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20 October 2022

Intertrust’s DRM-to-energy costume change takes shape in Japan

Digital rights management pioneer Intertrust entered the energy market back in 2016. However, it wasn’t until taking the contentious decision to secretly split its business in two in 2021, carving out the ExpressPlay DRM division to make room for horizontal growth, that things started getting serious.

Days ago, Intertrust received an undisclosed investment from Japanese energy giant JERA (Japan’s Energy for a New Era) – swapping the comfort of decades of authority in the mobile and video space for start-up status all over again.

Intertrust’s ambitious sideways shuffle is a watershed moment not just for the company itself, but for partners and rivals in the media and entertainment ecosystem to recognize that there are opportunities to combat climate change in neighboring verticals, where new revenue streams and profits await.

With JERA’s financial backing, Intertrust will begin developing a digital energy management platform designed to deliver clean and secure energy systems, where Intertrust sees secure computing systems and IoT devices playing an indispensable role.

Technical details on the collaboration are short on detail, but we know that in the six years since Intertrust’s investment from German energy firm RWE, the company has used secure distributed computing technology to develop new so-called “smart” infrastructure. This includes management of offshore wind farms, grid planning, and the new Intertrust Home product to bring operators and energy companies closer together to deliver clean and affordable energy.

Targeted at horizontal markets, the prevailing vision of the Intertrust Platform is a future where telcos and utilities are indistinguishable from one another. Such collaboration has been impossible up until now, Intertrust claims, because of a lack of data transparency between operators and energy companies. The Amazons and Googles of the world, with their walled gardens of consumer devices and cloud computing clout, remain insurmountable barriers for operators wanting to tap into value-added services such as home security, health, and energy management.

Intertrust Home wants to disrupt the status quo, offering a scalable and secure platform for operators to take their experience in entertainment and apply this to service partnerships including energy, to create stickier services and drive up ARPU. Intertrust Home is an application toolkit fostering multi-party trusted and interoperable smart home data ecosystems – bringing together data operations, IoT device authentication, and command operations, regardless of cloud or device infrastructure.

For example, more electrical utilities are using Virtual Power Plants (VPP) as a digital mechanism for increasing usage of renewable energy, but these electrical utilities face difficulties accessing the home energy data required. Intertrust Home can privately federate data with utilities to create a VPP that both saves energy for the consumer and reduces electricity demand for the utility.

Intertrust makes it very clear that Home is not a smart home automation tool, nor a home IoT device security platform, nor an IP-based connectivity protocol like Matter. Intertrust Home is an app toolkit focused on interoperable and secure authentication of home IoT hardware – from device to cloud and back again, built on trusted data between partners.

Not forgetting its core roots (despite ExpressPlay DRM having a dedicated website these days), content protection is baked into Intertrust Home.

Putting service providers in control of the connected home – it’s a message we’ve heard a thousand times before.

The difference with Intertrust is that it has already transformed security in media, where DRM began life in the music industry protecting artists’ content from being stolen and resold via cryptography keys, and then moving this into the film and TV ecosystem where it remains a key revenue protection mechanism in Hollywood. Intertrust has identified a similar digital transformation sweeping the energy industry, where its DRM skills are transferrable, creating a cross-vertical data management business.

Intertrust’s energy win in Japan is no coincidence. The vendor has a long history of contracts in Japan and surrounding Southeast Asia. Intertrust is proving that its newer technologies are as popular as its DRM legacy in Japan, not only with energy but also for its gamble in non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

In June this year, Intertrust unveiled a marketplace called Roadstead, created in collaboration with Japanese media producer Nekojarashi. Roadstead users can view, sell, trade and exhibit content, while content owners have full control of distribution and profits. Token Rights Management is handled by the Intertrust Platform, with features that it claims have never featured in NFT marketplaces before, based on a combination of blockchain and DRM technologies for added safeguarding.

Intertrust’s new energy client JERA has ambitions of achieving net zero CO2 emissions from domestic and overseas businesses by 2050.