The somewhat unwieldy term “Reference Design Kit (RDK)” stands for an open source initiative that aims to provide standardised software for various home networking components such as routers, WLAN extenders, cameras and set-top boxes.

For example, RDK-B, which is the subject of this article, stands for Reference Design Kit Broadband, while RDK-C for cameras and RDK-V for home video can be understood in a similar way.

Initiative for standardised software in the home network

These initiatives are mainly driven by network providers, hardware manufacturers and system integrators supported by a worldwide community of software developers. The aim is to make it possible for the various functions in the home network to be created and delivered as software components by a variety of vendors. Through standardisation, they should be easy to integrate into an existing RDK environment, allowing an operator to deploy and use them efficiently.

This approach promises to accelerate innovation cycles and time-to-market, but also to simplify the delivery of differentiating features, allowing vendors to develop and deploy their home networking products in a flexible, diverse and rapid manner.

The Origin

The initiative originated in the US, where a major cable operator (Comcast) drove the development and deployed millions of RDK routers to its customers. Traces of this development can also be found in the routers of European network operators, and Deutsche Telekom has been one of the strongest proponents of the initiative for some time. Its immediate goal is to make the middleware which was initially developed for cable routers available for VDSL and GPON connections and, extend it in the medium term to  further for 4G/5G routers.

Its Strengths

The conceptual core of the RDK architecture is again the separation of hardware and software, as we have seen in many places in recent years, for example in Software Defined Networking in SD-WAN and data centres. In the context of router systems, this is known as “router disaggregation”.

This means that software developers can use the RDK-B framework to develop modules for routers and WLAN extenders without having to deal with the technical interfaces of the underlying hardware. The SoC (System on a Chip) manufacturers provide a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) with standardised interfaces to the RDK components.

The advantages

Standardisation means that modules can be used in a variety of ways and do not need to be developed from scratch. In effect, they are part of a kit from which a home network provider can build his own system. Among other things, this gives them economic benefits and much greater control over the functionality and performance of their applications and services.

Another advantage of the RDK is that the RDK kit provides extensive telemetry and quality data collection capabilities for the home network, which should enable a host of data analysts to tackle the big challenge of the home network. Almost everyone is familiar with the frustrating experience of poor connections, interrupted video streams, stalled online conferences and frozen online games that seem inevitable in any home WLAN environment.

Using this data and specific AI-based solutions, the aim is to improve home network control so that it can automatically adapt to changing home network situations and constantly optimise itself. In this way, home network providers hope to improve the inherently complex controllability of home networks and to enhance and stabilise the user experience (UX) of their customers.

Adiccon develops RDK-B components

As an open source initiative, access to RDK-B is open to everyone, and anyone who wants to can download the build environments of the three current reference platforms and start developing after registering.

Adiccon has been developing RDK-B components for some time, and in several projects we have been able to develop applications for quality of service, security and performance testing for home routers from various vendors in this field.