| Developers are working to build a more powerful ‘ecosystem’ for HD Radio.
A group of companies, charged by NAB Labs with embedding a working FM HD Radio chip in a cellphone and developing an HD Radio app, has done so and gone much further.
They say they've closed the so-called "backchannel," the ecosystem for making it possible for a consumer to interact with an FM HD Radio station through his or her mobile device.
That core group of companies — iBiquity Digital, Emmis Interactive and Intel, working with BIA/Kelsey — demonstrated prototype ZTE cellphones with embedded FM HD Radio chips Monday on the exhibit floor. They also demonstrated an end-to-end platform that provides an advanced HD Radio smartphone app and the next generation of TagStation, the broadcast insertion system that powers it all.
Emmis Communications Chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan, who's been trying to convince cellphone carriers to embed and activate FM HD Radio chips in mobile devices for about four years, said, "We think this gives us the opportunity to compete in every appliance out there" — cellphones, media players, tablets and cars, for example.
With the TagStation product from Emmis Interactive, broadcasters can insert and track ads and associated data from the automation system to broadcast. "This changes the game for HD," said Rey Mena, founder and co-president of Emmis Interactive. The industry supports the effort to standardize how HD Radio ads would look on mobile devices and how consumers can interact with those ads, he said.
By clicking on the so-called thunderbolt-shaped "action button" on the device, the user can perform a variety of functions, from getting a QR code or making a purchase.
At the station, with the TagStation user interface, personnel can see the ads coming into a system; change the associated image with that ad; and, most useful, track what consumers do with those ads.
The next step is convincing carriers to go along with the concept. Smulyan said that is the priority for the radio industry and NAB. Asked when the new cellphones could be in stores, Smulyan said "soon."
"This is a 21st century user experience," Smulyan said.