Software Monetization Featured Article

Improving Monetization of Embedded Software

March 17, 2014

It is an evolution that has taken on revolutionary characteristics.  Over the last several years the pace at which the value of hardware is shifting more and more from the physical components to the software running the devices and the speed at which this is happening is accelerating. This has made the protection and flexible control of embedded software, an IT priority.

It has also meant that embedded developer teams are morphing rapidly into software developers. It puts them in the position of facing all of the challenges of their non-embedded colleagues in terms of tacking, assuring compliance and quickly monetizing their intellectual property (IP).  As a result, from copy protection to license enforcement and remote feature-level licensing, they need state-of-art capabilities to secure and monetize their IP. This includes such things as protection from theft and reverse engineering, and enabling the delivery of field-upgradable solutions that can provide access to newly licensed features without the need for hardware shipping costs.  


SafeNet (News - Alert) is a leader in providing the embedded software community with a wide portfolio of solutions. The company’s Sentinel solutions have a reduced footprint that as the company highlights, “when combined with efficient use of memory, conform to the strictest of embedded environment constraints with a minimized level of compromising performance.”

SafeNet offers several software monetization licensing solutions tailored specifically to securely manage software embedded within any hardware – from networking appliances and medical devices to mobile handsets and industrial automation equipment.  Core offerings include:

  • Sentinel RMS Embedded: A portable version of Sentinel RMS designed specifically to meet the challenges of memory-constrained embedded environments. It covers a wide range of platform support, and supports derivative or non-standard platforms as well with a consistent development experience. 
  • Sentinel LDK Embedded: The portable version of Sentinel LDK provides token-based license enforcement for device manufacturers and software vendors selling into the embedded market. It stores license data within the memory of the hardware key utilizing cryptographics and its license portability quickly transfers licenses to new or replacement devices.  

The goal of the Sentinel embedded solutions is to enable easy and comprehensive implementation of licensing with control at the feature level. It provides cost effective management of product configurations and the ability to offer more business models. It simplifies, and in many cases automates, processes associated with sales and support tasks. And, this type of software licensing solution can be used to control access to features and produces reports on product and feature usage generating valuable and actionable business intelligence. 

I recently discussed the rapidly changing embedded licensing business with SafeNet’s Aurelius Wosylus, Director, Business Development.

We started with a definition of terms. Wosylus noted that the embedded market—at a high level includes everything where software does not run on a PC or server— which from SafeNet’s perspective is actually three distinct markets with different monetization characteristics.

He explained that, “One market is systems other than PCs and servers running Windows on Intel (News - Alert) processors. Monetization is almost identical. This is an addressable market because it has a huge footprint and is ripe for licensing solutions to reduce costs and increase efficiencies.”

“The second market is fresh and not developed. It is what we call ‘Core Embedded’. There are different processors underneath and different operating systems (OSs). The OS can be also real-time and the processors can include ARM (News - Alert), SSH4, Power PC, etc. The number of devices is substantial including mobile phones.  Here licensing solutions for embedded applications are in a nascent stage. They will be critical as smart devices get smarter and manufacturers look to inexpensive ways to provide differentiated value while keeping costs down.”

While the above may seem technically complicated for most people not enmeshed in the embedded business, SafeNet has an interesting video game that simply and effectively demonstrates embedded system security and how to implement flexible software licensing.

It is a race. See how fast you can become a winner.

Wosylus also provided a nice example as well. He walked me through a use case regarding robotics. Today, because of price pressures, companies need to think about how to make more money faster and reduce development costs. With robots the differentiated value is not the metal but functionality.  The challenge is that from date of definition of functionality to date when it is available could be between 2-4 years.  During this time market requirements can change.

As Wosylus explained, “If you don’t use licensing you need to run a new product definition cycle to offer an adjusted robot portfolio feature set. With licensing all you need to do is just enable another function, and package these functions to new product versions. In addition you can upgrade from  a low-end mid-range to a high-end version of the robot without having to ship new hardware to your customer. It also means there is just one testing and qualification cycle for the product.  The cost savings are to say the least substantial.”  He also noted that licensing also enables savings relating to stocking issues, maintenance, and training.  And, these are hard savings that can be quantified that add up fast.

The fact that this is cloud-based and hence licensing models can now be on a pay-per-use basis is also getting traction in the embedded market. For example, the automotive and medical device sectors, not used to pay-per-use are seeing the value in doing things like providing ski areas the ability to provide on-site x-rays, and hospitals a look at providing usage-based interactions using both pre-paid and post-paid models.

The race gamification of the SafeNet value proposition provides the right context for thinking about the embedded space.  The race is on to reduce costs, secure IP, improve the user experience, and allow vendors to be fast to market, fast in the market and faster from creation to cash.  

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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