Tue. Apr 23rd, 2019

Autonomous Cars Could Mean More Profit, Less Content

“The presentation outlined how HD Radio can be used to generate profit for stations beyond just putting up a second signal that is a straight ESPN Radio feed or a very niche music format.”

I just finished listening to Ashruf El Denary speak at the NAB Show. He is with Xperi Corp and has done extensive research and development in HD Radio. His presentation today focused on what HD radio could mean in a future filled with self-driving vehicles.

El Denary’s presentation was not packed, and honestly that was a huge loss for everyone not in the room. So many panels at this conference have been about the opportunities and changes coming as the availability of 5G becomes more prevalent. El Denary’s presentation was all about how HD Radio can take advantage of 5G’s weak spots, namely the lack of infrastructure and security.

The presentation outlined how HD Radio can be used to generate profit for stations beyond just putting up a second signal that is a straight ESPN Radio feed or a very niche music format.

El Denary talked about radio at its roots being a public service. It is where the public goes when it needs local information immediately. He described digital broadcasting as “a pipe capable of sending any type of information.” Because HD Radio broadcasts send signals in but not out, it can be more valuable than 5G technology.

With that description in mind, it is easy to picture local stations partnering with local governments to launch HD signals that power smart cities, manage a power grid, or send up-to-the-second traffic information right to the screens in users’ cars.

Now consider the advantages HD Radio can have in the world of autonomous cars. GPS technology is accurate to within 3 meters. In order for an autonomous car to be street legal, it’s GPS has to be accurate to within 10 centimeters. HD Radio can relay that information faster and more reliably than 5G technology can.

El Denary saw radio’s live and local nature as something that could create ad revenue in this realm as well. Car companies could buy ad campaigns using HD Radio broadcasts to ensure their autonomous vehicles stay on the road. They could use those broadcasts for direct-to-customer ad campaigns.

I asked El Denary if he saw this as a future application of HD Radio or THE future of HD Radio. He said that it could obviously be either, and profitability would probably dictate the answer, but it wasn’t hard for him to imagine a company deciding that the digital signal for an underperforming station could be better utilized to deliver information than content.