Meta-data – the best weapon in the dashboard battle

Nick Piggott,

On Tuesday we held our first Automotive / Broadcaster Workshop, where we talked about Ten Themes for implementing hybrid radio in the car. If you head over to the Workshop page, you’ll find on-demand audio/video of each of those Ten Themes and a document to download with the conclusions of each of those sessions.

As we talked, is became clear that the competitive battleground for radio is changing, and broadcasters need to adapt right now. The historic battleground of music, production and personalities is beginning to look like a zero-sum-gain fight on a battleground that’s shrinking. Car manufacturers are looking at a growing wave of content availability in the car – largely enabled by IP connectivity, but also by the ability of digital radio platforms to deliver far more choice – and working out how to make sense of that for the driver.

And the answers they’re coming up with all favour content providers who also provide rich, attractive and searchable meta-data. You may have the best breakfast show in town, but if you can’t work out how to describe that in a way that a machine, an algorithm, can understand, you will sink out of sight. If radio, as a whole industry, can’t get meta-data right, the whole medium will fade out from the dashboard.

“Meta-data” is a foreign language to many broadcasters, and the concept seems abstract and difficult to contextualise in a traditional radio production model.

We talked about the companies who are providing solutions to this problem, who can make sense of the meta-data that broadcasters have and can provide recommendation engines to manufacturers. It’s good that there’s a number of them, because that creates competition for innovation and customers.

This is relevant to RadioDNS for two reasons.

Firstly, everyone agreed that IP is the absolutely the best way to deliver all this additional data to the car, and RadioDNS provides a trusted and open way of linking broadcast and IP.

Secondly, and more importantly, RadioDNS’ standards establish for IP the same degree of freedom and interoperability that broadcasters and manufacturers expect today from broadcast radio. If you buy in a technical system that is compliant to RadioDNS’ standards, you can be confident it will work with all the other systems, and you have the freedom to change to another supplier without any risk.

Here’s a diagram to illustrate what that means.

As long as you buy in technology that has the RadioDNS standard interfaces – the green line in this diagram – it doesn’t matter what lies behind it. RadioDNS will soon be launching our certification system, which will validate those interfaces and allow only those products and services that pass testing to claim RadioDNS functionality.

Tuesday’s discussion was wide-ranging, and exposed some very important questions that need to be answered by both broadcasters and manufacturers. However, there was unanimity that radio must use IP connectivity to the car to deliver more meta-data about radio content, and that we must protect the open and interoperable concept of broadcast radio, and RadioDNS is at the centre of both those objectives.