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ZoneCasting is a new FM radio technique to deliver geo-targeted commercials. The idea is that FMs could air different ads based on listener location. Pending FCC approvals, ZoneCasting will temporarily segment the main broadcast signal into several separate geographic zones. The technique enhances radio’s ability to compete with emerging technologies such as the Internet and cellular.

Using “channel” booster transmitters, located within an FM radio station’s legal FCC contour, it divides the radio signal for that booster’s “zone” to broadcast selected content (advertising, emergency information, PSAs, community news) at selected breaks during the day. Geo-targeting is expected increase the market for local advertisers since it allows FM booster stations to originate programming content unique from the main signal and linked to regional RDS messaging.

Harris is currently demonstrating their MaxxCasting solution with IP based simulcast distribution using their Flexiva low-power transmitters with Geo-Broadcast’s ZoneCasting architecture. ZoneCasting approval is currently pending at the FCC.

Low Power FM, or LPFM, uses a low amount of energy to broadcast a signal that does not travel very far. Demand for FM translators, which rebroadcast signals of primary AM or FM stations on different frequencies, has increased since the commission in 2009 began allowing some AMs to use them. The maximum effective radiated power for any FM translator is 250 watts, but translators can provide AMs with access to valuable FM spectrum as well as enhanced nighttime presence.

The Radio Data System, or RDS, is a communications protocol standard for embedding small amounts of digital information in conventional FM radio broadcasts. It usually transmits station id and artist information and transmits at a data rate of 1187.5 bit per second.

Artist Experience allows broadcasters to embed album art, station logos and other graphic content. It’s incorporated into the digital bit stream and displayed on compatible receivers with screens.

Artist Experience is like a slide show, synched to the radio stream, displaying album art and advertising. Jump2Go and Emmis TagStation have products that insert the AE content, which is multiplexed along with the HD audio signal.

Broadcast group owners are given their spectrum free, but are limited by 20 year old broadcast technologies like ATSC, MPEG-2 and MPEG-3. They must compete with cellular operators who can utilize LTE broadcast and LTE radio relays with more reliable reception and better targeting. MPEG-7, for example, uses XML to store metadata, and can be attached to timecode in order to tag particular events, or synchronize lyrics to a song, while H.265, supported on phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4, can deliver HDTV on cellular channels.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Dailywireless: Radio Station Tour, Digital FM Radio Comes to Smartphones , Tagging HD Radio Songs, Cell Phones Get FM with Radio Data, Apple Getting Digital FM Radio?, World Radio Day

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