Pitney Bowes seals digital watermark deal

The postage giant is teaming with Digimarc to create ways to embed digital watermarks on envelopes, a move that looks to bridge regular mail with the Internet.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read
Postage giant Pitney Bowes is joining forces with Digimarc to create ways to embed digital watermarks on envelopes, bridging regular mail with the Web, the companies announced Tuesday.

Digital watermarking is a way to embed undetectable digital code within content such as music, videos or print media. The codes contain basic information such as copyright protections or related information to what is being linked.

The two companies plan to work together during the next six months on creating digital watermarks for envelopes. The result, for example, would be that a telephone company could provide a link to up-to-date account information through a customer's monthly bill.

Pitney Bowes, a $4.4 billion company based in Stamford, Conn., also said it plans to use Digimarc's technology as a security feature for metered postage, including its Internet postage service. Because counterfeiting is an ongoing problem for postage metering, the watermark would provide additional security.

"We believe that Digimarc digital watermark technology will offer new and exciting innovations in a range of postal and other applications," Jim Euchner, Pitney Bowes' vice president of advanced technology, said in a statement.

Apart from the Pitney Bowes alliance, Tualatin, Ore.-based Digimarc is teaming with other technology companies to establish digital watermarks as the standard for real-world hyperlinks.

In September, Philips Electronics and others invested $60 million in Digimarc and formed a new company to further develop technology to send digital watermarks through audio and video.

This summer, Digimarc introduced free software to the public so that subscribers of various magazines using the technology could link advertisements to the Web. Consumers looking at an ad or an editorial with embedded watermarks--visible via tiny Digimarc symbols--can find related information by holding up the page to a Web camera hooked up to the computer. The camera then "reads" the code and instantly opens a Web browser to the related link.

The technology competes against other emerging standards for bridging the Web with other mediums.

Pitney Bowes launched its online postage service only a year ago, competing with postage sites including E-Stamp and Stamps.com.