| Jan. 7, 2015, 1:30 p.m.
By Peter Simpson, VP Product Marketing of Pace
Controlling and facilitating access to the vast amount of content available on the internet and on our TVs, smart phones and myriad of other connected devices in the home today is no easy task. The proliferation of different operating systems, devices, formats and versions, makes this a challenge for many service providers, the increasing trend for governments around the world to require them to restrict access for minors to adult content is yet another complication for operators to tackle.
Filtering or blocking?
The challenges for operators in implementing any kind of internet filtering is to make the system non obtrusive and flexible enough to accommodate the needs of multiple individuals, without resorting to an either ‘all on’ or ‘all off’ approach that would smack of a ‘prohibition mentality’ and exclude access to desired content for eligible users, which is still a huge driver of internet traffic and revenue for many operators. Aside from the commercial and philosophical considerations of restricting an individual’s freedom of choice it’s also important to ensure that imposing filters doesn’t negatively impact on overall system performance. Parental control applications can provide users adequate protection and flexibility for filtering internet content on an individual basis (i.e. has a URL associated) versus the more draconian on/off approach.
OTT v managed access?
The growth of OTT and hybrid OTT/pay-TV solutions in the home affects any service provider offering triple play services. With the increasing use of media gateways serving multimedia content to multiple connected devices around the home, the emphasis is on deploying a more nuanced content filtering solution that allows the easy set up of policies, which can be adjusted according to the viewer’s individual profile, without intervention by the service provider. These more advanced home-based parental control applications are not only based on technological means, but equally exploit the “wisdom of crowds” and help provide a finer and more trustworthy control over content including OTT. The challenge of content filtering shares some similarities with the problem of content protection, an issue that broadcasters are very familiar with as it dovetails neatly with the need to implement conditional access (CA) and Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems. The explosion of mobile devices and tablets as second screens brings even more challenges. Setting policies for a shared viewing experience for the family around the TV requires a different level of screening for inappropriate content, compared to a one-to-one device like a PC or laptop where individual settings may be completely different. Adapting the access based on the respective viewer requires a flexible and dynamic rights management system, the two way channel offered by the internet allows policies to be updated in the background.
Content protection and Parental Control?
Parental control and content protection come together naturally in the form of a Universal Rights Management (URM) system to manage rights and profiles in an intuitive manner and overcome the difficulties inherent in supporting a multitude of different mobile devices, operating systems, content formats and software versions – providing a consistent, flexible approach to managing content. For the consumer URM offers the ability to quickly and easily introduce new devices and link them to users, or offer access to different types of content. For the operator it is quick and efficient to manage profiles and offer seamless access to content on multiple devices.
Software v Hardware Protection and Rights Management?
The main advantage of a software-based approach is the ability to respond swiftly to the discovery of new threats (whether piracy or undesirable content), without the cost, time and complexity involved in issuing new smart cards. Whilst managing conditional access and digital rights management as a single policy via a URM approach is generally considered to be the future of content protection, there is still a vast number of hardware based smartcard legacy deployments still in place. A stepping stone solution is to deploy a simulcrypt/cast solution working with existing smart-card systems which gives operators a vehicle to migrate their customers and make the transition to a software-based approach enabling them to protect content delivery to tablets, smartphones, games consoles as well as traditional STBs. With reduced support costs coupled with the additional revenue generated by offering content on every screen, many operators are seriously evaluating the transition to a URM system.
As internet, mobile and TV worlds come together allowing users the freedom to view and access their chosen content at the same time as protecting them from inappropriate and harmful material is akin to the opening of Pandora’s box – increased knowledge brings great new experiences balanced with increased responsibility.