This is another in a series of blog posts introducing Intertrust’s portfolio companies. Intertrust is always interested in increasing the market for its core trusted computing technologies and has made a series of investments in venture backed companies which the company believes helps meet this goal.
One area where Intertrust’s technology has seen a great amount of market success is in content protection. Providing easy-to-use but secure content protection technologies has been a key factor in the spread of popular Internet media distribution services. However, one sticking point with the current model is that until now the vast majority of these services have been centered on consumers in developed markets. Intertrust has invested in Kiora, a company with a vision to bring modern video-on-demand (VoD) services to emerging markets.
Kiora, Bringing VoD to the Next Mass-market
To those of us who live in developed markets such as North America or Europe, enjoying Internet-based VoD services such as Netflix, Hulu and LOVEFiLM are increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives. These services rely on consumers having easy access to inexpensive high-quality broadband services. Which brings up the question, how can you bring this user experience to emerging markets such as India or sub-Saharan Africa? The broadband infrastructure in these markets is still nascent, and even if a family has the economic means to afford broadband services, they may not be available. Rather than waiting several years for communications infrastructure to catch up to this demand, Kiora has a vision to bring attractive VoD services to these consumers now.
One of Kiora’s key insights is that modern advanced content protection technology as embodied in the open standard Marlin technology can be used in a VoD service which does not have to rely on broadband networks for either distribution or consumption. Kiora’s vision is by using Marlin content protection technology; you can provide an attractive VoD by leveraging existing retailers. To enable this vision, Kiora has developed a technology platform allowing VoD content to be distributed from all sorts of retail outlets from small local shops to large established retail chains. The VoD solutions enabled by Kiora can also easily fit into the existing shopping habits of consumers in these markets.
Let’s look at potential example of how a Kiora based VoD solution might work for a typical consumer. A consumer would head out of her home to go shopping as normal. In addition to her shopping bag, she would bring along an inexpensive USB thumb drive. Entering her favorite store, she would first visit the clerk who, using the store’s PC, shows her the latest videos she might be interested in. Looking over the content, she spots a movie starring one of the family’s favorite actresses. Deciding to rent that movie, she hands over her USB drive to the clerk. The clerk then transfers the movie to the USB drive while she does her shopping. When the consumer gets home, she inserts the USB drive into a set-top box provided by her satellite TV provider, bringing up the Kiora powered VoD app. She texts a message a SMS message to a number provided by the satellite TV provider and in return receives a key to unlock the movie. Entering the key into the app, the family is now ready to enjoy a movie together after dinner. Kiora’s platform enables all the features in this scenario, including tracking the necessary revenue share amongst the various partners.
While enabling new VoD solutions for emerging markets is a huge and exciting opportunity for Kiora, it is not the only one. Kiora’s platform can also be used by retailers in developed markets to participate in VoD revenue streams as well. For example, it is easy to imagine retailers place the small slim Kiora digital media kiosks in stores, freeing up valuable retail space compared to using large physical media rental kiosks. Consumers could enter the store, connect their smartphone to the in-store Wi-Fi network and select which movies they want to rent. The kiosk will then download the selected movies to their smartphone over the Wi-Fi network while they shop.
A Kiora digital media kiosk
Software Is the Key
What makes this possible is Kiora’s software-based platform. Kiora’s platform provides an end-to-end solution for partners such as Pay-TV providers or content developers in emerging markets to create their own branded VoD services. The platform covers the software clients needed to playback content on set-top boxes, personal computers and mobile devices as well as retail solutions for in-store kiosks and personal computers. Kiora also has hardware designs for kiosks and set-top boxes should they be required by the partner. The system is flexible enough to allow content to be distributed to retailers through delivery of physical hard drives. Kiora’s platform also provides cloud-based solutions allowing their partners to manage the entire VoD distribution system.
Another key to Kiora’s platform is the Marlin content protection technology enabled by Intertrust’s intellectual property. Marlin is designed to operate in a wide variety of situations. For example, Marlin can support playback of content on a wide variety of consumer devices without an Internet connection. Consumers can purchase the keys needed to access the content in a wide variety of fashions such as point-of-purchase, SMS or through carrier billing. Marlin is also an open standard overseen by the Marlin Developer Community ensuring that Kiora’s partners will not be locked into proprietary content protection solutions.
With the investment in Kiora, Intertrust looks forward to working with the founders to bring their vision of providing first class VoD solutions to large numbers of consumers in emerging markets.