A new standard could enable more advanced interactive applications to run in plug-in conditional access modules for televisions and set-top boxes. The Common Interface Plus or CI+ standard has the backing of several leading consumer electronics companies. Ocean Blue and SmarDTV have produced the first CI+ application, previewed at the Anga Cable show in Cologne.

“We have demonstrated new CI+ applications to a number of cable and satellite operators, who have been blown away by its capabilities,” said Ken Helps of Ocean Blue. “They can see huge potential in the ability to deliver complex applications to the TV, no longer being constrained to simple text menus.”

The CI+ specification provides enhanced security for the common interface slots that are provided in many digital televisions and set-top boxes. It has been developed by Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony with Neotion and SmarDTV. The CI+ Forum aims to deliver an open specification that will act as a market enabler for secure delivery of Pay TV Services to a horizontal retail receiver market.

The Common Interface connector is an industry standard PCMCIA slot, which is also used on many laptop computers. That means that programming is available through a standard interface without any protection at the point at which decrypted material leaves the module and returns to the host device.

The new specification aims to address the concerns of service providers, conditional access system vendors and programming providers about this vulnerability. It uses private keys that are separately calculated by the conditional access system and the host.

The enhanced security within the new CI+ specification allows smart cards and conditional access modules to be used with any set-top box or integrated digital television that supports the standard.

Ocean Blue has developed a complete solution for authoring visually rich applications. The company says that it will work with the CI+ Forum to evolve its CI+ browser to incorporate new features, such as high definition graphic support and fast rendering.