Marlin dominates In-Flight entertainment with Donica deal

A Chinese inflight specialist has launched a Bring Your Own Device approach to In-Flight entertainment, in the process opting to use Intertrust’s Marlin DRM to protect it.

The service comes from Chinese In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) provider Donica Aviation Engineering and Indian content distribution platform Kiora, teaming up to provide a combined hardware and software platform for wireless IFE, based on Marlin DRM. Marlin made an investment in Kiora three years ago and has been working with it ever since on what the two call content hotspots. This is, in effect, a content hotspot in the sky.

We like this idea a lot. Once your flight is cruising, with the relaxation in the regulations around using WiFi in-flight, it makes sense to tap into an onboard portal from a VoD server, browse the content and play it on your own devices. It cuts the cost of delivering video, music and other entertainment to an entire plane, without putting in a single screen into the airplane hardware.

This issue then becomes whether or not anyone will walk away with your content saved on your phone, and with the propensity for In-Flight systems to have access to the latest movies, some form of approved protection has to be put in place, preferably one that can be downloaded on an App. Intertrust’s Marlin has something of a track record in the Far East, especially on consumer electronics devices, something that we have privately put down to it offering very low prices per device.

The product will allow passengers to bring their own devices (or BYOD) to access content, e-books, and games from the airline’s custom entertainment package, which it says will reduce costs for airline companies on in-built entertainment systems.

The yet unnamed system comprises Donica’s Wireless AVOD (Advertising – or Ad-based – VOD) System which comes in a single box it calls a digital media reproducer, that can be fitted to an aircraft in just 30 minutes. The other part of the equation is Kiora’s KIVE (In-Vehicle Entertainment System) content distribution platform, which it says is designed to work with no connectivity – meaning no access to the internet. Marlin DRM technology protects and manages in-flight content libraries.

Marlin DRM is reportedly the leader in the Chinese market, ten years since its launch in 2005 by security services provider Intertrust alongside Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony – now jointly owned by Sony and Phillips.

Broadcaster catch up player Piksel announced PikselGuard 4 with Marlin DRM last year, citing its wide adoption in national initiatives around the world as the motivating factor. Piksel also cited Marlin’s strong support for DASH streaming. MPEG-DASH has become a convergence point for streaming, supported by both Adobe and Microsoft over their own legacy platforms.

Intertrust’s technologies include Seacert, whiteCryption, ExpressPlay, Personagraph, Genecloud, and Kabuto. WhiteCryption. controlled by Intertrust, uses the technology in its DRM system called ExpressPlay, a combination of its own Marlin DRM, and the patents licenses needed to support that, which work on OSX, iOS, Windows and Android.

Kiora’s content distribution platform delivers last mile connectivity to low bandwidth domains, including a software platform as well as appliances for in-vehicle, in-flight, and in-retail uses. Its Content Hotspot platform has patented technology and has been audited and approved by US studios it claims. Kiora says its platform allows service providers, operators, and system integrators to quickly build a CDN by deploying Content Hotspots at procurement points. Originally it set up as a content kiosk player offering downloaded content.

Donica Aviation says its IFE product range has been deployed on airlines in every continent and includes an EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approved Digital Media Reproducer.

Earlier this year, Panasonic Avionics and Intertrust announced that Panasonic’s wireless IFE system eXW, uses Intertrust’s ExpressPlay Marlin DRM. Panasonic’s eXW delivers movies, music, news and in-cabin services to passenger personal electronic devices, and supports Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, as well browsers on laptops. It looks like Marlin has something of a stranglehold on In Flight delivered content.

Back in 2012, Intertrust made an investment in Kiora when it was simply a supplier of kiosk-based video rental solutions in low bandwidth regions. It allowed consumers to fill conventional USB sticks with premium movies which are then played back at home on a custom-made set top. Then Kiora had content licensed from Bollywood studios but no Hollywood content, so was only targeted at ex-pat Indians.

Kiora now offers Hollywood/Nollywood (Nigerian) content through its largest content partner, New York based Vubiquity, one of the world’s largest multiplatform video services platform providers, Kiora’s CEO and co-founder Prasad Sanagavarapu told Faultline.

Sanagavarapu also told us that Kiora has only ventured into the IFE field within the last 6 to 8 months, in which it accordingly modified its platform to suit the new requirements of the IFE market, where BYOD entertainment is taking off, due to the relaxation on wireless availability in-flight. Donica provides the IFE hardware and Kiora the WiFi, and together this solution has been going through trials at various airlines, and is now available for in-flight deployments.

Kiora has also partnered with SES to develop WiFi Content Hotspots for Sub-Saharan Africa – combining Kiora’s delivery platform via Wi-Fi Content Hotspots and the SES Broadband satellite network. It is also expanding into the Latin American market with local partners in addressing the captive audience segment.

“We selected Kiora’s content distribution platform because it is widely deployed and is specifically designed for captive audience environments like in-cabin,” said Justin Min, CEO of Donica.