Microsoft said Wednesday that it has signed a deal to license its audio watermarking technology for inserting and decoding unique digital identifiers in audio files to Activated Content, a digital technology and application services company.

While watermarking technology is often used as an antipiracy measure, the idea behind the deal is to get the decoding software into computers and mobile devices, which could then react to other types of content and services such as advertising on streaming media.

In one scenario, consumers would press a button on a smart phone when a watermarked piece of audio on the radio catches their attention. The software would then record the audio – an advertisement, for example – detect the embedded watermark, and present the listener with more information about the contents of the ad, or a link to more information.
As a result of the Microsoft deal, Active Content plans to expand its audio watermarking offerings within the entertainment, advertising and telephony industries. The deal is the latest in Microsoft's ongoing effort to license out technologies from its research labs.