author is chairperson of the RadioDNS Project.
Hybrid Radio uses existing FM or HD
broadcasts as a robust and reliable way to deliver audio, but presents them
like an app, by using additional meta-data (such as logos and descriptions)
delivered over an IP connection (WiFi, 3G, LTE). This all happens automatically
and without any user intervention.
Nick Piggott, left, demos RadioDNS at
the NAB Show for Rick Benson of Cox.
Photo by Jim Peck
Apart from the obvious music
royalty cost issues, moving away from audio streaming helps listeners by
reducing IP data consumption and battery drain on portable devices. If the
listener loses FM reception, he or she can be switched automatically to
streaming until such time as the FM signal improves, and then automatically
switched back to FM. “Uses 95 percent less data” isn’t yet a strong consumer
benefit, but it surely will be in the future.
is the not-for-profit organization that promotes the concept of Hybrid Radio by
setting the technical standards to support it. Its membership encompasses
broadcasters in the United States, Europe and Australia, and comprises a mix of
manufacturers, broadcasters and service providers.
We at Radio DNS have adopted an
open approach to technology development, which is inspired by the collaborative
nature of Internet standards. We use existing Internet technologies like DNS,
but glue them together in a way that’s helpful for radio. All the data and
interaction goes directly from the listener to the broadcaster, and not via
held our sixth general assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. It’s our busiest
meeting of the year, with elections, reports, reviews and forecasts. It’s a
reflection of the organization’s growth that the business discussed this year
was more operational and immediate than in previous years, which dealt mostly
with establishing the organization.
more manufacturers are looking to launch devices, there’s a need to register a
clear visual logo for “RadioDNS Hybrid Radio” for consumers. Similarly,
increased manufacturer and broadcaster interest means there will be a dedicated
Test and Demonstration environment for RadioDNS. The project website will be
overhauled to make information easier to access, and sections for various
languages added, and more countries are invited to join the collaboration.
RadioDNS’s technical projects continue to evolve, reflecting input and
experience from broadcasters in all nations. RadioVIS, our visualization layer,
now supports devices of all resolutions, including the latest “Retina” style
RadioEPG team is working with IMDA to create a single EPG system for radio, the
“Hybrid Radio EPG.” And the RadioVIS team used the RadioDays Europe conference
to demonstrate our progress toward a simple but powerful tagging or bookmarking
system that is universal across radio stations, devices and countries.
Major automotive OEM Visteon
demonstrated that much of this functionality on their range of car radios at
the same RadioDays Europe conference. Even their most basic car radio allows
you to tether a cellphone via Bluetooth to receive the station information on a
color screen. When you tune to FM in the dash, the smartphone shows all the
additional information and visuals, and creates the click-through or
Hybrid Radio has been enthusiastically adopted in Europe, where it’s now
available to more than 70 million radio listeners a week in the United Kingdom
and Germany, and in six other European countries. In the United States, Clear Channel,
Emmis, Cox and the NAB are all active supporters of RadioDNS, and contributed
to demonstrations at the 2013 NAB Show in Las Vegas in April.
Manufacturers like Philips, Pure
and Revo incorporated Hybrid Radio into their tabletop radios and, most
interestingly, in iPhone docking stations, where the visual information and
interaction is displayed on the iPhone screen.
course, the key question remains whether the concept of Hybrid Radio can
reinvigorate broadcast radio in the smartphone. There’s no doubt that people like
listening to radio on smartphones, evidenced by the rise of apps like TuneIn
Radio could play a stealth-technology role here, by silently switching people
from streaming to broadcast radio without disrupting their experience.
Conversely, it would allow smartphone manufacturers to overhaul their existing
FM radio apps to be as good as TuneIn or iHeart.
There should be every motivation
for incumbent broadcasters to promote the idea of “broadcast first,” not least
because even the most crowded FM market is less daunting to navigate than
10,000 stations in an Internet service.
interesting to note that Internet radio providers are now doing what they can
to make their listings more relevant by filtering them down to “local” stations
first: the stations people know, love and listen to most. The percentage of
“real” radio listeners genuinely seeking to expand their listening experience
with out-of-market stations is probably very low.
What’s holding smartphone
manufacturers back? In short, interest.
don’t believe there’s any interest from broadcast radio, so it doesn’t warrant
resources to rewrite the apps. It’s upon the broadcast radio industry to reignite
that interest by championing all the unique benefits of broadcast radio, and to
reinvigorate the presentation of radio on a smartphone with Hybrid Radio
Broadcasters must make the initial
(slight) effort to start Hybrid Radio services for their stations first, before
the smartphone manufacturers can justify revisiting broadcast radio.
RadioDNS works closely with both
broadcasters and manufacturers, coaxing and helping them towards Hybrid Radio.
As a small organization, we concentrate on bringing people together to share
problems and create solutions collaboratively.
on technology, compete on content” sentiment means we can harness the
collective energy and resources of the global radio industry to help reinvent
broadcast radio as a genuine and powerful competitor to streaming services.