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Hybrid radio: what your radio station needs to know

RadioDNS Hybrid Radio is now pre-installed in Samsung phones: here is how to configure it for your station

Samsung release new phones all the time - as you'd expect from the world's largest smartphone manufacturer. Most Samsung phones have FM chips inside them; and the new Samsung Galaxy Express 2 LTE, the Galaxy Core Advance, and the Galaxy Grand 2 include a new, improved, FM tuner app with hybrid radio technology. You can watch a full demonstration here.

This is a great opportunity for broadcasters across the world to improve their listener experience: and all for free. You can get it up and running relatively quickly; and you're entirely in control. As a founder of RadioDNS, I'd be keen for you to get your station on the system, so your FM broadcasts look as great as they sound.

Why FM radio?
Samsung's new FM tuner app picks up FM radio, as you'd expect. FM radio has a lot of advantages over streaming - it's much better for battery use (7 times better) and doesn't use any of your bandwidth allocation. In Australia and the US, FM is also good news for broadcasters, who pay extra for online streaming.

What does hybrid radio mean?
Hybrid radio is where you use the benefits of broadcast radio and the internet together. The new FM tuner app in these new Samsungs will do the following:
- display additional visual information when listening: images of the current artist, the current presenter, travel, weather, or whatever you want it to
- easily click through to websites: the station website, advertisers, or buy-now functionality
- flick between the FM and internet streams: on-demand or automatically. Great for keeping a listener with your station, wherever they are

How can you enable this for your station?
- The link between the app and your radio station is handled by RadioDNS. It uses information already present in your broadcast signal, like your FM RDS information. You need to ensure you have a listing in the RadioDNS system. Radio station engineers and the IT team should work together and contact the RadioDNS team. There's documentation here.
- The visual information is done by a service called RadioVIS. These are images directly from your radio station. If your website is run by someone like G-Media, they probably are already producing the visuals for you. If not, there are other third party companies who can help; or you can implement it yourself over STOMP or COMET.
- The switching between FM and internet is done by a service called RadioEPG. This is an XML document which you host on your website: very similar to the EPG standard for DAB and DRM. There's documentation here, and again, the RadioDNS project team can help you.

How much is this?
Listings in the RadioDNS system are currently free.
It's free to produce visuals which you host, or you can pay someone else to sort that for you.
It's free to do the RadioEPG document, or you can pay someone else to make that for you.
For mobile phone or radio manufacturers, it's free to put into the device.

Is it just Samsung phones?
RadioVIS is on the PURE Sensia, the Revo Axis, and a few other radio receivers. Because of the lack of a standard API into the FM tuner on Android, there's no easy way to add this to other phones. Some earlier Samsung Galaxy phones will work with FM TwoO, a more technical radio tuner intended for testing. Or, if you just want to see what the RadioVIS services look like, you can use the RadioVIS Demo, a nice debug tool. RadioVIS also works with the NextRadio app for some US phones.

Is it just FM?
On phones, yes. But RadioDNS works happily with DAB and DAB+; and should work well with DRM and HD. When these platforms come to the phone, you can expect your visuals to display there, too.

I'm not part of RadioDNS these days; but am delighted to see the continued take-up of the technology. It's quite a nice feeling to know that, in a year's time, there'll be hundreds of thousands of people walking around with technology that I've helped build in their pockets.

James Cridland is the Managing Director of Media UK, and 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.
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Recommendations: 0
Glyn Roylance

Is it just FM?
On phones, yes

I understand that most chipsets in current phones have DAB, DVB, HDR built-in. So it need not be long until a phone manufacturer breaks-ranks and launches a DAB-capable handset – probably as a USP before Christmas, or in current Mobile World Congress I’d imagine. The only need to add an antenna and RF front-end.

Recommendations: 0
Art Grainger

Please can that be soon? I’m fed up losing Radio 5 at three particular points on my daily commute and having to wait for up to half a minute (and usually at a really interesting point in the program) whilst it buffers over 3G.

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Credits: Photo Samsung