Linaro has formed a Linaro Digital Home Group for ARM-based media gateways and STBs with Allwinner, ARM, Cisco, Comcast, Fujitsu, Hisilicon, ST, and ZTE.
The Linaro Digital Home Group, or LHG, follows other working groups from Linaro, a not-for-profit company owned by ARM and many of its top licensees. Linaro develops standardized open source Linux and Android toolchain software for ARM-based devices. Previous groups have included the Linaro Enterprise Group (LEG), the Linaro Networking Group (LNG), and most recently, the Security Working Group (SWG).
As usual, the goal is provide standardized software and requirements for relevant upstream open source projects. In this case, Linaro defines digital home applications as media-centric devices including set-top boxes, televisions, media players, gaming, and home gateway devices. Home automation does not appear to be a central focus.
Linaro acknowledges that there are already numerous standards governing the world of digital home devices. “But these are not implemented consistently across all platforms and devices,” reads the LHG announcement, “leading to significant fragmentation, a multitude of point solutions and subsequently significant amounts of duplicated, non-differentiating engineering effort.”
LHG builds on Comcast’s OE-based technology
The LHG group emerged from collaborative work Linaro has done over the last year with ARM, Hisilicon, STMicroelectronics (ST), and Comcast, on the latter’s OpenEmbedded (OE) and Yocto based RDK (Reference Design Kit). Cable giant Comcast’s central presence gives the LHG a chance of rising beyond the usual — and usually forgotten — industry standards groups.
Other key members include Cisco, which is deeply invested in home gateways, and ST, which is a big player in processors for set-tops and gateways. Additional members include semiconductor company Allwinner, consumer electronics and networking equipment provider ZTE, and consumer electronics and chip company Fujitsu.
The LHG steering committee will work on the following key initiatives:
- Common core Linux platform — The LHG will build upon the long-term supported (LTS) Linaro Stable Kernel (LSK) with features like DRM (digital rights management), DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), and CVP-2 (Commercial Video Profile 2). This core Linux build will form the basis of versions that support the base OE/Yocto layer of the Comcast RDK, as well as Android. Other manufacturer-specific Linux-based products will be supported, including support for different vendor applications and user interfaces, including HTML5, Qt, Webkit, and Blink.
- Improved media framework APIs — LHG will establish standardized APIs to different media hardware, codecs, accelerators, and other peripheral functions across multiple SoCs from member companies to improve middleware portability. Initial APIs will include HTML5 and “RDK GStreamer/Android Stagefright.”
- Standard ARM TrustZone based security platform — The LHG security platform will deliver an open source implementation of the W3C Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) standard for TrustZone-based ARM SoCs.
- Open source software integration — The LHG steering committee will identify key open sourced standards to be integrated by the group’s engineering team. Items already under discussion include optimized HTML5 support and DLNA CVP-2.
- Linaro integration — The LHG will also share technology from other Linaro projects, including the Linaro Automated Validation Architecture (LAVA) test and continuous integration (CI) farm for member SoC enablement and validation. Other shared technologies will include multicore power management, virtualization and ARMv8 64-bit development.
LHG further integrates ARM-backed Linaro and Intel-backed Yocto
In a guest column titled “Why We’re Joining the Linaro Digital Home Group,” Cisco CTO for Connected Devices, Ken Morse writes that a key motivator was the growing prevalence of ARM-based Customer Premise Equipment (CPE), such as set-tops and gateways. “The intent is to do for cable CPE what the Linaro Foundation already did for mobile gadgetry: reduce fragmentation and differentiation across the SoC (System on a Chip) landscape, using standard builds and distribution tools,” writes Morse. “LHG establishes a clear path to the development and innovation going on across the entire OpenEmbedded and Yocto communities, which is considerable.”
Indeed, the Linaro Digital Home Group is an example of the growing alignment between the Intel-backed, cross-platform Yocto Project and the ARM-focused Linaro. Yocto, which now forms the basis for many, if not most, open source embedded Linux projects and commercial embedded Linux platforms, including Wind River Linux and Mentor Embedded Linux, provides templates, tools, and methods to create custom Linux-based systems. Yocto code includes core system component recipes from the OpenEmbedded project.
Both Yocto and Linaro have different, although in some cases overlapping, open source missions. Yet, the groups have gradually come together in a more symbiotic relationship, with Linaro contributing code to Yocto. Each has proven extremely successful, and together and separately they have helped push embedded Linux forward. In the case, of Linaro, it has also helped align Linux and Android.
Taking that a step further, Imagination Technologies appears to be using Linaro as its model for the new Prpl initiative for open source MIPS-based Linux and Android development. Prpl hopes to turn the tide back toward MIPS, which has lost considerable market share to ARM in the STB market.