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Radio Has Its Head in the Cloud

This month Radio World has started our preview coverage of radio’s biggest annual convention.

The cherry blossoms along the lake near my home are threatening to emerge. That can only mean it’s show time again — and in radioland, “show time” means NAB.

This month Radio World has started our preview coverage of radio’s biggest annual convention. Though radio is now but a small part of the spring show, few would argue about whether the Las Vegas event is the most important conference for radio broadcasters and equipment buyers.

Here’s what you can expect from Radio World:

In the current March 23 issue, our writers take a look at the most promising sessions of the Broadcast Engineering Conference. Exhibitors give a hint of what they’ll be showing, in our booth listings. And we hear from NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith about major radio issues in Washington.

Next time we’ll preview management and regulatory sessions and hear from other newsmakers about business trends. We’ll profile L. Robert du Treil, the NAB Engineering Achievement Award winner, and provide a Pocket Preview Guide with a radio floor map that you can take to the convention.

In subsequent issues look for our show photo coverage, news wrapup, Radio World “Cool Stuff” Awards and new product wrapup. And of course our staff, contributors and photographers will be everywhere at the event itself.

Several further aspects of the show are worth your attention.

NAB engineers are doing their part to help with the association’s cell phone push; they plan an exhibit called the NAB Radio-Ready Cell Phone Showcase. According to Senior Director of Advanced Engineering David Layer, a similar exhibit at the fall Radio Show was well received.

He promises “detailed information on how radio can be included in cell phones easily and affordably.” The exhibit will provide info about NAB’s push to “educate” lawmakers on the benefits of including radio in cell phones and about the cell phone “embedded antenna” development work that NAB’s FASTROAD Technology Advocacy program recently paid for.

Also new, the convention will feature something called PITS, or People Integrating Technologies and Solutions. NAB’s John Marino, VP of science and technology, told me these PITS “are special areas on the show floor where attendees can gather and learn about some of the interesting technologies and applications that are now available.”

The Radio PIT (at C456 on the Central Hall exhibit floor) will showcase HD Radio technologies, the Broadcast Traffic Consortium, several other technology initiatives and some live broadcasts. Marino told me these “pits” offer limited educational opportunities but primarily are intended to bring “additional excitement to the show floor.” I heard from one radio manufacturer that this is the kind of activity exhibitors like to see to help pull more people into and through the aisles.

Relations between NAB and the Consumer Electronics Association have been testy at the CEO level; but the organizations, still interdependent in so many ways, continue to work together.

For instance, Brian Markwalter will keynote the BEC; he’s vice president of research and standards for CEA. Markwalter will talk about how radio receivers are evolving and the trend toward “connected” radios, devices that can offer streaming audio content from around the world.

Marino told me, “Shortwave was once the only way to listen to international broadcasts; but today’s Internet-connected radios are providing an alternative, and it seems most broadcasters are embracing this new opportunity to expand their reach.” Markwalter promises to talk about what the exponential growth in available channels mean for traditional AM, FM and TV receivers. (He calls it an Internet “tsunami” washing over broadcast receivers.)

Other themes to watch for: Cloud computing is becoming a force in the world of IT, so there will be presentations in the engineering conference covering it from a broadcaster’s perspective. NAB also is offering a mini-conference called “Content in the Cloud” that will address new cloud-based technologies for broadcasters along with case studies.

For businesses looking to hold more meetings without traveling, NAB also has a Telepresence Conference. And digital futurist and author Steven Berlin Johnson will keynote the NAB Show Technology Luncheon.

I wonder if they have cherry blossoms in Nevada.