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The RDS Forum held its annual meeting in Glion/Montreux, Switzerland from 16 to 17 June 2014.

Workshop on “RDS is 30: Developments and solutions needed”

This workshop was part of the 2014 annual meeting.

The smart grid and universal message channel project

eRadio Inc Canada, presented this new topic. e-Radio is the inventor of UMC, the Utility Messaging Channel, using FM RDS with numerous U.S. and international patents.

This was an overview on work done so far in North America where saving energy by installing RDS operated control chips to manage domestic and industrial power supplies, particularly in heating systems had been successfully tested.

eRadio showed many examples of where the company had deployed the system and outlined the next steps

Implementing Hybrid Radio (FM/RDS & Internet) – a project from Radio France

The message of the project was “Interactive visual radio is the opportunity”. The scope was “Which content should be added to radio?” – Examples given include the Previous programme, the Next programme and EPG, Weather info, Traffic and Event info.

The combination of these metadata, obtained via the Internet and handled by the receiver in a clever way, is basically Hybrid radio.

The proposal from Radio France was to create an ODA specification with items carrying Hybradio information as partially already demonstrated at this meeting.

FM/RDS radio in Smart phones & Tablets

The RDS Forum agreed to continue with the drafting group to work by correspondence. The aim is to describe generally desired FM/RDS functionality that we as the RDS Forum would like to have from a platform perspective like the smart phone or tablet. The Forum produced already a list of standard commands and some typical use cases with a clear customer focus.

The RDS Forum will publish later in 2014 a respective implementation guideline.

Public open alarm system developments

Two different solutions continued to be analysed. IRIS is a French initiative based on the French national standard AFNOR/X08S-150 (2007). There more recent tests done in 2013/14 in the Southern part of France.

Radio France offered to elaborate a draft for an open ODA to be considered for inclusion into a future version of the RDS standard.

In the South-East of the USA NPR labs tests were done in 2013/14 using a former RBDS and now significantly modified ODA for alerts and using low-cost receivers developed for deaf and hard-of-hearing persons. Alarm messages using PTY 30 and 31 are to be displayed as RT messages.

In both cases special receivers are needed and will have to be specified as well, but in the context of RDS standardisation this issue cannot be covered by the RDS standard, because that is for the transmission system and not for the receivers. Their specification could either be within the RDS Guidelines, but perhaps better set out in a separate alert receiver standard.

The RDS Forum agreed the principle to create a new ODA annex for public alert system specifications using the IRIS and the relevant RBDS specification tested by NPR.

The RDS 2.0 project

The system, RDS 2.0 that RDS Forum member Attila Ladanyi presented would make use of multiple RDS carriers using the ODA concept. He observed that the implementation of RDS 2.0 would not be very expensive for broadcasters.

It was agreed to set up a specialist group to meet at Budapest on 10 to 12 November 2014 and their agreed mandate is:

  1. Identify existing unused functions within RDS 1.0;
  2. Ensure complete compatibility with RDS 1.0;
  3. Establish a consensus on a set of high level customer requirements, PS names with up to 16 characters for example;
  4. Define the technical and upgradable architecture based on agreed standards and regulations;
  5. Identify the work items and expertise needed.

The first deliverable will be the outcome of this feasibility study, to be ready before March 2015 and to be studied by the full Forum for discussion and approval during the next Forum meeting and then define the next steps

It was observed that the increased data transmission capacity would help future TTI and Hybrid Radio projects.

Other topics considered during the RDS Forum 2014 meeting

ITU: The ITU expert report from 2013, “Trends in broadcasting” confirms the long future of FM radio. The conclusions read “FM will remain an important means of delivery of audio broadcasting. In general switch-off of FM stations lies far ahead, but a few countries may have switched-off analogue radio.”

Question about FM Band extension in Brazil and elsewhere: On a question raised by one of the Forum members, the Brazilian regulator ANATEL was contacted, who confirmed the planned extension of the FM band down to 76 MHz. This was in fact agreed already. It was remarked that there will be a problem with RDS then in the range 76-87.5 MHz, with no AF codes being defined for that range. With RDS 2.0 this problem could be solved however. It was also remarked that China plans to use FM radio down to 64 MHz, a matter also to be followed up for RDS 2.0.

IEC: The RDS Forum Office continues to assist the IEC Central Office in the publication of the updated RDS standard versions for the RDS measurement standard IEC 62634 - edition 2 and for the RDS standard IEC 62106 - edition3. These new standard versions are planned to be published by the IEC later in 2014.

RBDS: The Forum continues to collaborate with the NAB during the past years on the updating of the US standard for RBDS. This activity has now been successfully completed.

RT+: The progress made in the implementation of RadioText Plus remains a topic to be promoted by the RDS Forum on its web site. Any news reported to the RDS Forum on the progress made in the RT+ implementation will be included in a presentation to encourage broadcasters to implement it more widely.

eRT: enhanced RadioText is a feature to provide RadioText with non-Latin alphabet character sets and in addition all EU languages are being covered. There is increasing interest to implement this new feature in car radios, designed for markets in Central and Eastern Europe. However, the RDS Forum still seeks more feedback from interested broadcasters, confirming that they really want to use this new feature. Also, the Forum likes to be informed of any implementation so that some car radio receiving field tests could then be carried out by the developers.

PS: If dynamic PS is used by broadcasters then only programme relevant information shall be given. The same and perhaps additional information shall also be distributed using the RT feature. The car radio manufacturers in the RDS Forum 2010 had confirmed that most car radios will have the RT feature implemented and broadcasters are asked to use RT and RT+ instead, and not PS, which shall remain static and give only the 8-character programme service name identification.

RDS Guidelines updating: The Guidelines continued with a special meeting held in Berlin in December 2013 dealing with a number of items still remaining to be done. These were:

It was agreed to complete and publish most of this work by the end of 2014.

RDS UECP updating: The RDS Forum agreed to elaborate the UECP for updating by the end of 2014.

DAB/DAB+ implementation - an overview: A lot of work was done into updating the fact sheet about DAB and particularly the implementation in the EU member states. This was of course progressing, albeit very slowly. In many EU countries the transition to DAB had not yet started. Most important was the good DAB coverage achieved in countries like UK, Germany and Switzerland where there also had been a good increase in the number of car manufacturers who were now already line fitting DAB radios. Although not all car manufacturers were yet doing this, the trend was a clear and rapid increase now in these three markets.

HD radio implementation - an overview: The fact sheet on HD radio had been updated. There is no doubt - the HD radio implementation is quite successful in the USA, and it progresses faster than DAB in Europe with a lot of support by the car manufacturers. It is not just the audio content, but in addition using RadioDNS and data services, in particular TTI with TMC or TPEG. 40 HD Radio stations are on air already in Mexico.

Next RDS Forum annual meeting: 8 & 9 June 2015 at Hotel Victoria, Glion / Montreux, Switzerland.