In an exclusive interview with BroadcastPro Middle East, Tom Jahr, EVP Products & Partners at Conax talks about the issues related to digital rights management of content and the consequent challenges for conditional access solutions providers As a conditional access provider, what, according to you, are some of the top challenges manufacturers are looking to […]
In an exclusive interview with BroadcastPro Middle East, Tom Jahr, EVP Products & Partners at Conax talks about the issues related to digital rights management of content and the consequent challenges for conditional access solutions providers
As a conditional access provider, what, according to you, are some of the top challenges manufacturers are looking to address today?
There are several different aspects one needs to explore with set top boxes as they become more sophisticated. We need to look at various levels of security and digital rights management.
Today, one has the ability to record onto the hard drive of the set top box.
Then, there is content exploration and recommendations on what to watch rather than merely listing all of the available content.
Another aspect that is being looked at is what devices to record on and the nature of the recorded content. So, for instance, are you able to record and view content on tablets, smart phones, PCs and can you view it outside of your home?
Does the end user have a Follow me functionality? Can they begin watching a programme on one device and continue watching on another device? These are the issues we are looking to address today.
So whats stopping manufacturers from making such devices available in the market?
Its not that easy. In some cases, manufacturers want to ensure that a device like this does not cannibalise any of their other existing products such as DVDs. Everyones managing their products very carefully given the number of options available to view content on multiple platforms. One of the other issues, of course, is Digital Rights Management.
Can you elaborate on some of the complexities around Digital Rights management?
Essentially, its about protecting the content along the entire chain as it is no longer a case of securing the content only on one device.
You have to secure the content on the box. If that content is then recorded, you have to ensure it is secure when stored. The next question is what happens if you have the option to copy it from one hard drive onto another drive? Do you have the permission to play it on that other device?
Would we need to protect that content so the user cannot transport it anywhere else?
If you have a device that is enabled to play that content, what business rules are applicable and what are the conditions under which you may play it multiple times or do you have a 24-hour window? The whole content management and DRM part of that and how many devices can be enabled is still under discussion.
Then, there will be different mandates for different clients. One client may say the viewer is not permitted to skip commercials and, in that case, we have to manage that. If it is live TV, you may not be able to fast forward content. There are tons of business rules you have to adhere to and support.
How do you address those issues at your company?
We have a roster of engineers. One team focuses solely on content security, encryptions and codes while the other team is more focused on the solutions and business requirements.
What do you see as the roadmap for 2012?
Already in 2012, the multi-screen scenario has gained significant traction. You will see that content exploration and the richness of the user interface will increase significantly. Itll be more of a content and price issue than a technology issue.
Why have you decided to support MPEG DASH?
MPEG DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) is MPEGs version of smooth streaming and it scales such that one single file format can adapt to multiple formats. Depending on the device, this will change bit rate and resolution.
This means you no longer have to store a movie in five different formats to support various devices and content qualities. That, is quite a revolution.
The standard is new. Microsoft has embraced this. We have investigated several other formats and have now decided to support MPEG DASH.
Why are advanced set top boxes more vulnerable to security breaches?
The more advanced the set-top box, the more the number of hackers that can hack into it. The broadcast pipe, by itself, is a highly protected environment. It is a one-way communication and, therefore, it is difficult to analyse what is happening there as it is encrypted. With the DVB-standard encryption, there is no other way to connect to the box. There are no Ethernet ports or anything to tap into the hardware. Therefore, it is a lot more safer.
Now, however, the middleware is becoming more open. If it is an android device or you can have an open interface on the set-top box, you can connect it to the internet. That means there are more options for hackers to access the set-top box. A team of hundreds of hackers may try and hack into the set-top box as part of a cooperative effort. Thats how these guys usually work.
New services are being added all the time to the set-top box making it more all encompassing in terms of services. Tomorrow, if you want to download an app onto the set-top box, that download must be secure. Otherwise, there could be a virus or a malicious code trying to analyse what is happening on the set-top box and this will quickly become a challenge for the industry.
We hear you have plans to launch a partner programme at IBC?
Thats right. Going with partners is a lot more beneficial than thinking we can control the business alone. A lot of inventions are happening out there from innovative programmers and creative entrepreneurs, and we are attracting that talent because we are the biggest provider that does not just develop middleware.
A lot of companies like to work with us and create unique solutions for their market. Look at Cablemás, for instance. Cablemás is Mexicos second largest cable operator. It can operate an advanced hybrid OTT, all singing and dancing solution on a US $60-70 per set-top box.
They take our solution, work on it and develop it further for their market. Cablemás develops a middleware that can run on a low cost set-top box. For an operator who wants to deploy a million set-top boxes, the cost of the STB becomes very important.
So suddenly, you are able to get an advanced solution with advanced next generation TV to the masses at a cost-effective price.
So, what according to you, is the new exciting feature to look for in set-top boxes?
I think the network PVR is quickly becoming a potential game changer because then, you dont need hard discs. The fact that you can record and store everything in a network or in a cloud and then, distribute it from there to the STB by your local operator makes it appealing.
How does that work?
Well, the local operator will own a PVR recording box and content will be recorded not on the local hard drive at your home but on the central hard drive. So if you want to record a series or a programme, it is stored on the central hard drive of the network operator and accessed by the home user as if it is on their local hard disc.
Doesnt that call for good broadband access?
A good broadband access, cable or IPTV network should work. If you are a DTH operator, you would need to feed it through an alternative return path.
Where, according to you, does the Middle East stand in the larger scheme of things?
It may be the first phase of digitisation in the Middle East, but the first phase there is usually High Definition or MPEG 4 because they have skipped a couple of generations based on their time of adoption. I suppose they will skip another couple of generations again and head straight for the hybrid box.