Broadcasting and the Internet of Things


Xperi IoT diagram
Click on the image to enlarge.

The author is executive director of broadcast technology at Xperi Corp.

As broadcasters, we often limit our perception of radio to audio programming. But we shouldn’t.

Head of Jeff Detweiler
Jeff Detweiler

Today, Radio Data Systems (RDS) and HD Radio technologies mean that data can be sent over the air through the radio’s cost-effective and reliable one-to-many delivery system. Each week, a radio broadcast touches the lives of over 93% of the American population, without a point-to-point connection, effortlessly transmitting simplex data to a single unit or millions of devices.

Because it is scalable, broadcasters can add millions of new data “listeners” without increasing infrastructure costs or reducing existing quality of service, for both analog and digital broadcasts.

While analog FM RBDS services offer limited data, text, or messaging, HD Radio technology enables digital audio programming and much higher levels of data service for automobiles, homes, and portable devices. In other words: IoT digital radio.

Internet of things

The Internet of Things, or IoT, has service providers who want to deliver content on a secure and cost-effective platform, but security is a major concern.

Today, most connected devices allow two-way communication, with vulnerability to hacking. Configuration data, including personal information, may be exposed. In addition, there is the challenge of keeping these devices connected over home networks.

One-way communication can mitigate these challenges: Device applications can benefit from a secure one-way communication path.

Green initiatives

Recent regulations on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions require an energy transition from fossil fuels to an already oversubscribed electricity grid, which has an impact on the price, billing and consumption of electric energy. Radio is poised to play an important role in this changing landscape.

On August 5, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that 50% of all automobiles be zero-emission by 2030, initiating a radical shift towards electric vehicles. In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order banning all sales in the state of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035. Additionally, the California Air Resources Board, Natural Gas (NG) plans to tighten the rules on natural gas for domestic heating and hot water, effective in 2023.

Real-time request / response

The proliferation of electric vehicles and the shift from gas heating to electric heating will put more strain on an already overloaded electricity grid. Building next-generation plants or adding battery storage is costly to utilities, regardless of the variable nature of the load.

The creation of an intelligent demand / response network for the management of electricity consumption offers a solution. How? ‘Or’ What? Providing real-time energy pricing to devices means they become ‘smarter’ about decisions about energy cost, use and load – and that’s where radio has an essential role to play.

The Consumer Technology Association defined the CTA-2045 as a Modular Communication Interface (MCI) to facilitate communications with residential devices for applications such as energy management.

Among these are:

  • Charging systems for electric vehicles (EV)
  • Water heater
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
  • Emergency shutdown of electricity and gas
  • Management and control of intelligent urban lighting
  • Pool and spa pumps
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Connected car

As the number of electric vehicles increases, peak usage will exceed the design limits of the power grid, overloading it with potentially disastrous consequences, including forest fires that cause loss of life and property. Power outages in California have become commonplace to reduce these risks.

Smart charging systems and utility control data mean electric vehicle chargers could manage charging times to avoid peak power demand and optimize charging costs. This requires close collaboration between the automotive industry, electricity providers and data service companies, this is where radio can be essential: transmitting pricing and monitoring data. While this data distribution is not exclusive to radio, it may simply be the best solution due to security, reliability and cost concerns.

The competitive landscape

Sending 1MB of data to 10,000 IoT devices requires 1GB of cellular capacity, BUT alone 1 MB for the radio.

While the capacity and interconnectivity of 5G can provide benefits for connected cars and personal entertainment, 5G, like the power grid, may be oversubscribed before it achieves mass adoption. In 2020, connected cars and autonomous vehicles will generate 380 GB / hour to more than 5 TB / hour of data, according to the Automotive Edge Computing Consortium.

One limitation on 5G networks is that they are not yet fully deployed. Deploying 5G in urban and densely populated areas can be profitable for providers, but deployment in suburbs and rural areas will be a challenge given the low population density and high deployment costs.

It’s an opportunity for broadcasters, which offer wide reach across more than 2,400 digital HD radio stations, along with scalability and reliability.

Today, thanks to HD Radio data technology, stations are already transmitting real-time traffic and weather data directly to car navigation systems. Several automakers are working with HD Radio technology developer, Xperi Corp., to study, demonstrate, and test additional data services, including software and ECU updates, map updates, navigation fixes, customer relationship management, etc.

What is necessary

Several components must merge to achieve digital radio IoT. These include a content delivery system and a backend that allows service providers to connect to local radio stations or subscribers to deliver content over the available data bandwidth.

Radio stations could register to participate in data services and authorize the use of part of their data capacity for services or applications. For example, an application provider (utility, city management, etc.) might have a data service or an application that needs to communicate with their devices. The cloud-based distribution system would handle the input of data and then route it to the registered stations appropriately in the given market. Authentication, scheduling, and routing would occur automatically. The radio station simply needs to configure its HD Radio importer to open the available data ports. This data content distribution system has been prototyped and is operational in selected markets.

On the consumer side is a low power, low power IoT HD Radio receiver module in the form of a plug-in board for an existing CTA-2045 compatible smart device or, ultimately, integrated into the circuit board of the device. . The IoT module scans the tape, detecting the data service required by the application. Once the data is available, the HD Radio IoT device extracts the appropriate data from the digital broadcast and delivers the content to the smart device app.

Xperi is testing this system end-to-end in multiple markets, collecting data on data coverage and reliability to create Quality of Service (QoS) metrics for these data applications. Xperi, together with the broadcast community and our development partners, looks forward to strengthening the future of radio with IoT digital radio, providing revolutionary, cost-effective and reliable data transmission services.


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