existed to gather usage data, send scripts, and update systems via over-the-air (OTA) methods. Depending on the number of devices in the fleet, updates can take more days or weeks than expected.

In diagnosing and addressing specific device issues or performing configuration, Android TV has no present answer except pull out units and inspect them individually. Also, there are documented instances where devices connected by TR69 and other protocols caused a data leak as malware exploited holes in the security. Plus, many fleet devices commonly use non-standard parameters and attributes, causing problems during ad-hoc connections.

Even with a well-defined list of the parameters and their attributes, some Android TV devices do not follow standards completely.

Android MDM Solutions

With Android TV poised to occupy a bigger market share over the next few years, there is a need for improved device management solutions. In particular, an Android TV MDM should be available to provide always-on support, even for millions of devices in the field. Also, these MDM solutions should ideally have the following features:

1. Fast time-to-market via instant deployment

A secure, anytime cloud connection means instant access to devices. This ensures that support for each device arrives during the time it’s needed and not way after. Companies can send patches, updates, or installations upon establishing a connection. All devices out on the field can receive updates simultaneously.

2. Reduced agent visits and time spent on support calls

Establishing a cloud connection allows easier diagnosis and management of individual devices remotely. Instead of spending a long time over the phone identifying the problem and providing troubleshooting instructions to clients, companies can do the work themselves faster and more efficiently.

Remote management that handles more than just collecting data also helps reduce the need for field calls and agent visits to client sites to diagnose individual devices.

3. Easily add new features, capabilities, and modules

Providing a system to deploy additional applications, new features, or modules to specific devices is faster when performed via a central repository. Schedules for updates to single or multiple devices can be performed all at once. Intervention required from the client-side is minimal, and updates and installation operations often happen silently. Once completed, any new installations or updates will generate a report.

4. Low-level device management

With a cloud-based management solution, routine tasks such as OTA firmware management to ad-hoc support can be implemented faster using secure, direct connections from the support centre to client devices.

5. Assign permissions

Assigning device management roles to various stakeholders in the organisation provides them access to critical data needed for their specific functions. Managers have access to the user data to develop programs and campaigns. IT administrators receive permissions to monitor and manage devices. Support gets access to troubleshooting collaboration. Everybody in the organisation gets specific access to assigned areas which helps secure the device from further issues.

6. Secure individual devices

Cloud remote systems can also monitor individual devices and check if their current location and function fall under the provider’s agreed terms and conditions. For devices with expired or defaulted contract agreements, administrators can perform remote lock to prevent further use. Conversely, devices can be reactivated once end-users resolve their issues with the provider. Companies can also perform “geo lock” for devices operating outside their assigned areas.

Device Management for Android MDM

With Android TV devices set to take over the market, device management is fast becoming a requirement. Utilising default systems won’t get the job done, given the expansiveness of Android TV’s coverage. In addition, various devices and configurations will make a one-size-fits-all ad hoc solution impractical and severely lacking in function.

Android TV requires an Android MDM solution. Like most innovations, the solution should be as mobile, flexible, and efficient as the devices it supports. Otherwise, Android TV devices will slowly lose their advantage over the competition and fall by the wayside.

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