Monday, July 16, 2012

Parallel and Additional Services

These Samsung Galaxy S mini tablets combine broadcasting via DMB/DAB+ with the internet.

One of the great things about digital broadcasting using DMB/DAB+ is the possibility to distribute other things than only live radio and mobile television. I refer to this in two ways, depending on what it is used for: parallel services and additional services. But what do those terms mean and what is the difference?

Parallel services
Parallel services are related to radio or television broadcasts and are made up by data that is broadcast in parallel to relevant programmes. Most such services are currently completely broadcasted, others are only partially so - some additional data may also be transported via the internet. Examples of paralell services are: 
  1. A competition in which the listeners or viewers decide whether artist A, B or C will win a singing contest. The information about the vote itself and the answer options will be broadcast, whereas each individual vote from the audience will be sent back to the broadcaster via a return channel (i.e. 3G, 4g, Wi-Fi).
  2. Integration towards social networks where users logged on can write comments, share playlists or let other know what they are watching or listening to. Such services can exist without any direct technical connection to the broadcast itself (and only exisit independently ia the internet), although it is beneficial if there is a direct link to the broadcast for accuracy and so that relevant metadata is tied up to the postings on social networks.
  3. Internet links being broadcasted out to give the audience information on relevant content. This can be links to old episodes, relevant maps, music tracks or photographs of programme leaders or artists. Such links are broadcasted and then triggers the receiver to visit the relavnt websites.  
  4. Touch screen shopping is very relevant to commercial broadcasters. During the ad break, or even during a show through product placement, relevant goods (physical or virtual) can be advertised and even sold directly to the audience by sending them a URL that takes them to a web shop upon touching the screen.
  5. Extra information being broadcast about a programme. It can for instance be the name of a song and the artist, information on the next programme or a photograph of someone who is being mentioned.
  6. Electronic programme guides (EPGs) may be distributed via DMB/DAB+. These are like on your PVR. They show the current programmes as well as what will come up on various stations or channels. 

The great thing about parallel services is that they may help the broadcaster enhance the programmes by giving the audience something extra. Not everyone will be interested in this, others only in certain contexts, but it gives the listeners or viewers something more than only the audio of the radio programme and the station or the television programme and the channel. 

Additional services
Such services are not related to radio or television broadcasts. These services are however broadcast via the same DMB/DAB+ network and can help the broadcasters increase revenues or lower the cost of the radio or television services. Benefits are obvious. Everyone gets the same information at the same time, and distribution costs are much lower than if the same data were to be transported via 3G, 4G or similar.  Examples of such services are: 
  1. Traffic information can be broadcast via DMB/DAB+ using the TPEG standard (which also supports weather info, points of interest, etc.). Navigation units will pick up the signals, get the data on accidents, traffic jams or closed roads and if needed reroute the driver. Such services are widespread in Korea (via DMB), although not completelly following the international standard used internationally. Several companies have similar plans in Europe and elsewhere. 
  2. Information on scheduled transport routes to i.e. bus, train or tram stops is being distributed via DMB/DAB+ in the Netherlands. DMB/DAB+ is so energy efficient on the receiver side (many times more so than 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi), that receiver can run on solar power. That saves a lot of money as no electricity has to be installed to these stops that in many cases do not have installed power. And the transport of such data is cheaper than using telecom networks. 
  3. Emergency information can be sent out, reaching everyone at the same time without any risk of the network collapsing.
  4. Textual news, sport results, weather reports, etc. can also be distributed. Such info may not be relevant to the station you are listening to, but possibly very relevant to the users.
  5. There are not internet connections in many rural areas. In South Africa, DMB/DAB+ is being planned as a way of transporting educational resources to schools in rural areas. The data needed will be sent as files (electronic books, magazines, newspapers) and then stored locally. 
Broadcasting is not only for live radio and television. Read more about that here in an older blog post.

Combination is...
Combination of broadcasting and the internet ensures the strength of both technologies and the weaknesses of none. A broadcast signal is cost effective, non-personalized and doesn't discriminate as it reaches everyone at the same time with the same data. Broadcasting does however not have the same possibilities for providing individualised offerings and it does not include a return channel. Combination is king. Still.