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HD Radio Data Poised to Explode

HD BML- The Foundation for Next -- Generation Radio Services

HD BML- The Foundation for Next — Generation Radio Services

Equally important to the significantly enhanced sound quality that HD Radio delivers are the benefits offered by its wireless data capabilities. With the adoption of HD Radio technology, broadcasters will be able to introduce a variety of new offerings, such as text and graphics-based information, secondary or on-demand services, interactive audio programming and, ultimately, nearly any service containing audio, text, graphic or video components.

These capabilities will be critical to the future of radio broadcasters and their advertisers, and they will also prove compelling to a variety of third-party service providers and products, such as telematics. This is due to radio’s relatively low — cost delivery model — free to the end user – and ubiquitous coverage blanketing nearly all of the United States.

The arrival of this technology creates a broad universe of potential contributors of content and applications to HD Radio stations, which raises the subsequent need to develop common conventions to ensure interoperability among all of these sources.

At the simplest level, systems are needed to ensure that any type of audio track can be used to reliably trigger graphical displays while also accounting for the disparity in screen formats available in different receiver models and other electronics devices that may be used to display these materials.

The introduction of richer media and more-elaborate programming and applications only increases these challenges. While today’s ability to deliver program and non — program associated data as text can be met by ID3 — a widely used, basic tagging protocol — these next — generation approaches require a more-powerful solution.

Introducing HD BML

In order to address these issues, Ibiquity Digital has joined with its industry partners in the development of the HD Radio Broadcast Multimedia Language, or HD BML.

HD BML leverages the SMIL (pronounced “smile”) or Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language. This is the World Wide Web Consortium’s endorsed, XML-based standard that has been used since 1998 to ensure the interoperability and consistent display of multimedia programming on the web.

If you’ve experienced an interactive, synchronized online presentation using graphics, text and streaming video simultaneously, you’ve probably experienced SMIL. HD BML plays a similar role for HD Radio.

The decision to use SMIL as the basis for HD BML reflects a variety of benefits. First and most important, SMIL has achieved widespread adoption and support from industry heavyweights like Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Panasonic, Philips and Real Networks.

SMIL has been employed in a number of implementations that extend beyond the Web, including cellular communications and such radio-focused applications as satellite broadcasting, FM subcarriers and Eureka-147, a European version of digital radio. SMIL also provides the foundation for DAISY, the Digital Accessible System, which is the worldwide standard for reading services for the visually impaired.

In addition, SMIL is a low-cost, royalty-free approach that uses open source intellectual property. With an army of developers having used it over the past five years, it has gained widespread access to trained programmers. Finally, its modular structure allows for modifications and the creation of new extensions to meet the needs of radio broadcasters.

Following several years of meetings that secured input from about 100 organizations, this spring, Ibiquity released the initial draft definition of HD BML for industry comment (to see the document, go to Ibiquity’s Web site, We will continue to refine the standard based on the feedback we receive before the formal endorsement and final release.

While this process will produce the foundation for the use of wireless data in HD Radio applications, it is only the beginning, as we expect to continually work with the industry to upgrade the standard as needed, taking advantage of new and emerging opportunities that can be addressed by HD Radio’s wireless data capabilities.

Third-party apps

At the same time, Ibiquity also is heavily involved in the creation of new Application Program Interfaces that allow third-party applications to integrate with HD Radio exciters and receivers.

For example, Accuweather might take advantage of the Services API in the real-time delivery of updated weather via HD Radio broadcasts, while an on-board telematics system from Delphi or Visteon could use the Data Client API to pull information from the receiver in determining alternative routing.

Like HD BML, the draft definitions for the Services and Data Client APIs are scheduled for a July release. Ibiquity expects to release the first formal versions of these protocols in October.

Where this leaves us today is with great digital sound across the AM and FM dials with ID3 being used to deliver text — based messaging independently as program — associated data. However, in the near future, broadcasters will be able to leverage HD BML in the introduction of a variety of new services that will redefine radio.

These standards will not only be key to the display of advanced graphical programming, but they will also enable time — shifting or on — demand audio as well as the delivery of secondary audio programming. We will no longer be bound to the traditional limitations of radio as broadcasters can take advantage of their low-cost, wide coverage model to offer data to a variety of devices.

At the same time, stations can benefit from the broader universe of content and application providers that they can access through the use of a common standard shared with the rest of the media world.

RW welcomes other points of view.