Philips to deploy audio "fingerprint"

Audio fingerprinting may be the music industry's brightest hope against piracy, but the technology is still some time away from being implemented.

Developer Philips has promoted the capability of obtaining song details by holding a mobile phone to a sound source. Audio fingerprinting provides a digital "fingerprint" of a recording by measuring the energy of frequency bands in a song. The results are converted to a unique code for each song. This information can then be sent to a central music database, which will find song details such as name and artist and beam them back to the sender's mobile phone via an SMS.

It's the use of audio fingerprinting for tracking piracy, though, that has organisations like the Australian Recording Industry Association interested.

The Recording Industry Association of America last year invited proposals to explore how audio fingerprinting could prevent piracy, such as identifying audio content on the Internet. It will also improve current methods of policing royalty payments by monitoring which songs are played on radio and Internet.

Philips's communications manager David Wolf said the music database had been developed in conjunction with record companies, and that Philips did not have exclusive ownership.

"This technology will be available to everyone and all products, though I'd imagine Philips will receive some licensing benefits and a cut of the SMS costs," he said. "I'd expect it will be commercially available by the end of next year."

However, despite international interest, the technology is still unknown in Australian music industry circles. The director of new media at the Australian arm of music label giant Universal, Tom Enright, said he was unaware of audio fingerprinting.