In its “CTP Addendum on Testing” released in April, Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) introduced its “family plan,” where a group of similar products can be approved at one go. The qualifications for family group testing obviously had some thought put to it: “An entity may aggregate some of its products that only have different NPRCs (Non-Programmable Related Components) into a family group by attesting to the similarity of that family group in a letter, signed by a person who has authority to bind the entity under test to the terms of said letter.” The addendum goes on to list the major points that the letter must address.
But the concept was devised with single manufacturers in mind. A wrinkle comes up when more than one authority for the product is involved. This occurs when a company licenses its core technology, sharing authority for its products with the licensor. Examples that come to mind are Datasat and Cinemechanica. Datasat licenses its core server technology from Qube, and Cinemechanica licenses core projector technology from Barco. The desired behavior is that the licensor attains DCI compliance, and the licensee is automatically approved. But who is the authority for whom?
The question is more involved than it may sound. Can a licensee that is not responsible for testing its product guarantee that its version of the licensed technology is compliant? Will a licensor guarantee that its licensee hasn’t changed anything that will compromise the compliant status of the licensed technology? It’s easy for a sole company to guarantee that a product group that it manufactures can be so classified. After all, it has a direct relationship with the testing agency, and it has control over how its products are designed. But a licensee does not have either of these qualities. Unless the licensor conducts a design review of its licensee’s implementation, and repeatedly does so as the licensee improves its product, the chain that guarantees compliance is broken.
Part of the trouble arises through DCI’s definition of Non-Programmable Related Components (NPRC), which states: “Any non-programmable devices that do not affect compliance of the current DCSS, e.g., non-programmable integrated circuits, resistors, capacitors, transistors, inductors, lamps, fans, displays, power supplies, switches, connectors, fuses, passive components, mechanical components, etc.” Unfortunately, the limitation of differentiation to NPRC’s leaves out the ability for products to have different GUI’s, or more basic, different CPU motherboards.
It appears that if DCI is to accommodate companies such as Datasat and Cinemechanica, it will have to revise its addendum. Even if the licensee meets the letter of the addendum as written with the guarantee of compliance by the licensor, it will likely impose the need for design reviews, which will lead to a closer relationship between licensor and licensee than either party may want. At the very least, it adds a new expense to the relationship. DCI has not yet decided its action. Datasat and Cinemechanica must wait and see.