Inside Secure steps up challenge to Intertrust in IFE security

A short dry spell in the in-flight entertainment (IFE) technology space has come to an end, after a flurry of promising developments over the past few years, particularly around content security. Surprisingly, the company to break the drought wasn’t Intertrust, a company we have come to associate with dominating IFE security via its Marlin DRM, but the announcement instead came from French security expert Inside Secure – extending its contract with German aircraft services provider Lufthansa Technik.

Inside Secure is bringing its Content Protection Client to the partnership, combining DRM, code protection and media decoder technology in a single SDK, for deployment on Lufthansa Technik’s wireless IFE systems, called nicemedia and nice HD. Nicemedia is sold by service provider Satcom Direct, offering 75 movies and 30 TV shows to airline passengers, updated monthly, to view on their own devices. The downside for now is that nicemedia is only available to Business Jet flyers.

IFE technology itself is not complicated, consisting of a CMS and a WiFi router, but content protection in this environment is a touchy subject and seems to have put off content providers, particularly the top dogs in Hollywood, from licensing their movies. For airlines, the benefits are glaring, with the opportunity to make immense fuel savings by replacing heavy cables and screens embedded into seats with a single server.

Lufthansa being such a major European airline, with a fleet of more than 600 aircraft, means the contract upgrade is a big statement to Intertrust, which has made several moves to assert itself as a dominant in-vehicle entertainment (IVE) security provider in Asia, notably putting its Marlin DRM into Kiora Media’s IVE content distribution platform in China. This delivers a wireless ad-supported VoD IFE system from Chinese IFE provider Donica Aviation via WiFi.

Of course, it is also conceivable that the Marlin DRM from Intertrust could work harmoniously with Inside Secure’s content protection technologies for added security, as you can easily have multiple DRMs on the consumer device. Inside Secure confirmed that it considers Marlin a competitor, but noted that none of its current customers in IFE or general media have opted for both systems, so there has been no opportunity for a security tie up between the two companies.

Inside Secure has implemented two previous projects for Lufthansa Technik. The first came in 2011, which a representative told us involved its DRM License and packaging server for securing screens embedded in private jets. Then in 2016, its Downloadable DRM was embedded in Android and iOS apps which passengers have downloaded to their own devices. Its DRM Fusion Agent has won some major deals for handling VoD delivery for mobile devices, but the latest collaboration with Lufthansa Technik has no mention of the DRM Fusion Agent, instead applying Inside Secure’s multi-DRM Content Protection product. We are unsure if the Content Protection product is replacing the DRM Fusion Agent or if it is serving as an additional security barrier.

The Content Protection Client includes Inside Secure’s line up of downloadable tools called Safe, for secure playback when distributing content from servers to mobiles. The joint system with Lufthansa Technik is available on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Tizen, Windows and Mac – suggesting applications beyond in-flight services.

There is also a separate project between Inside Secure, Panasonic Avionics and Lufthansa Technik, which launched in 2014 for showing movies in-flight on private jets called Idair.

Inside Secure also told us that Lufthansa Technik is not its only IFE deployment, with “at least one or two other customers” in North America that could not be named.

These IFE systems purely house movies and TV shows, with no access to the open internet, although this is a big step being made by some airlines. The number of in-flight WiFi services will almost triple by 2022 to account for over half of all commercial aircraft, rising from an estimated 5,243 installations this year, to a projected 14,419 by 2022, according to research published in July this year from Juniper Research. The bring-your-own-device trend means in-flight entertainment revenues are forecast to rise by 30% over five years on the average aircraft, while making the aforementioned cost savings from scrapping heavy screens and cabling.

Furthermore, Lufthansa kicked off a trial of the European Aviation Network for providing in-flight broadband services, combining connectivity from an Inmarsat S-band satellite with a dedicated LTE-based ground-to-air network, which Deutsche Telekom operates in the same spectrum. Nokia’s Alcatel-Lucent handles network operations and field services.

Monetization of these in-flight services is another moot point for companies involved, which is perhaps why most modern IFE systems are only available on high-end flights, but Inside Secure’s COO, Simon Blake-Wilson, addressed this: “The IFE applications give passengers the freedom to use their own devices while the security of the content can be assured. Looking forward, Inside Secure is planning to contribute further to a pleasurable flying experience with a frictionless in-app payment solution supported by major payment schemes.”

Lufthansa Technik’s Senior Director OEM Business Units, Philip von Schroeter, said, “We selected Inside Secure’s Content Protection Solution because of its strong track record in video piracy protection and the ease of integration with our applications, enabling a quick time-to-market for us. The experts from Inside Secure are long-established leaders in the security space, both on mobile and embedded devices and we appreciate the experience and expertise they bring.”