Listen to Civolution CEO, Alex Terpstra, as he discusses fingerprinting, watermarking and anti-piracy technology in this interview with Conversations host, Cirina Catania. The full transcript is below.
Technorati discusses piracy and its affect on the industry: here.
Transcript: Alex Terpstra, CEO, CIVOLUTION
Interview with Cirina Catania
re: Watermarking & Fingerprinting of Media
(Cirina Catania): Alex Terpstra is the CEO and they have a product that I think everyone is going to want to know about. So tell me, what is Civolution? What does it do? And who does it do it for?
(Alex Terpstra): We have products that are all based on content Identification technologies which is really the core of our company. We started a couple of years ago, four or five years ago when we spun out of Philips electronics we also bought a similar venture out of Thompson.
(Alex Terpstra): And we put that together and since then we became basically a market leader, a worldwide market leader in the domain we operate in.
(Alex Terpstra): The two technologies that we deploy are watermarking and fingerprinting. Those are two different technologies to automatically identify content with subtle nuances and basically the differences also determines the use cases for which we deploy the technologies and we deploy that in three major market segments as we have defined them:
Media protection, media intelligence, and media interaction.
(Alex Terpstra): Originally as a company we started focusing mostly on the media protection side where we deliver watermarking for forensic purposes to help trace the source of illegal content copies.
(Alex Terpstra): We started mostly in the movie business so all the majors are customers to use watermarking in the production process. We then started to deliver forensic watermarking in cinema. You may be familiar, that the cinema is the major source of pirated movie content with camcorders.
(Alex Terpstra): Lately we also deploy the technology in the consumer domain. We have for instance in the United States more than 15 million set top boxes in the field that carry our technology to also watermark on the consumer level.
(Alex Terpstra): and we now are focused on also creating products to watermark streams and we just announced here at the show at (NAB) a product that is also compatible with 4K so we can actually watermark 4K streams for the same forensic purpose.
(Alex Terpstra): That is a well-established business. It is mature technology, very proven in the market over the years.
(Alex Terpstra): The second segment, the media intelligence side of the business actually has two flavors, the first one is monitoring the distribution of content, so we have built a monitoring network around the world where we monitor about 2,000 TV Stations based on watermark and fingerprint detection and we basically sell that as data back to content owners which is basically a variety of content owners and entertainment companies, news companies, advertisers, government organizations, anyone who broadcasts content or distributes content on broadcast channels and have a need to follow the distribution can take a subscription on our service and actually we then supply that data.
(Cirina Catania) so in layman’s terms, what that means to people listening who might not know about this is that there has been an ongoing problem for many, many years with content providers who cannot keep track in outlying parts of the world, who is running their shows, sometimes illegally, sometimes after the contract wears out and you have a mechanism to do that now.
(Alex Terpstra): Absolutely, that is actually also the area where our service, which is already around for many years is now growing the fastest. It is international monitoring for the U.S. majors. We made that possible also because we push more technology in our networks. That used to be a watermarking only measurement and now it is watermarking and fingerprinting. That allows us to also monitor a larger amount of content, long-tail content, deep archives content that is already distributed. We can still monitor with the use of fingerprinting and in the meantime, we have built a footprint in 60 countries to do this monitoring. That makes us the largest monitoring network in the world. And it is growing very fast.
(Cirina Catania): So now, for somebody who doesn’t understand the difference between watermarking and fingerprinting, can you explain that to me please?
(Alex Terpstra): Yes, so with watermarking, you basically insert some information in the content and it is hidden and you do it in a way that is imperceptible, that is very important, we don’t wan to influence the video or the audio in the perception, But it is very robust, because it becomes one with the content. Once it is in, it is in. And then, with a special detector, you can basically retrieve that data back from the content, but you can’t hear it, you can’t see it. The advantage is that once you have put a watermark in the content, it will go anywhere the content goes, because it became one with the content, so it is completely transparent for the distribution. [00:04:47.150] Fingerprinting, on the other hand is a technology where you don’t modify the content itself. You don’t insert anything in the content, but you analyze the content and you kind of extract unique features from the content that you can store in a database and then you can compare to that database. It helps you to identify what is this asset that I am looking at. But you may not know where it came from, which you can do with watermarking. So the two technologies have two subtle differences which basically drives the use cases. So watermarking is a particular useful if you want to kind of track where content is going, where did it come from, while fingerprinting it is more useful if you want to identify very fast what is this assets, so what it is, who is potentially the owner of the content, everything that you can add to your database that can be useful. So we have both technologies both audio and video. That makes us very unique. We are the only company that can work in all these domains and that combination with our network that I just described is very unique in the world.
(Cirina Catania): Alex, who is this for? Who uses this service?
(Alex Terpstra): It is actually a broader array of clients in the media industry, so we work a lot with the major studios in the United States, the major broadcasters, operators more and more so, also other types of content owners, ad agencies. So it is almost across the whole ecosystem. People that either produce content or distribute content in our client group.
(Cirina Catania): One other thing. Is this something that a smaller independent company might be able to utilize or is it more enterprise system related. Is it too expensive for independents?
(Alex Terpstra): We work with large and small companies and also in particular, for instance, one of our newer activities in the second screen space, we work a lot with second screen application developers that are sometimes very small companies but very creative and they like to deploy our synchronization to create this compelling user experience that they are the creative people.
(Cirina Catania): So fingerprinting, it seems like, would be necessary for legacy projects that are not new digital projects, that are maybe analogue that have been converted to digital many years ago and are running, or analogue that is running, correct?
(Alex Terpstra): Absolutely, indeed with watermarking you do need to touch the content. So you do need to add, insert your watermark before distribution and with fingerprinting you don’t need to do that. You are quite right. And that allows us to use fingerprinting for use cases where the content is already out. One use case that you may be familiar with is, for instance, identifying content on video web sites, you know, the YouTubes of the world, if you want to identify this asset is owned by me. You need fingerprinting, because that asset is probably already distributed a while ago and it ends up on YouTube or the web sites and there is no way to identify it with watermarking because you were not in the position to add a watermark when it went out, so fingerprinting is the right technology for that.
(Cirina Catania): Does it work on audio only? Can you do waveform fingerprinting as well?
(Alex Terpstra): We have solutions both for audio and video and it is a similar approach. You take an extract, a unique extract of the content and then, basically build a database with reference fingerprints that allows you to do the matching and therefore identification.
(Cirina Catania): So what do you see in the future? What is the biggest challenge going to be for this company?
(Alex Terpstra): Challenge…I look at opportunities more. So, of course, there is a lot of opportunity for us. There has been so much movement in the market right now. The whole fragmentation and disruption that is taking place in the broadcast industry, for instance. I think one of the challenges that the industry is facing right now is linear television is changing. We see, for instance, also advertising effectiveness reducing. People are using second screens, are doing other things during watching the program, but certainly also during the advertising breaks. And we’ve basically formed our third segment around that particular challenge, our media interaction segment. So we deliver kind of two major products at the moment, as a starting point. One is watermarking based technology to help to create more immersive second screen experiences. So with watermarking we can make second screen devices, smart phones, tablets, synch automatically to content, because we listen to the sounds through the microphone of the device. We decode our watermarking information and we know what channel you are watching, what program you are watching, but also precisely where you are in time, so you can build very compelling second screen user experiences on top of that identification and to address this declining effectiveness of advertising on broadcast TV, we have added a service to this, which is an advertisement identification service that is based on the infrastructure that we have built for this broadcast monitoring businesses that I just described. So we use the same infrastructure to identify advertisements in real time based on fingerprinting technology. And we deliver that knowledge actually as a trigger feed, you could say, to these second screen platforms so that we can insert advertisements on second screen platforms that are fully in synch with the advertisements that are running on broadcast TV at the same time. So that allows us to enable multi-screen advertisement campaigns that is helping to solve that declining advertising effectiveness on broadcast TV and at the same time, it is taking advantage of the opportunity to monetize these second platforms that today are more about the user experience, but at the end of the day we need to make money out of these platforms as well so we bundle those two topics in one with this ad identification service that we have just launched.
(Cirina Catania): How do you report this information back to your clients. Do they have a dashboard that you give them? Do they have back-end access to your site, or do you just provide reports on a regular basis? How does all that work for your clients?
(Alex Terpstra): On the monitoring side of the business, yes, we have an online portal with a very nice graphical user interface where our clients can slice and dice the data the way they want to have it. For this last example, that advertisement identification, it is actually a real-time trigger feed so it is an API, an interface that people can integrate into their own content management system, so that we can immediately trigger an ad placement on the platform.
(Cirina Catania): Are you also providing demographic information back. Obviously, if you are monitoring this, you know what time and where and how and when and you also know who. There must be some very interesting information that is coming back to you worldwide.
(Alex Terpstra): Yes and no. I’ll try to answer that. In the context of second screen, for instance, we know what somebody is watching, because we have identified through the sound of the TV what you are watching. But we are not the ones that developed the applications and therefore we are not directly in contact with the consumer, let’s say. But if we combine the data of our client with the data that we provide, you have a very complete view of the individual as well as the behavior and that creates that compelling data set.
(Alex Terpstra): There was one other thing that we do that touches this topic as well that I haven’t talked about yet and then we have covered basically everything, which iis our audience measurement products. So we also provide watermarking based audience measurement solutions similar to what Nielsen is doing in the United States. They also use watermarking technology to collect the measurement data. Now we also provide watermarking based solutions to collect the data and we deliver that to the measurement companies like Nielsen, not Nielsen, but like Nielsen in the world, to help them do a better measurement job. So we are acting as their technology vendor to the measurement companies that do the Nielsen type work in the industry.
(Cirina Catania): You’ve got a lot going on there. Where can people go on the Internet to learn more about you and your company?
(Alex Terpstra): Civolution.com – our website, also SynchNow.com – we have forty interactive products. That is where you can find us. Look at Twitter – @Civolution as well.
(Cirina Catania): And that is Civolution (spells it out). I am speaking with Alex Terpstra, the CEO.
(Alex Terpstra): Thank you very much.
Interview Part 2: