A new file transfer and watermarking solution that combines Irdeto’s TraceMark™ with IBM’s Aspera on Cloud is among the company’s most important recent innovations, Irdeto COO Video Entertainment Shane McCarthy tells David Davies. 

Irdeto Shane McCarthy

Shane McCarthy

It would be fair to describe the last few months as one of ‘mixed fortunes’ for video service providers. On the one hand, as Park Associates’ OTT Video Market Tracker recently observed, use of OTT services has risen significantly in the US and elsewhere during lockdown. On the other, the impulse to route more premium content via streaming services – for instance, new movie releases that would in normal times have debuted in theatres – means that the potential risk of piracy has also grown.   

It’s a context that Shane McCarthy, COO Video Entertainment at digital platform security innovator Irdeto, is entirely aware of and which inevitably provides a constant inspiration for the company’s R&D efforts. One of the latest fruits of this ongoing process is a new pre-integrated solution for video file transfer and forensic watermarking that is designed to provide the film industry with a fast-to-market, cost-effective solution to assist the fight against piracy. 

McCarthy explains that the new solution “integrates Irdeto TraceMark for Distribution – which is our watermarking solution for content owners, post-production studios and content aggregators – with IBM’s Aspera on Cloud file transfer solution. Rather than customers requiring two separate workflows to transfer and watermark files, the full integration of these two solutions paves the way for faster deployments that can scale to any number of distributed files and downloads.” 

To enable the customers to protect their premium content and fight the piracy without over complication, the access and user interface have been made customer-friendly. A simple user interface means that, with the click of one button, customers can easily protect their content and watermark video files ‘on the fly’ while the content is being distributed to an end-user. The solution also reflects a broader industry shift by implementing a ‘pay for use’ model as opposed to obliging customers to sign up for a ‘one size fits all’ annual fee. This provides affordable access for the smaller post-production houses as well. 

Along with its scalability and cost-efficiency, the new solution is also “very easy to use and therefore does not require much in the way of training. That was one of our priorities from the start with this particular integration. We also believe it is going to appeal to a lot of content owners and broadcasters with the ‘pay for use’ model making it scalable and cost-effective.” 

The industry already has a full statistical picture of how content piracy is being affected by Covid-19, and different organisations have reported spikes in illegal activity across the board. “There have been more illegitimate strands going on, and not just in terms of piracy – for example, there has been a rise in cyberattacks into the home as well as phishing scams,” says McCarthy. “In terms of content, it’s truly a multifaceted organised crime problem, and as such [broadcasters and content providers] will continue to be on the lookout for new solutions to help them combat piracy.” 

Android TV advances 
In other developments, Irdeto is continuing to expand its support for Android TV – a platform in which, to quote the company’s own literature, interest has “skyrocketed” lately, especially due to pay-TV operators seeing the need to add more OTT content to their platforms in order to compete and remain relevant in the eyes of the consumer. 

The continued enhancement of Irdeto’s hybrid Android TV suite means that, according to McCarthy, “we offer the fastest time to market solution to TV operators to launch hybrid set-top boxes. We have developed a wide ecosystem of partners and have integrated our DVB stack with a variety of hybrid chips, STBs and UIs, allowing operators considerable flexibility in their choice of suppliers.” 

As well as offering full DVB support, Irdeto’s DVB stack is pre-integrated with the company’s Cloaked Conditional Access (CCA) system as well as watermarking. Customers can also benefit from AppWatch, described by McCarthy as “a solution designed to put operators in control in case malicious, piracy-enabling apps are downloaded into STBs – or if government regulations mandate their approval. AppWatch addresses these risks so pay-TV operators can adopt Android TV and the Open Play Store without such concerns.” 

More generally, McCarthy believes that Irdeto’s accelerated progress over the last several of years has meant that it is now assuming an increasingly influential role in the digital security landscape. “We have got an edge about us, which is good,” he observes. “As a company we have a humble attitude – we are definitely not into the ‘hard sell’ – and I think that is a great approach to have. We are the leading digital security player globally and there is a momentum building both, running through the company and with customers, that means our growth will continue to snowball.” 

Like many in the industry, McCarthy cites AI and machine learning (ML) as being among the emerging technologies about which he is most excited – but he nonetheless sounds a greater note of caution that some observers: “There is still a diversity of opinion about how to use [these technologies] and I think there are instances where AI is a solution looking for problems. It’s important that careful thought is given to each application and whether AI is actually a good fit for the solution. You also need to have large volumes of data going into the machine for the learning [to be effective], and the deployment has to be expansive in order for it to reach fruition. There are also issues around GDPR, especially in Europe.” 

Nonetheless, he remarks that Irdeto is already making use of AI in products such as Trusted Home – an AI-driven security and Wi-Fi management solution for broadband providers – and confirms that the company will continue “to explore ways in which AI and ML can bring something of benefit for particular groups of customers, including through the watermarking detection solution we just launched”. 

McCarthy is hoping that he will soon have the opportunity to start canvassing customers in person once again after several months spent largely within the confines “of the same four walls,” he says. “I am tremendously proud of how quickly our team responded – within a week [of the crisis starting] about 95% of our people were working from home. As a security company there were some specific challenges around product and solution delivery making home working more difficult, but we overcame those very quickly. As for myself, whilst I don’t anticipate travelling as much in the future, I am definitely looking forward to getting out on the road again and meeting customers – it’s a vital part of the job.” 

For more information on Irdeto solutions and projects, please visit https://irdeto.com