Much has been written about the pace of the HD Radio rollout. Broadcasters have justifiably asked about the selection of radios at retail and whether more products are coming to market for consumers.
Most people only see the tip of the iceberg when they notice a radio on the shelves at stores like Best Buy or available online. What they don't see is the growing pipeline behind the scene, the dramatic growth in manufacturers developing products and the increasing number of innovative products under development.
All of this goes on around the globe, with product developers from Germany, China, Korea, Japan and here in the United States all driving forward.
Over the past few years, we have witnessed a dramatic growth in the number of manufacturing plants that are certified to build HD Radio receivers, the number of design houses working on new products and the volume of key components being brought to market to meet the increasing demand for HD Radio receiver products by consumers.
While it may not be apparent yet to the average consumer, HD Radio technology reached several major milestones in early October.
Jeff Jury As of then, 1.5 million HD Radio chips had been shipped, and 1 million HD Radio modules manufactured using these chips. IBiquity Digital has certified 100 different models of HD Radio products from a wide range of brands serving the U.S. market.
These are all important milestones that demonstrate the growth of the HD Radio market, reflecting the steady increase in product development and, ultimately, retail sales of HD Radio receivers.
It has been very gratifying to see an entire ecosystem of manufacturers, parts and software developers spring up around HD Radio technology. These advancements are the results of years of work designed to continuously bring new and innovative HD Radio products to market.
I've recently returned from Asia, where we hosted our sixth HD Radio Development Forum and partner expo in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen is the current center of radio receiver development around the world. The forum attracted 50 different companies (roughly 250 managers) from radio component and receiver manufacturers.
The meetings included training sessions and a 25-vendor HD Radio exhibition. IC and module suppliers, test unit manufacturers, reference platform designers and software design houses were among the companies demonstrating their HD Radio solutions and services.
There is a high level of enthusiasm in the product development sector for the potential of HD Radio technology. This is a good time to bring that excitement back to our colleagues in broadcasting.
Here's a brief update on where the HD Radio product development ecosystem stands.
In the past two years, the number of HD Radio models available at retail has significantly increased.
Currently, there are 84 different HD Radio models available for sale at retail (see www.hdradio.com). They include 14 automotive in-dash radios with built-in HD Radio technology, 11 automotive converter boxes for connecting to HD Radio Ready in-dash receivers, two plug-and-play auto/home products, 36 AVR home receivers or tuners, 14 table top radios, six iPod docks and one cordless product.
The list of receiver manufacturers currently building product for retail has expanded tremendously over the past two years. The brands offering HD Radio products include almost every big name in consumer electronics today: Alpine, Cambridge SoundWorks, Coby, Denon, Dual, Insignia, Integra, iLuv, JBL, Jensen, JVC, Kenwood, LG, Marantz, Niles, Onkyo, Peripheral, Pioneer, Polk, Radiosophy, Rotel, Sangean, Sony, Visteon, Yamaha, and the list continues to grow.
Products are now available at national retailers Apple Stores, Best Buy, BJ's, Circuit City, Costco, JC Penny, RadioShack, Sony Style, Target and Walmart; regional retailers 6th Ave Electronics, ABC Warehouse, Abt, Al & Eds, Bjorn's, Brandsmart, Car Toys, Fry's, Harvey, J&R, Ken Cranes and Mickey Shore; online retailers Amazon, Buy.com, Crutchfield, eBay, Onecall, Overstock, Shopzilla, Staples and many other outlets.
In total, HD Radio products are now available at some 14,000 stores and online retailers across the nation.
HD Radio technology has made great inroads in the automotive sector.
Factory-installed HD Radio technology is available in BMW, Hyundai, Mercedes, Mini and Volvo vehicles; dealer-installed HD Radio technology is available on Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles; and Audio, Ford, Jaguar, Lincoln, Mercury, Scion and most recently Audi have announced that HD Radio technology will be a factory-installed feature in the near future.
At the Shenzhen Forum, iBiquity released an HD Radio reference design for portable products. The HD Radio reference platform is being offered at no cost to receiver licensees, who will use it to develop low-cost, battery-powered portable products.
As we all know, HD Radio technology means more than just audio. It also enables a range of advanced services. Several of these are now a reality.
Most of us at this point have heard about iTunes Tagging. But increasingly traffic services are gaining momentum, such as the HD-TMC/MSN DirectHD Traffic Services, and soon the MSN DirectHD product offering.
Chip sets and parts manufacturers are offering more and more new products to receiver manufactures that increase the capabilities of HD Radio receivers and decrease their cost, size and energy consumption.
Both Samsung Electro-Mechanics and LG Innotek have introduced next-generation modules for receiver manufacturers using new chipsets from Samsung and SiPort, respectively. Both modules offer lower power, lower cost and smaller footprints than their first generation predecessors for mobile, tabletop and aftermarket automotive applications.
LG's new line of modules will offer variations for home audio-video receivers with built-in AM and FM connectors, miniaturized modules for delivery of broadcast audio and data services on Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs), automotive navigation systems, Personal Media Players (PMPs) and other consumer electronic platforms.
Manufacturers also continue to work on lowering costs for the automotive market.
Texas Instruments and NXP are both bringing to market their second-generation HD Radio chip set solutions for the OEM car market and will soon be joined by the first chip from ST Microelectronics. Wistron NeWeb Corp. (WNC), a low-cost module developer, announced it has developed a next-generation OEM automotive-grade HD Radio module, designed to specifically meet the automotive industry's reliability and performance standards.
These are exciting times for all involved with HD Radio technology. There is an amazing range of companies all participating in the HD Radio receiver market. This is great news for the rollout of the HD Radio system.
From North America, to Asia and through Europe, the development of HD Radio product is a 24/7 effort. Much of this activity is on the other side of the world, but it is all designed to meet the growing need of the audience here in the U.S. Each new product effort increases the choice available to consumers, and increases the potential listenership for each HD Radio station.
The author is COO of iBiquity Digital Corp.