Keeping Radio Connected In The Car

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Once upon a time there was a music metadata company known for providing song names and album titles to a wide variety of streaming audio and on-demand listening platforms, including iTunes. The keeper of this giant database is Gracenote, the Emeryville, Calif.-based entity that was recently acquired by Nielsen.

For four years before that, it was a Tribune Media-owned entity known for its large video metadata database. Among its capabilities was shifting the television programming guide from paper to electronic delivery. Then, Gracenote combined its video and music capabilities, and started a sports data business.

Now, thanks to its recent wedding with Nielsen, Gracenote is ready to bring its “infotainment” services to life, working with all of the nation’s automakers in ensuring that radio doesn’t lose its front-and-center place in the connected car while bringing “app-like” visuals to the more than 110 million vehicles Gracenote data is already in.

“With the connected car, it is vitally important and a great opportunity to bring radio into the foreground to remain competitive,” Ashley Adams, Product Manager for Automotive at Gracenote, told Radio Ink in an exclusive demonstration of Gracenote’s new in-dash capabilities at the 2018 NAB Show in Las Vegas. “This is a great opportunity to bring radio into the foreground, to remain competitive,” she says. “There are more screens, and bigger screens. It’s great timing for radio to become better integrated in the connected car.”

Adams’ team is charged with something broadcast radio station owners will be pleased to know. “We help drivers find radio stations by logos, branding and other metadata,” she says.

How does this get delivered to the vehicle? Don’t worry about more encoding of signals or a next gen RDS system, Radio. Gracenote uses the broadcast signal reach of a station, and the location of the car, to combine signal contour and regional maps downloaded via WiFi technology to the in-dash player.

“Radio stations don’t have to lift a finger,” Adams says. “We do all of the work for them.” What if your station just changed formats, or call letters? Not to worry, as 1,200 editors at Gracenote across all data divisions are working to ensure all of the data is searchable, discoverable and accurate. Song identification is not RDS, either, and relies on Gracenote’s database and information delivered by WiFi.

While Gracenote is platform-agnostic and it is up to each automaker to distinguish the look of their in-dash entertainment system from another, automatic content recognition (ACR) is key to what will keep radio’s “button” pushed when drivers and passengers hit the road.

Adams offered a reporter a demonstration of how the new technology works. In doing so, she revealed that Gracenote is the first tech company to bring terrestrial radio to Apple’s CarPlay. Gracenote is also working with Google. This is huge news for CarPlay users. Until now, they had to unplug CarPlay to get to terrestrial radio stations.

“We have a solution,” Adams notes. “It allows automakers to provide customization.”

That includes being able to continue listening to a station should its over-the-air signal fade; an audio stream will replace it, she says. “We are giving automakers the tools to create a unified face for radio.”

Adam Jacobson, special to Radio Ink

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