The author is chairman of the DRM Consortium. Her commentaries appear regularly at radioworld.com.
2023 will have to be a big-letter year for DRM! In a changing world where the buzz words are metaverse, AI, VR, streaming, etc., digital radio is in a better position than ever to become the mainstream platform it has aspired to be for years.
DRM for Everyone and Everywhere
Beyond the buzz words, radio is strong and maintaining its position, even if in some countries there is a reassessment of terrestrial broadcasting in AM and FM, with emphasis being put on online and not terrestrial. Some of the surprises of 2022 included the debate around the revival of shortwave, the strong position of mediumwave in several countries like the USA and India, and the questions around digitizing FM.
We see these debates continuing this year, although we are confident that Digital Radio DRM has proven to be a good answer to the 2023 demands as it is flexible, green and offers the coverage of choice, from very local to regional and international. These advantages have been embraced by significant authorities (Indonesia, Pakistan etc.) and need to become even more prominent for broadcasters and listeners in 2023. Greater commitment to DRM will inevitably lead to an increased availability of affordable receivers and receiver solutions for home, cell phones and, finally and most importantly, its use in vehicles.
The figures for DRM receivers in Indian cars, first totaled in June 2022, underscored the great progress made by the Indian automotive industry in the past five years, with more than 5 million new cars with DRM receivers. We expect this figure to go over 6 million in 2023. The increase would further accelerate if the DRM for FM was officially announced and introduced by the government of India.
[Related: “DRM Sees ‘Good Progress’ on Cars in India“]
Emphasis on Key Benefits
In 2022, DRM focused on its main benefits that give it the edge, even when compared with other internationally recognized digital standards. The dialogue and work done in 2022 with the Caribbean countries (CBU), with the African countries (through ATU which has recommended DRM and DAB+ as the standards of choice on the African continent), in Brazil and in the countries of Asia will continue at an accelerated speed in 2023.
Let us remember that less than 12 months ago that the world was emerging from the bleak COVID years and straight into an energy crisis. So, DRM immediately became much more vocal about the excellent energy savings that can be achieved in all bands, but especially in AM. DRM has created a tool called the DRM Energy Efficiency Calculator so that each transmission provider or broadcaster can get a realistic view of their potential savings. We will try to make the tool available to as many interested parties as possible. In 2023, DRM will continue to highlight the green credentials of the standard.
Broadcasters will have an incentive to introduce DRM and deploy all its benefits not only in peaceful times but also in times of emergency. In critical times, radio has already claimed its position as one of the most popular means of communication, used by an overwhelming majority of people, as was very clearly explained in a short video focused on the in-built Emergency Warning Functionality (EWF) of the DRM standard. Its valuable expertise and activity make DRM a firm part of the digital landscape allowing people to stay safe, informed and educated, wherever they are.
In 2022, DRM has progressed its distance education project aimed at offering a modern education and information solution for people in areas not yet linked to the internet.
The tests done using a DRM shortwave transmitter (in the UK) for relaying audio, text, images and diagrams at great distance (in the summer and lately in December) have proven very successful. Using Wi-Fi equipped receivers and simple screen gadgets like mobiles or laptops, it will be possible to ensure unprecedented access to content that would not have been available otherwise. This is a project that awaits its completion and general unveiling in 2023.
DRM can always offer better and more content with increased advertising possibilities. One use that DRM will focus more in 2023 is its capacity to deliver messages (emergency warnings, health warnings) but also advertising on the many public signs mushrooming in our cities, from bus-stops to railways stations and other public areas. Using the data carriage capacity of DRM for delivering up-to-date and attractive signage is a benefit not exploited enough until now.
2022 saw more DRM receivers and options than ever. Now, receiver prices are ready to go down as the volume of orders ensure price reduction. Integrating Wi-Fi capability into some receivers (Starwaves) or the launch of a new and very cost-effective module are the directions we will support and push in 2023.
Cambridge Consultants in co-operation with CML Microcircuits (UK) have developed a small, low-power and low-cost DRM portable receiver module for both DRM in AM and FM, as well as the corresponding analog frequencies. The new DRM1000 module is on the low-cost end of DRM receivers and is scheduled to be available shortly.
Concentrating on some of the distinctive features of DRM (all–band coverage, energy saving, emergency warning and distance learning features) and the support and encouragement for the production of versatile receiver solutions for home and car use are the clear directions for DRM in 2023. The nonprofit consortium members and associated companies, experts and supporters can only achieve their goals if the climate is favorable and governments can commit to not cut radio bands or programs, but, rather, find ways to support the medium long-term. Radio should be for everyone, anywhere and anytime. DRM can ensure that!