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SanDisk Innovation Bolsters DRM on Flash Memory

Digital Rights Management (DRM) and storage are intimately connected technologies. The ability to protect, yet easily transfer and manage copyrighted data, is one that every business at some point finds itself dealing with, either as a consumer or producer of that content. As ever-expanding amounts of data are stored on mobile devices and vendors look to build technologies that allow secure mobile transactions, the technology to maintain the security of data and transactions is an area attracting a great deal of interest.

Last week, SanDisk introduced its solution to the mobile DRM problem: TrustedFlash technology. Initially, TrustedFlash OEMs will be making media content, such as music, games, and movies, available on SanDisk miniSD, microSD, and standard Secure Digital (SD) format cards.

These memory cards contain more than just the flash memory previously found on such devices. They also contain an on-board processor with a high-performance cryptographic engine that enables the data on the cards to be secured from unauthorized copying or use without affecting an authorized user's ability to play back the data.

Initial consumer use of the TrustedFlash technology will be in the release of a major artist's next album on a microSD TrustedFlash card, under the "gruvi" trade name. The card will contain the album, additional artist content specific to this distribution format, plus additional albums that a user who buys the rights to those additional tracks can unlock. Plans are afoot to let customers download additional secure content to TrustedFlash cards on demand, which will let users customize their storage, so that they're not limited to having only prepackaged content from providers.

Remember that the key difference here is that unlike computer-based DRM solutions, the rights to the content are specific to the storage card and not to the device that permits access to the content. This means that you can move the card to any device that supports the card format and access the content from that device.

The TrustedFlash cards can support a full suite of DRM technologies, and SanDisk is planning to let OEMs use their own DRM solutions as an option to those that SanDisk provides. The TrustedFlash cards' security, which is significantly more stringent than any other memory-card storage-security option, provides a compelling solution for businesses looking for a portable DRM strategy.

SanDisk has announced that the second phase of the TrustedFlash rollout, scheduled for 2006, will include support for mobile e-commerce applications and will enable TrustedFlash-enabled communications devices, such as smart phones and wireless PDAs, to perform secure online financial transactions. This support will let OEMs develop applications that let users pay for services or products directly from their PDAs or cell phones, for example, by using stored data such as credit card information or banking data, instead of the limited "bill to my cell phone account" services commonly found today.

Consumers will determine whether the TrustedFlash format is an acceptable DRM methodology by simply choosing to buy or not buy media content provided on TrustedFlash cards. Business adoption, outside of the media industry, is likely to drive greater acceptance. The controversies surrounding DRM and media don't exist in the business-transaction world, where even end-user consumers of data want the most stringent security possible.

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