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Here are 5 ways blockchain can change media

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Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt existing business models and enable new ones, and the media industry will be the first to feel the effects, a new report from Deloitte reveals.

The report – titled, Blockchain @ Media: A new Game Changer for the Media Industry? – explores five potential use cases with the aim of triggering thinking on how powerful the blockchain concept can be in and for media.

According to Mark Casey, Global Media & Entertainment and TMT Africa Leader at Deloitte, blockchain – the same technology behind Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies – permits the bypassing of content aggregators, platform providers, and royalty collection associations to a large extent, signalling a shift in market power to the copyright owners.

“While some applications of blockchain technology may still seem far-fetched, payment-focused use cases have already been proved to work. Parts of the media value chain are, therefore, already endangered by new blockchain-based payment and contract options. These can fundamentally reset pricing, advertising, revenue sharing, and royalty payment processes,” says Casey.

In Use Case 1, “New pricing options for paid content”, the Deloitte report details how consumers are increasingly demanding an individual, customised content experience, as evidenced by the success of music and video streaming services.

While transaction costs have made it difficult to market low-priced content items or small bundles competitively and profitably, blockchain-enabled micro-payments can help publishers to monetize this flexibility seeking group of customers.

“With the help of a blockchain, individual articles or other pieces of content could be sold for cent- prices without disproportionate transaction costs,” Casey says.

Use Case 2, “Content bypassing aggregators”, predicts that while ad-based distribution models will remain important in the next decade, the intermediaries between the content creator and the potential advertiser will increasingly find themselves cut out of the equation.

“Based on the blockchain, everyone from leading media houses to small bloggers can easily generate advertising revenues,” explains Neville Hounsom, Director: Strategy & Operations, Deloitte SA, who adds that as blockchains permit an exact tracking of content usage, they also enable a direct allocation of advertising budgets.

“Together with new, blockchain-enabled micro-payments, content creators are able to establish direct relationships with their customers. Artists can market their songs independently of big platform providers wherever they want, since a blockchain permits easy tracking of usage and deduction of the associated payments,” Hounsom says.

Use Case 3, “Distribution of royalty payments”, explores another source of income for content producers and explains how the blockchain can enable a far more equitable distribution of royalty payments.

Today, the distribution of royalty payments builds on multiple contracts between artists, producers, and music publishing houses.

“With the help of a blockchain, the distribution of royalties could become more efficient and transparent. This would include a music directory with the original digital music file –  associated with all relevant identities of people involved in the content creation. It is also possible to store instructions in the form of smart contracts that specify how the artists are to be compensated and how sales proceeds are to be divided among all eligible parties,” says Casey.

Use Case 4, “Secure and transparent C2C sales”, unpacks how blockchain has the potential for content rights owners to enable additional revenue streams by leveraging consumer-to- consumer sales.

While illegal file sharing remains a major problem for media companies, the blockchain has the potential to solve that problem, giving content owners full control and visibility of the consumption and number of uses of individual songs and / or movies.

This could create new business models such as consumer-to-consumer marketing of content. “For example, now a subscriber can access their blockchain content and share it with a friend. The subscription holder will then be charged directly with the fee for the specific content they shared. This permits easy and legal sharing of paid content among users, and forms an additional source of revenue for aggregators and copyright holders,” Casey says.

Use Case 5, “Consumption of paid content without boundaries”, tackles a common consumer complaint: The inability to access the contents they subscribed to when they are in another country or region on business or on holiday.

The report points out that the blockchain has the potential to make digital rights management (DRM) systems obsolete, or at least to reduce their complexity, because every transaction or act of consumption is tracked in the blockchain and directly linked to a user. The payment will be automatically initiated according to the underlying smart contract terms for the content.

In light of these use cases and other potential scenarios, Hounsom advises that media players start considering blockchain-based applications and their potential impact on the whole industry. These include micropayment-based pricing options for paid content, a shift of market power caused by content bypassing aggregators, and an improved distribution of royalty payments.

“To ensure timely and appropriate measures, we recommend an immediate review of the individual consequences for the existing business. In addition, companies should lose no time in identifying applicable blockchain based opportunities as a fundamental component of their future business strategy,” Hounsom says.

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Huge appetite for foldable phones – when prices fall

Samsung, Huawei and Motorola have all shown their cards, but consumers are concerned about durability, size, and enhanced use cases, according to Strategy Analytics

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Foldable devices are a long-awaited disrupter in the smartphone market, exciting leading-edge early adopters keen for a bold new type of device. But the acceptance of foldable devices by mainstream segments will depend on the extent to which the current barriers to adoption are addressed.

Major brands have been throwing their foldable bets into the hat to see what the market wants from a foldable, namely how big the screens should be and how the devices should fold. Samsung and Huawei have both designed devices that unfold from smartphones to tablets, each with their own method of how the devices go about folding. Motorola has recently designed a smartphone that folds in half, and it resembles a flip phone.

Assessing consumer desire for foldable smartphones, a new report from the User Experience Strategies group at Strategy Analytics has found that the perceived value of the foldable form does not outweigh the added cost.

Key report findings include:

  • The idea of having a larger-displayed smartphone in a portable size is perceived as valuable to the vast majority of consumers in the UK and the US. But, willingness to pay extra for a foldable device does not align with the desire to purchase one. Manufacturers must understand that there will be low sell-through until costs come down.
  • But as the acceptance for traditional smartphone display sizes continues to increase, so does the imposed friction of trying to use them one-handed. Unless a foldable phone has a wider folded state, entering text when closed is too cumbersome, forcing users to utilize two hands to enter text, when in the opened state.
  • Use cases need to be adequately demonstrated for consumers to fully understand and appreciate the potential for a foldable phone, though their priorities seemed fixed on promoting ‘two devices in one’ equaling a better video viewing experience. Identification and promotion of meaningful new use cases will be vital to success.

Christopher Dodge, Associate Director, UXIP and report author said: “As multitasking will look to be a core selling point for foldable phones, it is imperative that the execution be simplified and intuitive. Our data suggests there are a lot of uncertainties that come with foldable phone ownership, stemming mainly from concerns with durability and size, in addition to concerns over enhanced use cases.

“But our data also shows that when the consumers are able to use a foldable phone in hand, there is a solid reduction of doubt and concern about the concept. This means that the in-store experience may more important than ever in driving awareness, capabilities, and potential use cases.”

Said Paul Brown, Director, UXIP: “The big question is whether the perceived value will outweigh the added cost; and the initial response from consumers is ‘no.’ The ability for foldable displays to resolve real consumer pain-points is, in our view critical to whether these devices will become a niche segment of the smartphone market or the dominant form-factor of the future. Until costs come down, these devices will not take off.”

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New exploit exposes credit cards on mobile phones

Check Point Security has found that handsets using Qualcomm chipsets that hold credit and debit card credentials are at risk of a new exploit.

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Now it’s more important than ever to update your phone.
Check Point security has found a vulnerability in mobile devices that run Android, which allows credit card details to be accessed by hackers.

Mobile operating systems like Android offer a Rich Execution Environment (REE), providing a hugely extensive and versatile runtime environment, which allows apps to run on the device. However, while bringing flexibility and capability, REE leaves devices vulnerable to a wide range of security threats. A Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is designed to reside alongside the REE and provide a safe area on the device to protect assets and to execute trusted code. Qualcomm makes use of a secure virtual processor, which is often referred to as the “secure world”, in comparison to the “non-secure world”, where REE resides. 

But Check Point “fuzzed” a “hole” into this secure world 

In a 4-month research project, Check Point researchers attempted and succeeded to reverse Qualcomm’s “Secure World” operating system. Check Point researchers leveraged a “fuzzing” technique to expose the hole. Fuzz testing (fuzzing) is a quality assurance technique used to discover coding errors and security loopholes in software, operating systems or networks. It involves inputting massive amounts of random data, called fuzz, to the test subject in an attempt to make it crash.

Check Point implemented a custom-made fuzzing tool, which tested trusted code on Samsung, LG, and Motorola devices. Through fuzzing, Check Point found 4 vulnerabilities in trusted code implemented by Samsung (including S10), 1 in Motorola, 1 in LG, but all code sourced by Qualcomm itself. To address the vulnerability, the runtime of Android needs to be protected from both attackers and users. This is typically achieved by moving the secure storage software to a hardware-supported TEE.

Check Point Research disclosed its findings directly to the companies and gave them time to patch vulnerabilities. Samsung patched three vulnerabilities and LG patched one. Motorola and Qualcomm responded, but have yet to provide a patch, and there is no confirmation of a release date yet.

Check Point Research has urged mobile phone users to stay vigilant and check their credit and debit card providers for any unusual activity. In the meantime, they are working with the vendors mentioned to issue patches.

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