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The Proposed interface API’s for enhancing the CPE’s middleware framework on prplOS

27 September 2022

Problem Statement

Traditionally, the monolithic nature of CPE (customer premises equipment) like home gateway / home router firmware has become a difficult process for deploying a new service, where it takes several months, if not years. For internet service providers (ISPs) to offer a new smart service to their valuable subscribers along with connectivity, certain core functionality needs to be baked into the home gateway firmware / BSP (board support package) as part of the hardware manufacturer’s software package. The package must be further tested with the service provider network before it can be pushed out to subscribers. Thus, the deployment of any new features on the CPEs like home gateway/home router/home hub product variants involves considerable effort and collaboration requires with four major parties – the SoC vendor, the hardware manufacturer (OEM), the service provider, and any third-party software vendor. Consequently, the addition of any new software feature is a risky factor, requiring a long QA process involving multiple stakeholders to ensure the firmware will operate as intended when the new functionality is added. Once a new service is finally rolled out, the same process needs to be followed for the improvement of individual services or groups of services and would again require a complete firmware update. Different chipsets/SoCs, different OEM/ODMs, and different standards make it impossible for third-party software vendors to build a home gateway software solution that works universally across different hardware platforms. All existing and new features developed on the gateway must be adapted and tested for each item of individual hardware built for a specific purpose.

Fig 1: Key challenges on home gateway implementation (Source: Capgemini)

Due to the major challenge of feature addition and integration, as listed in figure 1, fragmentation in the smart home industry – specifically CPE devices – has become less efficient, where these CPE devices need to support tens or even hundreds of middleware stacks/libraries. When the critical software components/libraries are tightly coupled with SoCs’ SDKs, it makes it even more difficult for ISPs to meet the evolving market trends and addition of any new features required to meet subscriber expectations. ISPs struggle to manage the cost of software development/migration on different product variants enabled with different SoCs such as Broadcom, Qualcomm, Intel, NXP… as well as meeting the home market demand and pace of innovation for fast time-to-market. Historically, for home gateway/home router product development, every SoC vendor creates their own SDK that covers device drivers and core middleware components as an integrated package, wherein these components are tightly coupled with the hardware layers. It becomes difficult for ISPs to work independently in upgrading some of the middleware components for performance/quality improvements as well as in migrating the middleware framework / applications on to emerging SoC chipsets.

Logically speaking, the middleware platform along with the app environment on the home router / home gateway products must be standardized, and their versioning should be managed with “certification” to reduce the huge cost of software development and testing and allow for the reuse of the core middleware framework and its supporting libraires across many hardware platforms.

Approach based on New Standardization

To address the challenge, the prpl Foundation – a collaborative, non-profit foundation – has developed a strategy to work together with various SoC vendors to create a better embedded platform and kernel evolution alignment, as well as with various application providers. It objectives include:

Fig 2: Approach on migration/porting and new service enablement on gateway (Source: Capgemini)
  • Building an open-source framework for secure and future-proof gateway/router products, with standardized APIs to create a new ecosystem for CPE devices
  • ISPs can focus on differentiation rather than reimplementation
  • Lower development costs
  • Security and interoperability with other connected devices
  • Faster time to market

To achieve these objectives, the prpl Foundation is working on building a framework as shown in figure 2, that encourages SoC vendors to collaborate and synchronize their hardware platforms and kernel versions to support the prpl Foundation’s open-source development and ensure full compliance with the standards in the Linux kernel. The prpl Foundation’s strategic approach comes more from the philosophy of constantly evolving the open source-based architecture by working with the SoC vendors to create a better OS platform with alignment of kernel evolution. The prpl OS has been built based on OpenWRT, allowing ISPs to build the software solution with quality grade and integrate it with the newest chipsets released by various SoC manufacturers.

With this approach: –

  • SoC vendors can gain reusability by having convergence towards fewer SW platforms and by better spending their precious resources on creating differentiation in their value-add products
  • OEMs can gain consistency and commonality between different chip vendors, making it easier for OEMs to switch to different SoCs. This, in turn, allows ISPs to gain consistency and commonality to switch to different OEMs.
  • Working jointly, software integrators and ISPs, will be able to focus on the features and quality of their software rather than devoting much of their engineers’ time to the driver and low-level integration.

For more details on Capgemini’s views on the API’s anticipated to be exposed from prpl OS and the enablement of new emerging standard Matter, please click this link.


Vijay Anand

Senior Director, Technology, and Chief IoT Architect, Capgemini Engineering
Vijay plays a strategic leadership role in building connected IoT solutions in many market segments, including consumer and industrial IoT. He has over 25 years of experience and has published 19 research papers, including IEEE award-winning articles. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the Crescent Institute of Science and Technology, India.