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9 January 2008

Philips video fingerprints to work side by side with Gracenote’s audio

Back in 2005 when Philips sold out its audio fingerprinting technology to US firm Gracenote and took a stake in it, it seemed like Philips was getting out of content identification, but doggedly it stayed in the game, and is today dominant in both video and audio watermarking, something used throughout digital film distribution, as well as video fingerprinting. The difference is that a watermark is something you put on a film for identification later, and fingerprinting is a way of identifying a piece of video from inspecting just 4 or 5 seconds of the actual file.

Given that most of the world’s social networking and user generated content web sites are all trying to reliably identify both music and TV and movie content, so they can remove copyrighted content from their web site after a user has uploaded it, this market is very important to Philips.

Google could find no technology out there which would do the job well enough, so wrote its own for YouTube, while many others relied on technology from Audible Magic, a rival of Gracenote, which merely identifies the file through the use of its audio track.

So it was almost inevitable that Philips would come back to Gracenote as a route to market for its video fingerprinting among US studios and web properties, working side by side with the Gracenote audio fingerprinting which was acquired from Philips.

But this time the technology, as far as we can make out, has not actually changed ownership. When we spoke to Alex Terpstra, the CEO of Philips Content Identification at IBC last year he made it clear that it was looking for a better outcome in video fingerprinting than selling off intellectual property.

‘In music ID, the big item that Philips was missing was a database of music, so we sold off the technology to Gracenote. Today Philips still operates in video fingerprinting, and in both audio and video watermarking,’ he said.

‘But this time around we are building a huge database of virtually every piece of professional video there is. We’re not making the same mistake again.’

So this deal with Gracenote is more about combining their respective content fingerprinting technologies into a single content filtering service and taking it to market across multiple platforms.

The deal is in line with Philip’s stated intent of owning more intellectual property and yet not necessarily running the companies that take those technologies to market, something that Philips has proven not to be quite so good at in the past few decades.

It’s not clear if Philips will market the technologies outside of the US or whether Gracenote will.