Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

100 Mobile Product Ideas...#16...
...P2P DRM...

We don't want to be like Paris Hilton do we? I mean, talented actress, maybe, but not victims of mobile-data theft (or so we're told). To avoid having our camera-phone photos, address books, or whatever else, being stolen, we need protection.

Moreover, we may just want better privacy. If I take pictures of my family and share them online, then I possibly only want my family and trusted friends seeing them.

The solution to this problem is encryption. In essence, protecting our own data is an issue of digital rights management (DRM). I recently tried to convince a senior Nokia manager that they should seriously consider including OMA DRM on their phones in a way that allows the users to be content producers, not just consumers. In other words, a user could put their own content into DRM-protected envelopes. This is not the intended model, but it makes perfect sense.

Let's say I take a photo of my kids. My device encrypts the photo and then places it into a DRM envelope. That envelope holds a pointer back to my device, identifying it as the place from where to get the key that can unlock the encrypted content.

When a user wants to view the content, their viewing environment requests the key from my device. I can then grant the key, or not, depending on who's asking and any other criteria I may wish to apply.

In effect, users can produce content that is protected in a similar fashion to the super-distribution model. It doesn't matter who copies my content, of if it gets stolen and posted on the Internet. It simply cannot be read until the recipient gets hold of the unlock key, which they can only do by contacting the originator ("content producer") and asking for it. If we imagine a direct contact to the device, thus essentially it would work in a P2P fashion.

Use of DRM in this configuration has some issues. For example, we would need a OMA client on the viewing platform, which might be a PC. As far as I can tell (without much research), the use of DRM for viewing photos on PCs is unusual. However, such a trusted client could be envisaged, perhaps built-in to the underlying OS, or into a browser.

It is interesting to think of using a mobile device as the OMA client too, but working in a configuration that allows the content to be viewed on an associated device, such as a PC. For example, to view a picture (or use other content, such as an address book) on a PC, it has to obtain the rights to do so from the user's mobile device, probably over a local Bluetooth or WiFi link. The mobile then acts as the client for the content and contacts the content producer's device for the unlock key.

This sounds convoluted, but there are some attractive elements to this configuration, such as having an already trusted mobile-to-mobile (P2P) link with the content producer. The need for symbiotic PC-mobile links should not deter us, as this will soon be a commonplace arrangement anyway, for all kinds of reasons and useful applications. In any case, such an arrangement is not necessary, only useful.

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