Posts Tagged ‘HD Radio’

HD Radio on the Slate for iPhone?

June 19, 2010

Apple has had quite the back and forth stance in regards to radio integration for their products. While the iPod Nano has its own radio receiver with live pause and iTunes tagging, the various iPhones and other iPods do not. That is something that may be changing soon.

According to Apple Insider it looks like Apple has been quietly visiting the patent office. Neil Hughes reports:

Entitled “Digital Radio Tagging Using an RF Tuner Accessory,” the application states that users could use a handheld device to scan all stations, or only for stations delivering high-quality digital audio content. Collecting a list of digital stations and the accompanying “raw digital data” broadcast with them would allow users to scan and search stations based on the content that is currently playing, or a number of other factors included in the data.

“Enhanced metadata and searching can provide the listener the ability to refine station choices without having to listen at length to any particular station, and further can facilitate tagging broadcast tracks for subsequent access and/or purchase,” the application reads.

Now, this does not seem at first glance to be groundbreaking. After all, the current incarnation of the iPod Nano has similar capabilities on its FM receiver. Still, we are not talking FM in this case; we are talking about HD in all its multi-channel glory, something that has been has been rumored since The Wall Street Journal reported on talks between Apple and HD developer iBiquity.

The filing of this patent goes a long way toward confirming my assertion in prior posts that the iPod line would be adopting HD radio. After all, HD integration was a huge selling point for Microsoft’s Zune and remains an area where it is admittedly superior to its Apple counterparts.

Image: Cave Canum / CC 2.0

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Coming Soon: HD Radio and Mobile Devices

March 26, 2010

This makes a lot of  sense. Good sense, if you ask me. To understand why, let’s take a few steps back.

I’m a smartphone user; I adore the thing. Having the Internet in your hand is amazingly useful, especially if you make your living in cyberspace as I do. My iPhone was a complete game changer for me, allowing me much more fluidity in how I would do everything from navigate to listening to radio. It was a golden time indeed.

Then I went to New York City awhile back. Suddenly, my data connectivity screeched to a halt, making and receiving phone calls became a hit or miss proposition, and I began looking for that almost extinct species the payphone. This was when I first realized just how much mobile data usage is outpacing the available bandwidth. The cell carriers are straining under the weight of all those YouTube videos and social networking applications.

Which brings us to our post and its title. Think about it. What’s a good way to avoid the bandwidth jams that are becoming more and more frequent? When it comes to radio, you can do it by bypassing the Internet stream entirely. HD radio chips can allow listening even in a dreaded “no bars” zone, and iBiquity is doing their best to make that happen.

Leslie Stimson at RadioWorld reports:

“We’re talking to handset manufacturers and smartphone carriers as we look to put HD Radio on next-generation products,” iBiquity’s Jeff Jury told me[…]  “We’re looking at other MP3 players, where people get their entertainment. HD Radio needs to be there.”

Now that smaller, more power-efficient HD Radio chips are available, the ones found in HD Radio portables like the Insignia HD and Zune HD, iBiquity is telling wireless executives those chips will work in cellphones too. IBiquity is mentioning the SiPort SP1010, available now, and the SP2021/31, which SiPort expects to be available in Q3.

Fueling this is the recent comScore study which find that 68% of consumers surveyed are “interested” or “extremely interested” in mobile phones that include HD Radio Technology. Additionally, it reported 75% of mobile phone owners would listen to HD Radio broadcasts on their phone. I’d say that looks like an audience for it, and as with all things mobile in the modern age, an audience certain to grow.

“This important research underscores the high consumer demand for HD Radio Technology in mobile devices,” said Bob Struble, President/CEO of iBiquity Digital. “As consumers quickly form new habits around technology that brings content to them whenever and wherever they are, leaders of the radio broadcasting and manufacturing industries are coming together to make radio in mobile phones a reality.” [Via FMQB]

So what do you think? Would you listen to HD if it were available on your phone? What about the HD radio gadget Radio Shack put out awhile back? Sure, it’s an external device, but still it’s a step along this road.

Let us know in the comments!

Image: HD Radio / HD radio Alliance

HD Radio: Now Easier to Embrace

February 12, 2010

iBiquity, the company behind HD radio, has just released its new schedule of fees and payments required for a station to embrace digital. The great news is a reduction in fees  and expanded options for payment. From Radio Business Report, here is iBiquity’s top dog on the new rates:

“HD Radio Technology has enjoyed tremendous broadcaster support and seen breakthrough progress in receiver sales, automotive adoption and product expansion over the past year,” said Bob Struble, iBiquity CEO. “Based on this success and heightened broadcaster enthusiasm, we have created flexible, cost-effective licensing options to make upgrading easier.”

Cost is always one of the barriers to adoption, and iBiquity has chopped away at that cost since I debuted this blog. From reducing their prices on the physical gear needed (at the NAB show in ’08) to this reduction in fees, they have continued to consistently make HD more easily accessible. An easing of financial commitments needed to embrace HD is even more important now. Despite improving economic indicators in our industry (see my previous post), there is still wariness about the economy — a wariness that makes each expenditure subject to more debate than in the days before the recession. Hopefully, the reduction will spur the more creative stations to embrace the multi channel possibilities of HD.

Right now, radio is the last mass medium waiting to go fully digital. Steps like this will help spur that evolution.

If you run a station and are considering going HD, contact  Rick Greenhut, iBiquity’s Director of U.S. Broadcast Sales, at greenhut@ibiquity.com or (443) 539-4335. Additional info on licensing can be found on the licensing page of iBiquity’s website.

Image: HD Radio Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

HD Power Increase Gets FCC Okay

February 1, 2010

After months of wrangling, the word has come down from on high: HD radio transmission is getting a boost. It’s a 6dB boost to be exact — a nearly fourfold increase for most stations. The FCC has handed down a notice that they have given the okay to a ten percent increase in HD transmission power.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and iBiquity have lobbied for this change for a while now. It is not only supposed to boost HD radio range but also to help reduce and prevent the signal dropouts that have been an issue for some users.

Radio World brings us the words of iBiquity’s top dog in reaction to the good news:

“The commission has worked closely with the radio broadcast industry on this item,” [iBiquity President/CEO Bob] Struble said, “and chose a prudent course for the power increase which met the needs and addressed the concerns of the key constituents. This is another fine example of successful collaboration between the government and the private sector, and it promises to further enhance the benefits of HD Radio Technology to all Americans.”

This is great news for HD. The multichannel content offered by the medium is brilliant, but it does little good if you can’t get a signal. This signal boost will do a lot towards further mainstreaming of the medium. Another nice thing is that there is also a remediation procedure built into it that allows the settling of interference disputes within 90 days. Since interference with traditional stations has been a worry in these debates, having a standardized means of addressing disputes will do a lot towards smoothing implementation.

Here is the full text of the FCC notice:

The Federal Communication Commission’s Media Bureau adopted an Order that permits FM radio stations to voluntarily increase digital power levels up to ten percent of analog power levels and establishes interference mitigation and remediation procedures to promptly resolve complaints of interference to analog stations.  These rule changes will substantially boost digital signal coverage while safeguarding analog reception against interference from higher power digital transmissions.

In 2002, the Commission adopted the in-band on-channel digital audio broadcasting system developed by iBiquity Digital Corporation (“iBiquity”) as the de facto standard for FM station digital operations.  Stations are currently permitted to transmit digitally at one percent of analog power.  In June 2008, iBiquity, 18 group owners of 1200 radio stations and four major radio equipment manufacturers requested that the Commission increase digital power levels by 10 dB, i.e., to ten percent of analog power levels.  Both iBiquity and National Public Radio have submitted detailed studies assessing the potential for improved digital service and increased interference to analog reception.

The Bureau Order will:

• Permit most FM stations to immediately increase digital power by 6 dB, a four-fold power increase;
• Limit power increases for stations currently licensed in excess of class maximums, i.e., “super-powered” stations, to protect analog radio service from interference;
• Establish application procedures for power increases up to 10 dB;
• Establish interference remediation procedures that require the Media Bureau to resolve each bona fide dispute or impose tiered power reductions within 90 days; and
• Reserve the right to revisit the issue of digital power levels if significant interference results to analog reception.

Action by the Media Bureau, January 27, 2010 by Order (DA 10-208). Docket 99-325.

Image: FCC log / Fair Use: Reporting

CES: Bringing the Radio Tech or 2010!

January 8, 2010

This week is the annual technological frenzy known as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where all the cutting-edge entertainment gear gets shown off for the first time. It is a window into the wonderful world of “What’s next?”

While I’m unable to make it there this year, I am keeping constant track of the news coming out of the show. Let me tell you it looks like a lot of leaps forward for radio as we enter the twenty-teens.

Bryan Chaffin of Mac Observer reports no less than eight new iHome gadgets, many of which sport FM capabilities, as well as the range of Internet-based radio and audio options that one would expect. As an iPhone user myself, I’m particularly excited about this one:

iP49 Portable Rechargeable Studio Series Audio System with Alarm Clock & FM Radio for iPhone/iPod: The name just about says it all. The iP49 features the high-end clock radio functions found in an iHome home unit, and gives it an audio boost with the inclusion of Bongiovi Acoustics’ patented Digital Power Station technology and four neodymium compression drivers. Add EQ for deep bass and audio clarity, and a remote control that handles the menu functions on both iPod and iPhone models, and you have the perfect on-the-go stereo. (Available later in 2010, with pricing to be announced.)

Sounds like the 21st Century equivalent of the “boom box” radios of the ’70s and ’80s. Sounds great for yard parties, picnics, job sites, and so forth. Never underestimate the uses of portability.

Then there is HD radio. A few days ago, I posted about this probably being a big breakout year or HD, and from the sound of things at CES, it looks like I might well have been correct. Chris Crum over at WebProNews.com just put up a quick review of the stupendous array of HD offerings:

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, there will be a total of 25 new HD Radio products introduced, making for this technology’s broadest product category coverage ever. This year, 15 automotive brands will produce over 80 vehicle types, and 36 of them will include HD Radio Technology, according to iBiquity Digital.

So, not only are we seeing a wave of new products, but almost half of the cars produced by those 15 auto brands will contain HD as well. I’d say that’s terrific news. Volvo, Jaguar, Audi, Ford, Lincoln, Mercedes Benz and others are rapidly helping to cement HD as an expected option for commuters everywhere. Mr. Crum goes on to report:

At least three new vehicles are on display at the event at the HD Radio booth – the Ford 2011 Taurus SHO, Volkswagen 2010 MY Golf TDI, and 2010 Scion xB. The first ever factory installed implementation of HD Radio enabled iTunes Tagging will occur at CES and will be showcased by Ford. A number of after-market solutions from various brands are being displayed as well.

So, portability and mobility seem to be the underlying thrust of this year’s radio offerings so far. I’ll endorse that wholeheartedly since I believe them to be key factors in our continuing growth as an industry.

I’ll be checking back on the reporting from CES as it rolls in, and hope to share more interesting radio developments. If you are attending CES, we would love to hear from you.

Image: tigerdirect / CC BY 2.0

2010, The Year of HD Radio?

January 4, 2010

As we kick off our third year of the Radio 2020 blog, it looks like HD is the right topic with which to start.

Dave Freeman at Crunch Gear speculates that we will see no less than eight new HD portables at this years Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  While he stresses that his info is rumor, he  does give some ideas about the shape of those rumors. He speculates that we will see devices “[…] targeting the Zune/iPod crowd by coming up with add-ons[…] We should also start seeing some headphone based units as well, and some are even going to include HD AM as well.”

Smaller size and portability are vastly important for the spread of this technology so I’d say their bet is a good one. While slow to catch on, HD has still managed to gain ground steadily. According an article in RadioWorld last December, sales of HD radio receivers doubled in 2009. There were 140,000 sold in 2007 while in 2009 there were  366,000 units sold. The more portable units become available, the more we will see the rate of adoption increase.

It’s not just portability, though. As I reported a few days ago, Ford Motors has now joined the ranks of manufacturers offering HD to drivers. Hardly shocking news when you realize that SiPort shipped its first HD receiver chip designed for autos. I know of many Beltway drivers who will be glad of the additional options.

So, accessibility is key, but what is accessibility without content? Bob Strubel, President and CEO of iBiquity (the developers of HD radio) addressed the topic of HD content  in a recent column he penned for RadioWorld:

With HD2 and HD3 channels, broadcasters are providing a diverse new set of programming choices to compete with all those other digital options. The progress on HD2 and HD3 channels has been accelerating, with nearly 1,100 new channels on the air.

Sports franchises like the Cowboys, Yankees, Penguins and Mets have multicast offerings. Religious (Mormon Channel), ethnic (WorldBand’s HumDesi Southern Asian language programming) and lifestyle (Pride Channel) broadcasters bring new local and national offerings. And there are targeted local niche offerings: Boston’s Irish Channel, DC’s Bluegrass Country, Miami’s Dance to name just a few.

I think that HD is going to be in the news a lot in coming months as there are so many factors pushing the medium as we move into this new year. If economic indicators are correct and the recession is waning, that will provide additional momentum. Since HD is as free as broadcast radio rather than fee-based like satellite, the one-shot purchase price of receivers will be more attractive to consumers.

This might just be the year of HD radio. I can’t wait to see!

Image: optical_illusion / CC BY 2.0

iTunes Tagging Factory Installed by Ford

December 30, 2009

There is no doubt that one of the tech advances changing the way we listen to and interact with music is the relatively new concept of tagging. I bet you own one of the plethora of radios, HD Radios or iPod-derived devices that have this function where you can “tag” a song while listening to it so you can purchase it later through iTunes. In this Internet-driven age of instant gratification, it is a powerful sales tool precisely because of the convenience it offers to listeners.

In a move that should be applauded, Ford has announced that it will be making iTunes tagging a factory-installed  feature on some models as part of its voice-controlled Sync system. Introduced in 2007, Sync is a an entertainment and telecommunications system vaguely reminiscent of Star Trek. Brent Snavely at Freep tells us a bit more:

Ford said iTunes tagging on its next generation of Sync will be able to hold up to 100 songs. Then, when an iPod is connected to iTunes, the customer can approve the purchase and download the songs.

Ford isn’t saying yet whether HD Radio and iTunes tagging capability will be standard or optional.

“HD Radio and iTunes song tagging will be part of an infotainment package launching next year,” and additional details will be announced by Ford at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 7, said Ford spokesman Alan Hall.

I love watching things as they ease their way into mainstream adoption. With all of the shakeups in the way we communicate and interact with media that have occurred over the past decade, it has been a dizzying ride. Just the advent of the smartphone alone has created a substantive change in the way we interact with each other and with media. Now comes the fun part, watching things like this occur.

It was not that long ago that seeing someone with an iPhone was notable and unusual. It was the new cool toy, something affordable only by a few. Now it is the most popular handset in the U.S. and the App Store is making money hand over fist. With Ford’s introduction of factory installed tagging, we are seeing another jump into everyday life.

Welcome to the future!

Image: Eye of Einstein / CC BY 2.0

Rolls Royce Goes HD!

November 23, 2009

Saturday, it was announced that Rolls Royce would be joining Volvo in making HD radio a standard component across all its lines for 2010!  This comes quick on the heels of an announcement from Mercedes-Benz that HD will be in all its 2010 models that have “premium feature packages.” Looks like HD has locked on with the luxury car aficionados!

That is one heck of a brand association. Rolls Royce has been known for refinement and luxury since before World War II. It is a name that has stood the test of time and retained its noble bearing throughout. The Phantom, for example,  is to cars as a tuxedo-clad James Bond is to espionage (the Sean Connery Bond). To have HD radio become a standard firmly affixes the growing medium in the luxury market and the luxury mindset.

Here is the statement from iBiquity via Radio Ink:

“We are proud to confirm the availability of HD Radio technology for yet another prestigious brand — Rolls-Royce,” iBiquity COO Jeff Jury said. “The Rolls-Royce brand is revered. This commitment to HD Radio technology as standard illustrates how digital radio’s dynamic function enhances the in-car ambiance. The addition of Rolls-Royce to the HD Radio roster truly solidifies the technology’s stature in the luxury automotive class.”

Rolls Royce  joins an array of other car makers in offering HD either as a standard or an option: BMW, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes, Mini, Scion, Land Rover and Volvo. In addition, Audi, Ford, Kia, Lincoln and Mercury are soon to join their ranks and have committed to offering HD as well. Now that approximately 85% of the US is covered by HD signals, it looks like it could be a great time for a road trip!

It’s really fun watching a medium grow up. There are always growing pains, but the process always seems to yield fascinating results.  As each quarter slips by, we see more maturity in the HD radio platform. Not only are the high-end auto makers adding it in as a standard, but there is now a HD listening option for the iPhone. (See my earlier post.) The times are certainly changing, and as far as HD is concerned, changing for the better!

Image: ynguyen666 / CC BY 2.0

HD Radio Extends Its Reach

November 18, 2009

As the youngest sibling in the radio family, HD radio is still finding its feet in the media market. We are only starting to discover the interesting new ways to implement its unique capabilities, especially multicast. Multicast basically allows HD stations to provide sub-channels with additional content for their listeners. Sometimes it will be a music format such as bluegrass, sometimes just an expanded version of normal programming.  Now it seems that CBS Radio has come up with a new take on how to leverage that quality.

According to an announcement made by CBS last Friday, four of their most popular stations will soon be offered outside of their normal markets via HD multicast channels. Included in this pilot program will be the following:

  • WFAN-AM (Sportsradio 66 The Fan)/New York will broadcast sports programming on WOCL-FM HD3 (105.9)/Orlando, WLLD-FM HD3 (94.1)/Tampa and WEAT-FM HD3 (104.3)/West Palm Beach.
  • Alternative KROQ-FM/Los Angeles will be carried in the San Diego area via KSCF-FM HD2 (103.7).
  • KSCF-FM (Sophie @103.7) is now available to Los Angeles audiences via KAMP-FM HD2 (97.1).
  • Next month, WBZ-FM, The Sports Hub, will be available on Hartford based WTIC-FM HD3 (96.5).

Now we shall see how well the original programming scales. Will it be able to be competitive in the new markets? Could be. While localism is an important facet of radio strategy as we move forward, I have a feeling this approach could also yield results. It all comes down to providing engaging content for your audience, and I believe there is room for — and need for — both tactics.

Radio Business Report (RBR-TVBR) is always good for a bit of commentary, and their traditional “observation” on this subject is a fine one:

This should be studied—for ad sales. While some may say this is just another reason HD Radio is underperforming in many markets and that they should be programming and marketing new local format ideas, in reality, this may be very sell-able in these other markets. With HD Radio multicast channels, if you can come up with a way to monetize them, do it. We’re all still in the experimental phase here, and this is a great way to test if “super stations” from other markets can be sold locally in others.

It’s great to see companies beginning to explore the possibilities offered by HD. The capabilities of multicast in particular are very exciting because it allows and encourages experimentation with niche formats and syndication opportunities like this one.

What interesting or “out of the box” uses for HD can you think of?

Image: HD Radio Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

NPR and iBiquity Join Forces to Boost HD Radio

November 9, 2009

Ibiquity-200x92_BCEHDRHD Radio is a terrific medium that has had trouble getting momentum. One of the issues holding back progress has been the FCC-regulated power limitations, and the attendant reports of poor reception.

In a collaboration reminiscent of the “Super Hero Team-Ups” popular in comic books, NPR and iBiquity have joined forces to request that the FCC institute a fourfold npr_logo_2-thumb-200x66increase in transmitting power for FM HD Radio. This is no small thing. More power means better reception, and better reception means more use of the medium. It could also play a crucial role in the realm of portable HD players, making them more reliable and, thus, a more attractive option to consumers.

Both commercial and noncommercial stations were included in the dialogue. The data from those talks and NPR Labs’ “Advanced IBOC Coverage and Compatibility Study,” filed this week with the FCC, formed the basis of the joint recommendation. In addition to the blanket power increase, NPR and iBiquity have made a commitment to add specific enhancements to HD Radio, which include  filling gaps in signal coverage creating broadcast standards that reduce the opportunity for interference with nearby non-digital stations.

RadioInk brings us the following quotes on the subject from NPR, iBiquity, and our colleagues over at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). My own commentary appears between the quotes.

“We are delighted that the radio industry is now poised to push this technology ahead together,” iBiquity President/CEO Bob Struble said. “We’ve found practical and balanced solutions that will greatly improve reception while limiting interference to existing analog operations.” […]

Many fans of the medium will be thrilled at these improvements as they address issues frequently brought forth by critics of HD. In addition, I think we can all agree that improved reception is always a great thing when speaking of broadcast media.

NPR Labs Exec. Director Mike Starling said, “We are optimistic about the future of HD Radio broadcasting, and eager to continue to work with iBiquity on the developments that will make this power increase work to everyone’s advantage — stations, listeners, and receiver makers.” […]

Having NPR behind this speaks volumes. They’ve been at the forefront of radio’s efforts to embrace Internet technology and social media for some time now. Having public radio involved in the continued evolution and development of HD, a very young form of radio, help to point up its status as an advancement in broadcast media.

NAB EVP Dennis Wharton said, “NAB is encouraged by this consensus agreement of iBiquity and NPR for optional increased digital power for FM HD Radio stations. We urge the FCC to move quickly and allow stations to operate at increased power according to the criteria in the agreement. This will result in greatly improved indoor reception for digital signals, including multicast signals, and pave the way for greater service reliability using portable HD Radio devices.”

As the first generation of portable HD receivers is currently on the market, reliability and reception are factors that will be of vital importance for market adoption.

This looks like another jump forwards for HD radio. Personally, I’m looking forward to it. I love the options offered by its multicast capabilities in particular. We shall see how the FCC receives this request and then I shall revisit the topic.

Image: iBiquity and NPR logs / Fair Use: reporting