What’s Next for the Vehicle Dashboard?

by Chris Byrnes – ByrnesMedia 

At the recent NAB show, there was a lot of interest in the new product released by Xperi. They are the HD Radio people, who tell me there are now 2,500 HD radio stations on the air in the USA, Canada and Mexico, and 55 million vehicles on North American roads with HD radios.

In April 2018, Xperi partnered with Radioplayer Worldwide who are one of the world’s leading streaming radio content aggregation platforms, and the same platform now used by the majority of Canadian radio stations.

The goal of this collaboration was to integrate Radioplayer stations into the DTS Connected Radio ecosystem and offer a hybrid radio experience to cars of the future. The Worldwide Radioplayer API is one of over 30 content sources that Xperi aggregates into the DTS Connected Radio system and helps to ensure broadcaster control of content and information on a global basis. The DTS Connected Radio platform will enable an engaging in-car radio experience because the system automatically enhances listeners’ favourite stations across AM, FM HD and DAB. As well as enabling ‘hybrid’ switching between broadcast and streaming as reception varies.  The new data feed can power next-generation features such as personalized radio recommendations, search results, and catch-up content.

Utilizing an IP connection installed in a vehicle, DTS Connected Radio delivers an innovative analog and digital (DAB and HD Radio®) AM/FM experience by pairing broadcast programming with IP-delivered content. DTS Connected Radio aggregates metadata, such as artist and song information, on-air radio program information, station contact information and more, directly from broadcasters around the world to deliver an enhanced, cohesive visual experience in the vehicle.

The DTC connected radio will inject 3 types of data from radio stations: static, dynamic and Stream URL’s.

Static data is information that does not change and may include frequency, city of license, format type, station logos and slogans. This is controlled by the radio stations and ends up as a single API which is delivered to the vehicle entertainment stack. This will work no matter where the vehicle is located in the world. It is designed to make the over-the-air signal experience richer, as it helps with the discovery process and is searchable. For example, this means you can be in Toronto and ask for a list of all the CHR stations in that market and decide which station you want to listen to.

Dynamic Data: This is much more than the song that is playing on the radio. The BBC is using this to push a lot of additional information that can show up on the entertainment stack. “The BBC has a long history of supporting emerging technologies and services related to our content,” said Bob Shennan, Director of Radio and Music at the BBC. “The world of content distribution is rapidly changing, and we believe that audiences and radio are best served by a mixed economy; we also need to protect radio in the car and ensure it is able to thrive in the hybrid world of the connected dashboard.”

Utilizing an IP connection installed in a vehicle, DTS Connected Radio delivers an innovative analog FM and digital (DAB and HD Radio®) experience by pairing broadcast programming with IP-delivered content. DTS Connected Radio aggregates metadata, such as on-air radio program and talent information, artist and song information, station contact information and more, directly from broadcasters around the world to deliver an enhanced in-vehicle radio experience.

NPR is also using this tool to send segment level data. This is also searchable which means if you are looking for information on the Toronto Blue Jays, you can ask your radio to find a station that is playing the current Blue Jays game. This could extend to advertisers, which means the station and client can send enhanced meta data to enable the listener to interact with the touch screen to claim a voucher or click on a phone number to talk directly to the advertiser to perhaps get additional information on a specific offer mentioned in the ad.

Xperi will be able to report how many vehicle radios, using their system, were tuned to your station when that advertiser massage was played. DTS tell me that this will be driven by the broadcast industry but limited to what the car companies are comfortable allowing to happen. Xperi are talking to both sets of stake holders to determine how best to use the technology, but this could offer some real benefits to the stations and the advertisers.

Stream URL’s: This is the cool part of this platform, in my view. When a vehicle gets beyond the terrestrial FM signal, the system will search for the internet stream for that radio station and connect the vehicle to that stream, allowing the user to continue to listen. Given most stations have a delay on their internet stream, the link will not be seamless. But if you have your favourite radio stations saved on your pre-sets you will be able to listen to that station no matter where the vehicle is located.

If the audio content is the same, the switching will happen when the over the air signal is deemed to be unlistenable. The system will switch automatically, but there will be a few seconds of audio either lost or repeated as this change happens. The audio stream will stay connected for the remainder of that listening steam even if the vehicle drives back into the FM coverage area, but this will ultimately be controlled by car manufacturer, so things could change. When the broadcaster sends a different audio feed to their stream, then the system will make a decision based on pre-defined rules, set in part by the broadcasters and the car company.

Xperi is the umbrella company that is rolling out DTS Connected Radio. They are quickly becoming the broadcast advocate working with 44 major car companies and their tier one suppliers to try and ensure that radio will remain prominent on the entertainment stack and ensure the future is bright for broadcast radio.

Also at the NAB in the North Hall was Audi who were showing off their version of the Audi connect® Internet Radio. The user can use the Web Radio and Media Library functions to receive broadcasts from more than 3,000 internet radio stations, save personal favourites and play them back via the MMI navigation plus system. New vehicles equipped with Audi connect® come with all of the Connect services for a six-month trial period, and they you’ll need to pay between $35 and $40 a month for the Audi connect® services. Audi are the first to offer what they call “Hybrid Radio” which enables the user to listen to a local FM radio station, but as the car gets beyond the stable listening area, the system will look for and automatically tune to the on-line version of that radio station. You can also search by country, style or a specific station.

The DTC Connected Radio will offer enhanced functionality for smart speakers and connected TV’s as well.

We will not see DTS Connected Radio until the 2020 calendar year at your local car dealership.

HD Radio does work well in radio. There will be all digital AM radio stations which will work in an EV vehicle, but there is still some work to be done to make this efficient in EV vehicles.

One of the immediate benefits for broadcasters is that there are over 50 million vehicles on the road in the US and almost 3 million vehicles on the road in Canada today with more and more vehicles coming out in the 2020 models.