Technology FAQsNo, It's Not Magic

1.Can an app listen for audio watermark codes in the background?

Essentially yes, but we advise developers to be careful with the user experience. On Android it’s possible.

Apple allows developers to enable audio play-and-record from the background for VoIP and Audio Recording apps as long as the user is made aware what is happening and actively initiates such recording/listening.

We agree with Apple. People find the idea of apps that might be listening with the microphone while running in the background a bit spooky.

On iOS, an app with an Intrasonics decoder can be sent to the background and can keep listening for audio watermarks. A red bar will appear at the top of the screen with the listening app’s name displayed. If another app is launched that needs the microphone or if a phone call comes in, the background listening app will surrender the microphone. There are very limited circumstances under which it’s possible for a background app to get the microphone back again.

2.Can your audio watermarks be encoded into a silent track?

No. The way we encode data bits requires at least some existing sound energy in the source audio. Our encoding (and decoding) can cope well with brief patches of silence, so even sparse human speech is fine. Music of all kinds is ideal but it’s not essential to have continuous sound energy.

3.How much time does an audio watermark occupy in an audio track?

For the majority of uses involving consumer apps or interactive toys, each audio watermark code occupies exactly 6.30s of audio. We call this the code latency.

It is a fixed and very reliable span of time. So if you want an audio trigger to happen at timepoint X, you need to insert the watermark code at exactly X minus 6.30s.

We also have a scheme for second screen apps that has a code latency of 20.16s. We recommend using this when there is very little sound energy in the track to be encoded or when the audio must be of the very highest fidelity, e.g. classical music on FM radio.

4.How much data does each audio watermark contain?

The bandwidth available when transmitting hidden and inaudible data in audio is very small. Typically our audio codes are short sequences of bits that translate into large decimal numbers but there is sufficient scope for all our customers to each licence their own exclusive range of the available code spectrum.

5.What do you mean by “Trigger Code”?

A trigger code is a unique audio watermark code inserted at a specific timepoint in a piece of content. Trigger codes can be used strategically to trigger second screen apps to respond to TV/radio/cinema/streamed content at very precise times in all kinds of ways.

Trigger codes can be inserted into pre-recorded content using our encoding software or into live broadcasts at the click of a button using our Real Time Encoding hardware.

6.Do the audio watermarks upset dogs and other animals?

No. We don’t use high frequency sound. We use artificial echo modulation. The vast majority of humans and other animals, including dogs, cannot hear any difference between audio with or without our artificial echoes embedded.

7.Does background noise interfere with the audio codes?

In a home environment, even with background noises and people talking around you, if you can hear the audio coming out of your TV, then your smartphone microphone can hear it too. Our watermark decoder will only fail if the background noise is so loud that you can’t actually hear the TV yourself.

8.Does audio watermark decoding depend on distance from the TV?

No. If you can hear the audio clearly at any distance from the TV or the speakers playing the audio, then so can the smartphone/tablet/toy microphone.

For second screen apps, our decoders work perfectly even with very large living rooms filled with the ambient noise of a large group of people.

Our technology has also been used successfully in a wide range of environments including outdoor events, large conference halls, sports arenas and even at Wembley Stadium with 80,000 noisy music fans.

9.Does it work on YouTube, Vimeo etc?

Yes. Any content containing our audio watermark codes that is uploaded to video streaming services will work perfectly when streamed.

The audio watermarks survive just about any level of compression. To put this in perspective, let’s just say they work over a Skype call.

10.Could it work in a live music event?

Yes. Live music and sport events are important application areas for us. A good example could be a music festival where users pick up codes at different locations and receive rewards for checking in to as many bands as possible. In sport it could be a football match with fans receiving various promotions and offers while running team apps.

11.What is the point of continuous watermarking encoding?

For second screen apps that need to play along in perfect sync with a TV show, our Event Engine encoding method enables an app to synchronise with a show and to stay in sync throughout.

The Event Engine decoder can detect and handle viewer pausing and arbitrary ad-break insertion. It is also immune to time delays caused by different broadcast systems (DTT, satellite, cable, IPTV).

With the Event Engine, all interactive app behavior is governed by the app’s internal clock according to an event list that is pre-defined.

Another continuous watermarking product is our Heartbeat Engine. This is used to encode entire TV channels and radio stations 24×365 with alternating Channel ID and date/time watermark codes.

12.Can an audio watermark be removed from an audio track?

No. They are indelible. Once the content has been encoded, it is impossible to remove. If you change your mind about when you want a specific audio trigger to happen, you just need to go back to original source content and re-encode it with a new trigger timepoint.

13.Can I use an audio watermark code as my own unique digital signature?

Yes, absolutely. If you’re a musician, you can hide your own unique watermark code in all your work. This will serve as incontrovertible proof that the work originated from you.

You can use just one unique code for everything you produce or use different codes for different works and different distribution channels. You can do this independently of music labels, digital stores or streaming distributors.