Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

Nashville Readies for Personal People Meter Fueled Changes

June 28, 2010

Nashville, Tennessee, has just become the 44th market nationally to adopt Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM) for measuring radio listenership. Considering the readings taken by the device in other markets, it is not surprising that people in Nashville are bracing for a change in the distribution of advertising funds.

As The Tennessean reports:

“It’s going to shake up the ratings and how stations are perceived by advertisers,” said Dennis Gwiazdon, president of the Nashville Area Radio Organization and vice president and general manager of South Central Media, which owns Mix 92.9 (WJXA-FM) and 96.3 JACK-FM (WCJK-FM).

“It’s definitely going to force the programming departments to be more judicious in what they play on the air.”

There is certainly precedent for this stance. Just take a look at the numbers produced for The Sean Hannity Show, which experienced a 20% drop in ratings across multiple markets after the introduction of the PPM. The Tennessean article details several more examples of a similar nature:

In Detroit, Breakfast Club morning show hosts Kevin O’Neill and Lisa Barry found themselves without a job in April when the Clear Channel-owned WNIC-FM switched to a music intensive format after PPM ratings showed the formerly No. 1 morning show was coming in at No. 11 among 35- to 64-year-old

A sample audience of 754 Nashville residents put on their PPMs and began collecting data a few days ago.  The results will be compiled and previewed by advertisers and station managers in August and then released to the public in October.

Image: Silenus81 / CC 2.0

CBS CEO Still Bullish on Radio

March 3, 2010

The Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom conference in San Francisco has given us a fantastic comment on radio’s place in the media landscape of the modern age.  CBS Corporation CEO Les Moonves was put on the spot when an attendee asked why CBS is not divorcing themselves  from radio and outdoor  in light of the “disruptive” new technologies presented by mobile and the Internet. Without missing a beat, Moonves laid it out for them (as reported in Radio Business Report):

“There are the same amount of people listening to terrestrial radio today as 10 years ago – it hasn’t gone down one iota with satellite radio or whatever. We have been able to put our radio online. It’s become very successful, as I mentioned. It’s working hand-in-hand with our Interactive Group and Last.FM. It’s become very successful. The radio sales guys are not only selling their air time, they’re selling the online time as well, so it’s proven to be a big boon. I think what’s happened is you don’t eliminate those businesses, you move them into the future. I think that’s what’s happened with every single one of our content businesses – is just learn how to use it and use it properly so…it’s not the same game as it was, but in certain instances it is. Radio still generates a hugeamount of cash for us. You know, and cash is a very good thing. I don’t care what business you’re in. So we believe in it. If we could trim radio down a little bit, we would probably do that. We like being a major market radio player, but it’s still a very solid business. And as they work with the Interactive, it will be for the future as well,” Moonves said.

That comment points out one consistent fallacy that I find in discussions of radio’s future: the idea that radio and Internet technologies are mutually exclusive. It is simply a matter of finding the correct synergies between the old and new media to make them effective in the modern world. Radio will always have a solid grip on the offline world; its completely free programming and ubiquitous presence will see to that. Now is the age when it spreads its influence to the digital world.

It’s funny. I wonder where the idea of competing as opposed to complimentary technologies got started. I suppose it is an easy reflex to discount the old in favor of the new and sexy; in this case, the Internet. Just because the reflex is easy does not make it an accurate reaction. It is always a good idea, no matter what business you are in, to look for synergies, and those are not always immediately obvious.

Image: CBS Radio Logo / Fair Use: Reporting

UK: Digital Radio Boasts Touchscreen, App Store, Social Media

November 16, 2009

pure-sensia-radio_smallSomething very interesting is happening in the United Kingdom.  Stores in the UK will be debuting a new digital radio this week that wants to be a whole scale digital portal.  Following in the footsteps of the iPhone, it boasts some of the features that seem to have most captured the imagination of its users: Touchscreen, an app store and social media! Its called the Sensia and its made by Pure.

So right off the bat, we have Twitter with Facebook to be included in a near future update. Facebook integration is of immense importance due to the size of its userbase alone. If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s 4th largest, between the United States and Indonesia. Social networking at the core of the device is something I am very pleased to see. What will be interesting is the options available in the app store and how rapidly that inventory is expanded. (I’ll be keeping my eyes on that one and reporting back.)

Here’s a statement from an article in The Times:

Hossain Yassiae, chief executive of Imagination, which owns Pure, said: “Pure’s job is to run in front of the bullet train. Radios can act as a base station for everything else in the home. We need Pure to go beyond audio and into areas like power metering, traffic information and security.”

Granted, when they speak of radio here, they are referring to Britain’s digital radio, but I’m sure that this sort of device could be re-engineered to work with HD, which is also a pure digital signal.

The interface is also a welcome advance. Devices like the iPhone have already trained a lot of us to appreciate the Star Trek: The Next Generation-style touchscreens like the Sensia boasts. Google some of the reviews and you’ll see the theme of “ease of use” pop up frequently. Add in the level of customization you have with a decent app store and we’ve got a device straight out of The Jetsons. It even looks like it.

This is something important, and I’ll be watching its development. I have a distinct feeling this could be brought to our “side of the pond” to great effect. I’ll report any new developments or metrics on this subject as I get them. If anyone in the UK happens to read this, I’d love any firsthand reviews you might be willing to share!

Image: Touch My Radio / Fair use: Reporting

Briefcase Broadcasting: The Smallest FM Station Ever

October 28, 2009

kenyaPicture if you will a radio station that can fit in a briefcase. Sounds like something out of The Jetsons, doesn’t it? It’s not. As a matter of fact, the first 30 of them are already deployed to Ghana, the Togolese Republic, and Nigeria. Welcome to the world of portable broadcasting!

The Wantox FM Station seems to be an impressive device. Weighing in at 18 kilograms, it is miniscule when compared to the rooms full of gear one usually thinks of when visualizing a radio station.  Now, just to be clear: there are comparable radio devices already in existence, mostly in use by various military and field organization, but this one has been engineered to be more compact and more cost-effective. The latter in particular is highly important in the Third World environments in which it is to be used.

Peter Onguti, a Kenyan born Canadian, is the mind behind this portable wonder. The idea came as the result of discovering just how expensive it is to set up a full radio station.

Via The Standard (Nairobi):

“I was shocked when I learnt that for an investor to set up a radio station one had to part with a minimum of Sh5 million [Somali Shilling] just to buy equipment,” he says.

After flying back to Canada, he interested his partners into coming up with a small, and cost-effective radio station kit for a growing broadcast market.

“Two engineers, Ron Robins and Yves Maynard took more than two years to come up with a prototype of a small radio station,” Onguti says.

[…] Onguti says the station, Conexe Inc, is suited for Africa and the Third World as it is cost-effective, easy to install and can be powered by solar, electricity and even a car battery.

Portability combined with low-cost and ease of use. That’s a powerful trio of characteristics. In addition, the unit has five separate input channels so that one can plug a laptop, CD player, or iPod directly into it. It also includes five tape recorder player mics and a telephone hookup that allows it to broadcast phone-in programming.  While the baseline unit only has a range of about 30 miles, there is another slightly bulkier one that boasts a 100-mile range and Onguti says they are working on one whose broadcast radius should cover the nation.  Onguti has certainly set his eye upon rebooting broadcast, and not just radio either. His company, Conexe Inc., is also working on a similar briefcase-sized TV station.

I can see this being effective not only in the Third World, but also in disaster zones, war zones, and a wide variety of situations.  Another thing to consider is how this will affect the radio landscape beyond the Third World. Many of the most ubiquitous and substantive changes of recent decades have centered around portability and shrinking size.  One only has to look at the way smart phones have changed the listening landscape to see that. I’m curious to see what effect portable stations have as they become more common and financially accessible.

Share your speculations with us. What do you think will be the ramifications as this device mainstreams?

Image: collinj / CC BY 2.0

Samsung, IMEC Team to Turn Radio Green

May 19, 2009

greenGreen is the color most frequently heard in the newscasts of today. It’s not just a pretty color, it’s also the name of the movement toward a more eco-friendly stance in a variety of arenas. In this case the arena in question is radio.

South Korean chip maker Samsung has just signed off on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with their prior collaborators, the IMEC, to jointly work on green technology for radio. IMEC is a huge nonotechnology research center in Beligium that has been working on “green radio” for years. The terms of the MOU cover research on communications technologies including cognitive reconfigurable radio baseband and millimeter-wave wireless. (FYI: “Cognitive radio” is the term used for integrated chips that adapt to environmental variables such as changes in frequencies, indoor/outdoor conditions, signal strength and movement.)

This should be a good fit. These two companies have been working together on various projects for quite some time now. The relationship began in 2004, when they partnered on sub-32-nm CMOS. Then, in 2005, they took on multi-mode multimedia research together. In 2007, ubiquitous embedded systems were the name of the game. I guess you could say they have history.

Gail Flower, a contributing editor at Electronic Design News (EDN), reports that the two companies not only have a shared history of collaboration, but also a common environmentalist background:

IMEC already has an established green radio program that supports major standards for wireless communications covering cognitive radios. […]

Meanwhile, in March of this year, Samsung announced a shift towards green-oriented innovative products as a general plan to help increase sales. One product already introduced includes an ultra-slim LCD line using LED backlighting technology for HCTVs and using up to 40% less power than conventional TVs without the technology.

While a lot of the applications for this sort of research will be aimed at the mobile market, I can see definite advantages for radio at all levels. First, there is the fact that mobile is radio’s new frontier so most mobile research will end up benefiting broadcast radio tangentially. Second there is the fact that cognitive radio chips can be used for many things including making traditional radio (possibly even HD, as well) more reliable and thus more accessible.

Hats off to them, after all it’s not easy being green!

Photo courtesy of stonethestone, used under its Creative Commons license

Captioned Radio Allows Deaf to Participate in Obama Victory

November 6, 2008

obama

As the nation looked on, History was made, history with a capital “H.” People were glued to radio, TV, the Internet, and often several of these media at once. It was one for the books, ending earlier than expected and with landmark speeches from both sides at the close. In Maryland, there was one very special group that tuned in.

Via Maryland Newsline‘s Laurie White:

About 30 deaf and hearing-impaired people visited National Public Radio headquarters election night to watch the words of the station’s returns as they scrolled across a screen.

NPR partners with Towson University and Harris Corp. to provide accessible radio for deaf and hearing-impaired people through a high-definition radio and captioning system.

NPR Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Mike Starling said that stations in Baltimore, Boston, Phoenix and Denver,  in addition to American University’s WAMU, broadcast on election night with this technology.

I cannot think of a better way for this to debut! History in the making across so many levels, with radio in there (ubiquitous as always) delivering a first of its own. I can only imagine the mindset of the people in that test audience.

The youngest President. The first biracial President. The first social media-driven campaign. A total sweep as a new party assumes control. And radio with subtitles.

It’s music to my eyes!

Photo courtesy of Jetheriot used under its Creative Commons license

Radio Nanotechnology Revisited

October 24, 2008

Back in January, I wrote a bit about some advances in nanotechnology, specifically the debut of the world’s smallest radio, thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Almost a year later, nanotech has returned to the news and once more, radio is a keyword.

According to Radio News Online‘s Ed Ritchie, the “technology of the tiny” is about to “rock the radio industry.” In his new article, Ritchie speaks with Dr. Peter Burke, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California in Irvine, about the issues with bringing this technology to the public and the reasons why radio is the research focus at the moment. Burke’s team was the group in October of ’07 that unveiled the world’s first working radio system that could receive radio waves wirelessly and convert them to sound signals through a nano-sized detector.

Via Mr. Ritchie’s article on 10/22/08:

Moreover, the [original] study shattered doubts about the feasibility of manufacturing nano-scale radio component, ones that could lead to a “truly integrated nano-scale wireless communications system.”

In fact, just such a system was recently announced by John Rogers, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois.

Rogers developed a nanotube-transistor radio system based on a heterodyne receiver design consisting of four capacitively coupled stages: an active resonant antenna, two radio-frequency amplifiers and an audio amplifier. Headphones were plugged directly into the output of a nanotube transistor. The design incorporated seven nanotube transistors into each radio. During the demonstration, researchers tuned to WBAL(AM) at 1090 kHz in Baltimore and heard a traffic report.

Making the tiniest radio isn’t the ultimate goal for Rogers. Instead, the nanotube radio represents a milestone for proving that the technology is commercially competitive.

In benchmarking studies against silicon, measurements indicated significant advantages in comparably scaled devices. The ongoing research in nanotechnology has produced evidence that carbon nanotube transistors can be used for manufacturing low-power, high-speed transistors.

If you think radio is ubiquitous now, just wait until this tech really gets some legs. This level of miniaturization, especially once it can be done inexpensively, will allow radio to exist everywhere. Think for a moment about a radio that exists as one of the threads in a sweater or a jacket. There is no appreciable mass other than a jack to plug headphones into. That is only the beginning. Carbon tube technology will revolutionize anything with a transistor in much the same way we see social media effecting every level of the Internet. Make no mistake, radio is the starting point, but the ripple effect of this research will affect everything.

I cannot wait to see what will evolve from this. We truly are living in the future!

Image courtesy of stannate, used under its Creative Commons license

Pirate Radio at the Beijing Olympics

August 8, 2008

Radio has reach, lots of reach. It can extend pretty much anywhere there is atmosphere. Reporters Without Borders made use of this aspect of broadcast Friday morning when they kicked off a 20-minute Mandarin-language protest via a pirate radio broadcast across Beijing. Transmitted over the FM band, the transmission started around 8:15am Beijing time Friday. The show called for the release of more than 100 Chinese citizens jailed for writing news and opinion, mostly over the Internet. (An English language version of the audio can be accessed here.)

Via The Economic Times:

The broadcast condemned the Communist Party’s grip on news media. “China is a strictly censored country and our goal in making this broadcast is to criticise the Chinese government,” a Chinese-language announcer told listeners, many no doubt puzzled to hear broadcast of a popular spoken-word novel interrupted.

The last part, the one about interrupting a spoken word broadcast, seems to be a bit under dispute. Andrew Batson, who writes The China Journal Blog for The Wall Street Journal seems to be of a different opinion.

The Wall Street Journal called stations in the city including Beijing Radio, Central Radio and China Radio International to see if they noticed this hijacking of the airwaves. It turns out that none of these stations broadcast on the 104.4 FM frequency. So would any listeners have been tuned into that frequency this morning?

I’m sure the issue of how far the program’s reach actually was is one that will be over- or understated no matter who you talk to. I doubt we will see the Portable People Meter used in this case. Of course the Beijing radio stations may not be the most reliable source of info considering the climate there for media pros. Anyway, let’s return to the statement from The Economic Times that I interrupted with that aside:

“We want to tell the Chinese government that on the day that the Olympics open, the people will still be able to hear voices the government doesn’t want heard.” Vincent Brossel, a Paris-based spokesman for the group, said it timed the on-air challenge to coincide with the final build-up to the Beijing Games opening on Friday evening.

“It’s 12 hours before the opening of the Olympics — a time when we want these voices heard,” he said by telephone. The group said the broadcast was the first out of state control in China since 1949, when the Communist Party established power.

While the Internet is an incredible tool for mobilizing people and sharing information that some want kept under wraps, with broadcast there is no real way to track down the listeners. In an arena where freedom of speech is often a jail-able offense, listening is far, far safer than surfing.

All in all, it is reminiscent of last March when a member of this same group interrupted the ceremonial lighting of the Games torch in Greece. Mr. Brossel said they had used foreign volunteers to bring in FM transmitter piecemeal over several weeks so as to elude customs. “FM broadcasting technology is easy,” he said. “If we cannot protest physically in Beijing we will still be there.”

Photo courtesy of http2007, used under its Creative Commons license

Next Gen Tech: Setting the Regulatory Framework

August 4, 2008

It’s no secret that the age of the Internet is ushering in a vast new array of technologies. In radio we are very well aware of this, as evolution into an online presence provides new challenges and new opportunities almost daily. Of course as these brand spanking new ideas debut, inevitably and in fairly short order, new regulation comes hot on their heels.

Via Market Watch:

On October 29, 2008, as part of the SDR 08 Technical Conference and Product Exposition “SDR 2.0 – Entering the Mainstream” being held in Washington, D.C., the SDR Forum will host a workshop to explore the regulatory challenges inherent in software defined and cognitive radio and look at ways for better regulating the technology to benefit both the industry and the end-users the industry serves.

This should be of great interest to all who are paying attention to the way that these new technologies are impacting the radio industry. In a session moderated by Eydt titled “SDR 2.0 Certification and Accreditation: Do existing processes need reform?” the focus will be on how industry will adapt to new technological capabilities. In addition it will also look at the important issue of how this will impact future certification and accreditation processes. There will be a second session, also moderated by Eydt, titled “Pointing the finger: How should governments assign liability to promote the success of next generation radio technology?” The final session of the day will address a landscape in flux during the chaos of election season: “What Should the Incoming US Administration Do To Promote The Success of Next Generation Radio Technology?” This one will be moderated by Lee Pucker, CEO of the SDR Forum.

Many more luminaries from within the industry will be there. A complete list is available on the press release. Whatever else, it will be extremely interesting to see what comes out of this weekend.

Photo courtesy of jared, used under its Creative Commons license

NAB Show: The Expo Floor

April 16, 2008

A truly stupendous array of broadcast technology is on display here in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, ranging from appliances that integrate metadata into broadcast to a wide variety of station automation software. After spending hours walking around the showroom floor, I must confess to being amazed at the offerings on display this week.

Here is a quick survey of a few of the interesting developments I have been privy on this trip (in no particular order):

Enco introduced one of my personal favorite devices I have seen so far: RAMA. Integrating the cutting edge world of Internet technology with traditional radio is a subject near and dear to my heart, so seeing the debut of the world’s first metadata delivery appliance is certainly a high point on a personal level. Named to honor the recently passed science fiction luminary Arthur C. Clarke, this little gadget is impressive. Smaller than your average router, it allows remote administration, a high degree of backwards compatibility with older broadcast tech, and is platform agnostic. Plug and play is the word of the day for these guys!

25-Seven brings us rackmount unit for audio time management. The demonstration was impressive. This unit basically speeds up the playback of audio. They manage to avoid the fuzziness or perceptible speed up that similar efforts always seem to produce. At a 10% speedup, that creates an additional six minutes of time each hour that can be used for whatever the station desires be it advertising, PSAs, or something else.

Nautel came down from Nova Scotia loaded for bear with a variety of engineering marvels. Their NV40 FM transmitter has the highest single cabinet output of any FM broadcast transmitter at 44kW! It is also very compact for a device of its nature. This combined with their new HD radio solutions make for quite the technological one-two punch.

There is much, much more and I will be sharing it with you soon. While I’ve been surveying the show’s offerings, I have been connecting with the various innovators here. In the near future, I will be doing individual posts on some of the more interesting and useful advances as well as the companies that are producing them.

In the meantime stay tuned, more overviews of the new tech as well as announcements and news are yet to come. Look for a post soon about what the Google team has brought with them!

Photo by George “Loki” Williams, shot on location at the NABShow for Radio2020