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Digital Trade Group Turns Page

For-profit SpireSpark takes reins of video and media standard, guidelines efforts 4/03/2017 8:00 AM Eastern

The digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)’s days as a nonprofit trade group are done. But its standardization project will live on under a recently formed for-profit company.

The group, which developed guidelines for the sharing of video and other digital media on secure home networks that counted Comcast and Verizon Communications among its members, is now under the control of SpireSpark International, a services firm founded by several former DLNA execs, including Donna Moore, CEO and founder of the new Portland, Ore.-based company.

In deciding to dissolve as a nonprofit, the DLNA reasoned that it had “achieved its mission” over its 13-year history, especially given that more than 4 billion products now carry the DLNA label.

Moore, the former DLNA executive director, noted that DLNA guidelines and certification programs were still in demand, but acknowledged that member participation was dwindling.

While the usual option for winding down a standards organization is to merge or transfer those assets to another nonprofit — an option that was explored — such a group could not be found. Moore said DLNA staffers were asked to think outside the box and they came up with the idea for SpireSpark, which launched officially on Feb. 1.

A NO-FEE PROPOSITION

SpireSpark is now in charge of the DLNA Certification Program and Test Tools, including bug fixes, logo management and enforcement. The big difference is that companies now no longer have to pony up membership fees (starting at $10,000) that were required under the DLNA to gain access to those services and technologies.

Moore said the need to certify products remains strong, but continued engineering support for building out the spec and expanding it was not.

The latest DLNA specs will remain frozen, Andi Hall, chief technology officer of SpireSpark, said.

One casualty of this change is VidiPath, a set of DLNA guidelines that were designed to help pay TV companies such as Comcast and Cox Communications stream their services and associated interfaces securely over the home network to other VidiPath-compatible, customer-owned devices.

Companies and vendors can still implement their own version of VidiPath, but the program isn’t continuing. Thus, SpireSpark won’t be conducting tests or labeling any products as VidiPath-certified.

“It’s kind of open,” Hall said, noting that parties are free to develop on top of the baseline specs.

The new aim, Moore said, is to get the word out that the current crop of DLNA tools is available without having to pay additional membership fees.

As for next steps, SpireSpark will try to work with organizations with the current compliance program or help others that need software and tools to implement their additional certification or quality assurance programs.

That strategy, in some ways, shares similarities with Kyrio, a for-profit spinoff of CableLabs that has been focusing on new areas such as Internet of Things compliance and certification testing, as well as a WiFi roaming service for cable operators and other service providers.

SpireSpark, which at last check had eight staffers along with a number of contractors, has been in talks with a handful of groups about providing compliance support, including options in which SpireSpark would take on the program or do some consulting, Moore said.

DLNA isn’t the only association with home connectivity links to undergo a significant change in recent months and years.

Last fall, HomePlug made its technical specs publicly available, claiming that the technology had reached “maturation” as a global broadband standard for powerline technologies even if the standard seemed to be effectively placed on ice. The HomePNA Alliance, meanwhile, is now merged with the HomeGrid Forum, a group that promotes G.hn, a home networking platform that can run on coax, phone lines, powerlines and plastic optical fibers.

Other home-networking technology groups, such as the Multimedia over Coax Alliance and the Wi-Fi Alliance, continue to push ahead on their own, though.

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