As an emerging low-cost platform for distributing content and services to passenger vehicles, HD Radio technology has been sneaking up on the automotive and consumer electronics industry for about six years. In that brief time, the company has created a minor sensation in spite of the fact that most of the added value elements of the technology have yet to be deployed and tier one suppliers are only now beginning to master the user interface for automotive implementations.
Suffice it to say that iBiquity Digital has succeeded in spite of the limitations of early product executions. But the next wave of product promises more dramatic gains as OEMs bring their interfaces up to speed and hardware makers deliver on the enabling technology for conditional access and other value-added services.
IBiquity Digital has overcome the classic chicken-and-egg quandary, simultaneously convincing device makers and broadcasters to take a leap of faith and get on board the HD Radio technology express. In the six years since beginning its campaign, iBiquity Digital has recruited thousands of radio stations and their broadcast company parents to add the HD Radio signals, convinced portable and home electronics hardware makers to bring devices to market, and drawn in more than a dozen car makers to add HD Radio technology to their line-fit options portfolios.
Today, in the U.S., there are 1,967 stations broadcasting using HD Radio technology in 250 U.S. markets including 197 of the top 200, reaching 247M listeners. In addition, there are 1,128 multicasts, additional stations within the existing HD Radio bandwidth, with nearly equivalent reach. There are dozens of home and aftermarket automotive systems equipped with HD Radio technology – including an iPhone add-on and an integration on the latest Microsoft Zune. Significantly, many if not most of the aftermarket automotive systems include HD Radio technology as standard whereas competing satellite radio capabilities are typically optional.
Within the automotive realm, HD Radio technology has rocketed from being available on two brands and seven models (none of them standard) in MY07 to 16 brands and 87 models (34 of them standard fit) in MY10. The outlook is for 19 brands to be offering HD Radio technology on 122 models in 2012 with 65 of those models offering the technology as standard.
By now, most people in the electronics industry are painfully familiar with the extended product life cycles and correspondingly slow decision-making in the automotive industry. In this context, iBiquity’s success has extraordinary. The rapid rise, however, has spawned poorly executed user interfaces with inscrutable and non-intuitive designs. (Doubly unfortunate is the fact that some of the poorest HD Radio interfaces are offered in high-end luxury vehicles.)
IBiquity provided limited user interface guidance at its inception, but has since taken more of a position in providing suggested device interfaces. Customers are still left to their own preferences, for the most part, though industry participants will be wise to heed any direction from iBiquity. In the end, if customers cannot fathom the interface the added value will be lost.
As HD Radio technology moves into the next phase of its global campaign – and make no mistake that the effort is a global one – it is worth taking a look at the services that are
Current services include:
Program Service Data – Song, Artist, Album, Genre, Comment, Commercial
Album Art – Station logo, Album art, Advertising
Premium Content – Data, Concerts and sports programs, Opt-in Adult content, etc.
Additional services in development include:
As for the scope of iBiquity’s efforts and ambitions they indeed span the globe. Countries that have adopted HD Radio technology with nationwide implementation include Puerto Rico, Panama and the U.S. Countries that have adopted the technology with regional operation include Mexico and Brazil. Countries that are characterized by iBiquity as being in testing with advanced interest include Canada, Argentina, Chile, Romania, China, Vietnam, South Korea, Uruguay, Colombia, Poland and the Czech Republic. The company describes several European countries as having a strong interest in the technology.
If iBiquity has had this much success with a limited offering delivered in hastily configured packages, one can only imagine the results that await the company as the second and third generation products arrive with added value services and enhanced interfaces. Among the most remarkable executions demonstrated recently at the Consumer Electronics Show was the HD Radio integration in the MyFordTouch, just a hint of what is to come.