DLNA Now Supports Premium Video

The announcement by the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) of support for premium video during IBC2011 heralds the coming of age for home networks. The extension of DLNA’s Interoperability Guidelines to include premium video including HD content plugs an important gap in the standard, which previously was confined to streaming user generated content (UGC) between connected devices within the home.

DLNA has emerged as the ‘standard of standards’ for the connected home, providing the framework for interoperability, communication and automated discovery among devices. It makes use of existing standards such as Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) for device discovery, as well as underlying physical connectivity technologies such as Wi-Fi and MoCA. DLNA has been closing on its vision of enabling any device to access any form of digital content no matter where it resides within the home network, without requiring any complex set-up or configuration by the user. DLNA was started by CE (Consumer Electronics) vendors but has since been joined by service providers who have been pushing hard for the premium video support.

One such service provider is Orange of France, which has already deployed DLNA on its Livebox residential gateway, its IPTV and media centre set-top box and the home library NAS (Network Attached Storage). The new support for premium video will boost Orange’s connected home offering and provide a full multi-screen experience, according to Paul-Fran├žois Fournier, Executive Vice President at Orange Technocentre. “It will enable us to deliver TV services over numerous screens inside the home, such as tablets, Web phones and connected TVs,” he says.

The key enabling technology for DLNA’s premium video support is Digital Transmission Content Protection over IP (DTCP/IP), which was developed by five companies: chip maker Intel and CE giants Hitachi, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba. This group, referred to collectively as 5C, formed an entity called the Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator to license the DTCP technology.

Designed specifically for the home network, DTCP encrypts content between devices within the home after checking that they both support the standard. Crucially, the content itself can carry information defining its rights and indicating whether it can be copied and to what extent, with the hope this will satisfy the big rights holders such as Hollywood studios. For example, some content may only be played, while other content might be recordable but still protected from copying.

In this way DTCP/IP is a mechanism for enforcing rights defined by whatever DRM is used by the service provider, but it is not a DRM itself. “It is assumed the content is DRM protected, and DLNA is agnostic to DRM schemes,” says Nidhish Parikh, Chairman and President of DLNA. “When streaming that content, DLNA takes the trouble to make sure it is protected using DTCP-IP. Premium video is building on that protected stream layer.”

More than 12,000 products are now DLNA certified , including TVs and PCs but also other devices such as cameras, tablets and even appliances like fridges which, according to Parikh, will increasingly feature inset monitors for watching TV in the kitchen. The total number of devices now certified is 500 million, and will top 2 billion cumulatively by 2014, according to Parikh.

By Philip Hunter, Videonet