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Philips looks to build 'huge' video database for video ID service

Aims to fingerprint all video

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When Philips Research fell out of the audio fingerprinting business in 2005, it obviously left something of a scar, with the business sold for an unspecified amount, but since it was just as the buyer, audio database specialist Gracenote, had just raised $10.9m, that was taken to be the amount. But talking to Alex Terpstra, the CEO of Philips Content Identification at IBC this week, it seems like it plans to achieve a better outcome in the world of video fingerprinting.

"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 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," Terpstra says with a nod, "That’s right we are not making the same mistake again."

The aim is clearly to set Philips up as the one company that can recognize every piece of video from a 5 second sample, leaving it at the core of video recognition technology which is at the heart of proactive video takedown, which, for instance, will prevent copyrighted video being uploaded onto UGC web sites.

Gracenote has remained a private company and Philips still owns some of it from that technology transaction, and Terpstra clearly thinks that fingerprinting will be a highly prized technology. Fingerprinting takes statistical data about the video and looks for unique or unusual relationships between say luminance and motion, and stores these in a tiny fragment of statistical data for each part of the video. Watermarking is the process where information is hidden in a video or audio file to show which source of video it originated from.

When Gracenote bought that fingerprinting technology from Philips they had just launched a service where a mobile handset owner could hold up their phone when listening to music, the system could identify the music and the handset owner could then buy it. The same types of services could be created for video, but we suspect far more profitably. The technology could be used with spiders all over the web, to identify and takedown copyrighted video, a problem that YouTube could do with the answer to, and which its parent Google has been working on now for most of the year, to avoid a $1bn legal squabble.

When we asked Terpstra whether Google was talking to Philips he simply put his fingers in his ears to intimate that Google was simply a company that just didn’t want to hear. Rival Audible Magic has recently landed a similar contract in May with MySpace.

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