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Protect IP, business model with software licence management

Posted: 21 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:embedded systems? IP? software licence? licence management?

As the value of devices continues to shift from physical components towards software running the device, the need to protect and flexibly control that software is becoming paramount.

The embedded systems market for software licensing is considered several times larger than the B2B software market, yet adoption of commercial Licence Management (LM) solutions is significantly lower. Frost & Sullivan estimated just two years ago that embedded systems account for less than a third of the software LM market share against 67% for B2B licences. So what is holding back the systems vendors?

Companies are increasingly managing Stock Keeping Units (SKUs)a uniform method of tracking products soldfor embedded devices in software. So LM needs are becoming more complex. For instance, you want to be able to track turning on or off of features in hardware and software at the time of shipping, deployment and trials, and manage any time-bound licences that go with your product. If you haven't encountered this yet, chances are you will soon as the Internet of Things (IoT) business models lend themselves well to price tier-based features and subscription-based activation.

For embedded applications, software IP is usually more valuable because hardware is often a commodity product that can easily be counterfeited. It is the software where you may control execution or fine-tune performance. With connected embedded devices, such as IoT devices, data theft prevention and anti-tamper measures are important to ensure your business models are not bypassed.

The temptation to roll your own

In the embedded systems market particularly, the temptation is great is to roll your own IP management system. After all, embedded IP developers have adequate expertise in software development. However, this can result in fragmented platforms that don't integrate well across your own full product line or with other devices with which your device must play nice. So, a formal LM strategy becomes necessary.

Moreover, LM layers are complex and should cover all three key functions: IP protection, enforceable licence agreements and flexible monetisation. For most embedded systems and applications developers, that is not the core business but something that you need to be aware of and work with.

Here's an online resource that will help you get started: Software Licensing in an Embedded World, Safenet's online presentation with audio where you can post questions to the presenter.

- Vivek Nanda

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