The Future of Radio?

I may have inadvertently stumbled on the future.  But then again, I can’t be the first person to figure this out.

I read the other day that Blaupunkt has developed an Internet appliance for the car.  It interfaces with a bluetooth device, and allows one to listen to internet radio stations in the car.  It’s supposed to be available, I think, mid year.  I managed to do it today.

Now, my lashup has some limitations.  But hang with me.

Browsing through the iPhone App store, I came across something called simply “Radio”.  It was probably free, because I’ve paid for very few apps for the iPhone.  There are some 1700+ internet stations, and broadcast stations with internet presence, available through this iPhone app.  WBUR, for instance, is one, as are KALW, KCRW, KCBS, WINS, Deutche Welle Radio in English, and a host of niche music formats delivered as internet radio stations.

In my car, I have an HD radio with a mini-pin aux input.  You can probably see where I’m going.

Driving into town today, I tuned into an internet Blues station on my iPhone, plugged one end of the cord into the headphone jack, and the other into the aux input on the radio.

Suddenly, I have an internet appliance playing through the radio in my car.  As long as there a 3G connection, I’m no longer restricted to 50 or so radio stations in Jacksonville, the 150 or so available on satellite radio (which I don’t have), or the 500 or so songs I have in my MP3 player (which I had before the iPhone).

1700+ choices.  Man of them actual over-the-air stations.  And it sounded darn good, too.

Now, a couple of downsides.  I have to pay for my 3G phone service, but I’m paying for that anyway.  I have to be able to receive a 3G signal on AT&T … but that’s going to be most places I go … and pretty much anywhere the phone works.  I SHOULD leave the phone connected to power to be sure I can actually make a call when I need to.  Something in the power chain is unshielded, so I’m hearing some alternator whine when the phone’s plugged in.  But the fact remains that I was listening to the internet in my car.  The audio quality was very good, there was no buffering to the device once it connected … it was just like listening to the radio.

No, I can’t go online using Safari, go to a radio station website, and listen online.  There’s something that’s blocking me from doing that or some plug-in that I need which I’ll have to ask David Gano about.  If anyone knows about a work-around on this, it’ll be David.  But I very easily lashed up a system out of existing off-the-shelf technology, and at no additional charge listened to the Internet in my car.

It’s only a matter of time before this is pretty widely available.  I wonder if I had a PPM how it would register.

The trick has always been getting the data to the car.  I’m paying a lot for the data service for the iPhone, but as I said, I’d be paying that anyway.  But how difficult would it be to put the same touch-screen interface as I have on the iPhone.  There are a lot of touch-screen devices in cars already.

But perhaps the real issue is why?  It’s cool to listen to Deutche Welle, but that doesn’t give me any idea what happened in my local city council.  I think for someone like me, who wants more than just a jukebox, local programming is going to be very important.  It’s also very expensive for stations to produce, but somebody is going to have to do it, and it may not be a radio station.

The Florida Times-Union is doing some local news headlines in their “RadioJax” online offering.  It’s still mostly a jukebox, but they do have a news staff and online radio presence.  The convergence may truly be coming.



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Filed under Internet Radio, Media, Thoughts

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