Video Test Automation in MSO Network
Growing number of players can now be seen to offer content through various channels such as cable, satellite, IP, etc. As a result, MSOs across the globe are now focused in giving the best user experience to their subscribers and reducing their deployment / maintenance costs. With a variety of CPE devices from different OEMs deployed in their network, deployment & maintenance of devices / services is a major concern to MSOs. The issue gets scaled when MSOs provide their service on newer platforms (like tablets and mobiles) to adjust with the evolving TV Viewership patterns. MSOs also face the bottleneck of ensuring consistent viewing experience across platforms.
It is unanimously accepted by MSOs worldwide that Video Testing & Automation is crucial to their business. Tata Elxsi has delivered Manual and Automated Video test solutions to MSOs to test services/applications (like Guide, VOD etc) in a continuous integration environment, thereby helping them to live up to their customer expectations without compromising on their ROI and delivery timeline. The key challenges faced by MSOs in video test automation are summarized below.
Video Test Automation - Key Challenges
Multiple Video End Points
In contrast to the traditional automation tools used in a PC environment, video content delivery environment needs to handle multiple devices and hence requires custom tools for test automation. The capability of video delivery end points cannot be compared with more powerful PCs & Laptops, and hence test automation cannot be run as a resident application.
Tata Elxsi’s test automation framework can fetch & analyse the output of STBs/DTVs/Tablets/Mobiles, comparing it with the product specification using test automation scripts. Tata Elxsi has ready to deploy in-house solutions which includes customized automation solutions based on tools like QTP, Egg Plant, Selinium, Robotium, Witbe, Loadrunner.
MSOs have elaborate test infrastructure worth millions to ensure quality of their deliverables. The success of video test automation is highly dependent on quality of output captured from the video end point. With MSOs focusing on offshore execution to reduce their operational costs and ensure 24/7 usage of their test infrastructure, the success of video test automation becomes highly dependent on the infrastructure. Tata Elxsi uses an offshore/onshore model to circumvent this constraint and ensure that its MSO customers get bottom line savings.
Testing of STBS and other end points is carried out in a test environment. Though the test environments are designed to match the actual deployment scenario, its complexity and scale cannot be compared to the actual deployment scenario. The behaviour of STBs and other end points in a test environment differs from that of actual deployment, forcing MSOs to ensure reliability of their video test automation.
With an offshore execution approach for video test automation, greater focus is required to ensure reliability. For example the OCR operation is heavily dependent on the quality of image from which text has to be extracted and hence affects the reliability of video test automation. Issues such as noise/artefacts present in the source image will impact the text extracted by the OCR engine. The degradation in image sharpness of a captured SD frame and the contrast between the background & foreground text colours are other factors impacting the OCR operation.
Tata Elxsi’s elaborate experience in video test automation has been leveraged by MSOs across the globe to ensure reliable video test automation.
Maintainability & Reusability
Video Test Automation plays a key role in rolling out a new service or enhancing an existing service in an MSO network. The complexity of the video test automation solution arises due to varying factors such as:
- Head end (Type, Manufacturer, etc)
- STB ( Type, Manufacturer, etc)
- Cross Platform devices supports (OS platforms, display resolution, etc)
- Content ( streaming content, meta data, etc)
- Application/Service variants (Guides, VODs, etc)
It must be noted that the MSO networks across the globe has evolved over a period of time, in tune with the technology / industry changes happening and this justifies the unmatchable complexity of these networks. To ensure easier deployment of services/features, it is highly important to have easily maintainable & reusable test scripts in video test automation.
Tata Elxsi advocates a modular design approach in development of automatable test scripts to ensure reuse and thereby reduce the turnaround time. Configurability of the video test automation solution helps in validating different test conditions in the complex test environment.
Viewers expect a highly impressive user experience and hence MSOs are forced to continuously adapt to their customers taste. In most instance, the test automation planning & strategy is worked out after the service has been developed, due to which the benefit of test automation cannot be leveraged to ensure faster turnaround. It must be understood that development of new / innovative services and test automation should go hand in hand.
Tata Elxsi embraces the agile approach to take a service from development to deployment. Ensuring that the perspective of test automation is not left out at the time of development will help in saving on the bottom line revenue without compromising the new service delivery commitments.
With enhancements happening on a continual basis in an MSO environment, test automation helps in ensuring that the existing services are unaffected when newer features are added. Identification of the right regression candidates for automation and ensuring reusability of scripts can help MSOs to take advantage of video test automation and focus more on the development of new services / features. With its elaborate experience working with MSOs, Tata Elxsi has clearly observed the changes in ROI based on the approach followed by MSOs in video test automation.
As part of multi-vendor strategy, MSOs widely work with different OEMs to avoid lock-in. However, it has been seen that the slightest variation in the devices provided by these manufacturers creates obstacles in video test automation, thereby reducing the effectiveness of automation. Bringing in the right process to standardize the box specifications across OES through vendor IOTs can help ensure ROI from video test automation.