From today, you should start noticing coverage of our long-awaited ‘Radioplayer Car’ launch. For those of you who don’t know, we kicked off this project a couple of years ago, which is why it’s great to see it finally available to the public.
Back then, we were starting to realise the scale of the challenge facing Radio in car dashboards. Although in-car listening is huge (25% of all radio listening in the UK), we noticed that some car companies appeared to be overlooking the importance of Radio to their customers.
In some cases, they were building car radios which were harder to use (requiring the listener to make confusing platform-choices etc), and even deciding to remove critical parts of the interface, like the ‘Radio’ button itself.
Working alongside Digital Radio UK and WorldDAB, we started to engage with the car companies at several different levels. We commissioned some research on the role of Radio in cars, which we’re sharing with manufacturers. We’re helping radios get smarter, by automatically exporting Radioplayer station data in the excellent RadioDNS format.
And we decided to take on a ‘stretch project’, to try to build a new kind of Radio experience for cars. We had a vision of a ‘hybrid’ radio which presents stations in a single list, whatever platform they’re on. A radio which automatically follows stations across DAB, FM, and streaming, as the signal varies.
A radio with smart features, like personalised audio traffic news, audible station names being read out over the speakers, and recommendations, based on where the car is, and what’s trending. We thought it would be cool if you could Bluetooth your own music, make hands-free calls, and have your inbound text messages read out over the speakers.
And finally, we realised that there was a trend towards voice-control, and that it could make a real contribution towards delivering a safe, intuitive Radio interface in the car.
Two years later, Radioplayer Car is launching, with all these features. And the problems we’ve had to solve along the way, have led us to address many fundamental issues that face our industry. We all have a responsibility to improve our metadata (logos, streams etc), work out how to flag important information to ‘connected’ car radios (eg our broadcast bearers on DAB and FM), engage more purposefully with car companies and other countries over Radio standards, agree on common user interactions like how station-lists should work, and make our streams more ‘car-friendly’.
We’ve addressed many of these issues by working in partnership with a host of companies and individuals too numerous to list completely here – but they include Connects2, Hyde Park Corner, Togglebit, Furthermore, All In Media, Ivan Mahon, and James Cridland. We’re also very grateful to the 40 or so ‘beta testers’ who volunteered to be guinea-pigs for our system last year. And to the Radioplayer partners – the BBC, Global, Bauer, and Radiocentre – for their patient support during this long project.