New video fingerprinting technology from Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV could help stem the flood of movies and other video content being traded illegally on the Internet.

The technology is able to identify video segments — as short as 5 seconds — by comparing unique fingerprints, or bit strings, extracted from the video segments and comparing them with fingerprints in a special database, Ronald Maandonks, chief executive officer of the Philips Content Identification unit, said Wednesday. “What we’ve developed is a very fast matching system,” he said.

Interest in protecting video content has grown with the proliferation of broadband connections that allow users to download large data files — such as video clips — relatively easily, quickly and inexpensively over P-to-P (peer-to-peer) networks.

Philips’ fingerprinting technology consists of a database for storing fingerprints, an extraction system for creating fingerprints and a search engine for matching them.

The system works like this: users make fingerprints of their video content and store them in the database. Then they make fingerprints of a video file they’ve received, for instance over a P-to-P network, and compare them with those stored in the database.

“The process is pretty simple when the content is the exact same; it’s much more challenging when the content has been changed due to scaling, cropping or conversion to another comprehension format,” Maandonks said. “The trick is to be able to match all fingerprints in a split second, and our technology can do that.”

Unlike watermarking technology, which embeds data into audio or video content or both, fingerprinting technology makes no changes to the original content, according to Maandonks. It can monitor up to 1,000 video channels in parallel with a single server.

What the Philips’ fingerprinting system doesn’t include is an online search engine to track the transmission of video content on P-to-P networks, according to Maandonks. “There are plenty of companies already providing Internet crawlers,” he said. “This is pretty standard technology.”

Maandonks declined to provide pricing details, saying only that prices depend on the size of the database and the number of channels to be monitored in parallel.

Philips will demonstrate its new fingerprinting technology at the IFA international consumer electronics show, which begins Sept. 1 in Berlin.