LOS ANGELES -- New technology designed to thwart DVD theft makes discs unplayable until they're activated at the cash register.
A chip smaller than the head of a pin is placed onto a DVD along with a thin coating that blocks a DVD player from reading critical information on the disc. At the register, the chip is activated and sends an electrical pulse through the coating, turning it clear and making the disc playable.
The radio frequency identification chip is made by NXP Semiconductors, based in the Netherlands, and the Radio Frequency Activation technology comes from Kestrel Wireless Inc., based in Emeryville.
The two companies are talking to Hollywood studios and expect to announce deals this summer, Kestrel Wireless Chief Executive Paul Atkinson said.
The companies said their technology also can be used to protect electric shavers, ink jet cartridges, flash memory drives and even flat-screen TV sets by preventing some critical element from functioning unless activated.
Retail theft of entertainment products, including video games, accounts for as much as $400 million in annual losses, according to the Entertainment Merchants Association.
Many retailers now keep consumer-entertainment products behind glass cases, but that can inhibit browsing. With technology that renders stolen products useless, retailers could display items openly, thus encouraging more sales, said Mark Fisher, vice president for strategic initiatives at the EMA.
"It will also get product into a lot more outlets that are afraid of theft, including grocers," Fisher said.