Radioplayer reveals hybrid digital adaptor for cars

By James Cridland for
Posted 9 September 2014, 5.56am edt

James Cridland

At the Next Radio conference yesterday, Michael Hill, the Managing Director of Radioplayer, revealed a new hybrid radio car adaptor.

There's a video that shows the device off but essentially, it's a proper hybrid radio - a device that switches between FM, DAB and IP to keep you listening to your favourite radio station. The point is that radio listeners really don't care too much about how the radio station gets to them - whatever the platformists might say - as long as they can keep listening. If you're driving between London and Bristol, this radio will simply keep you listening to Capital - whether on FM, on DAB, or on the internet. You keep your hands on the wheel, and you don't need to worry about anything else.

I described the device in an enthusiastic tweet as a "non-shit car radio", which is possibly slightly unfair to car radios, although not too unfair to my horrid factory-fit Fiat thing.

This is the promise of RadioDNS, and - given the prototype has been built by Togglebit's Andy Buckingham, a part of the team that wrote the initial RadioDNS specification, I can only assume that there's elements of RadioDNS inside: aided by, one would assume, Radioplayer's proprietary data. I look forward to seeing one in the flesh - and to the technology behind it also being placed into kitchen-top radio sets too.

As Phil Riley tweeted during Next Radio yesterday, "so glad that folk like Mike Hill are working in UK radio".

Press release

Radioplayer, the online listening platform run by the BBC and commercial radio, today (Sept 8th) unveiled a prototype hybrid car adaptor which enables listeners to get maximum choice of radio stations, with minimum tuning fuss.

Speaking at the ‘Next Radio’ Conference in London, Michael Hill, Managing Director of Radioplayer, demonstrated the technology. The device scans DAB, DAB+, FM, and internet sources, automatically selecting the best platform to deliver any station. If a signal is lost, it switches seamlessly to the same station on another platform.

The prototype in-car adaptor has been developed in conjunction with Connects2, a leading automotive audio firm based in the West Midlands. The small device, fitted behind the dashboard, is controlled by a dedicated app on the driver’s smartphone which, positioned safely in a dashboard cradle, acts as the radio interface.

Safety is a key factor in its design, which is as simple to use as a car radio. A listener can swipe anywhere on the screen to move through their pre-set stations. A voice identifies each station, to minimise distraction. A tap anywhere on the screen stops and re-starts the radio.

Using the system, drivers can also ‘Bluetooth’ their own smartphone music collections, take hands-free calls, listen safely to inbound text messages, and receive instant audio travel news, customised by GPS to their location and direction of travel.

With 20 per cent of radio listening taking place in the car, and some 27 million UK vehicles still not able to receive DAB radio, this technology could present a solution to one of the biggest hurdles faced by the radio industry, in the move towards digital.

Michael Hill, Managing Director of Radioplayer said: “We’re proud to be prototyping the next generation of radios, on behalf of the whole industry. Simplicity has always been one of the great joys of our medium, and we want to work with chip manufacturers, car companies, and audio firms to re-simplify radio”.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.