At CES 2009 Blaupunkt is showing the world’s first in-dash internet car radio, powered by technology from Australian-based company miRoamer. The radio accesses the internet via Bluetooth to any mobile phone in the car which has 3G internet access.
Two key issues:
Parthimos said a 2GB monthly data plan would be required to power the internet radio for a month on the average drive to and from work.
This is fine for countries which usually have unlimited data in their 3G plans, such as US, UK, and Germany, but less so for countries like Australia which have limited data plans.
As well as the cost of the mobile broadband plan, internet car radio users will need to pay a fee for the radio itself – Parthimos says it will retail for about $US399 ($560) – and a monthly subscription fee of about $15 to access the stations.
However in-car internet radio is already available without these costs, using a variety of mechanisms. For example Fstream for iPhone gives access to any radio station with an IP stream. Admittedly the pre-installed radio stations are limited, and you have to manually install all your favourites, however it would surprise me if the new device had access to many more stations beyond those already providing internet streams. As such, with an iPhone and an in-car dock, you can already have internet-based car radio, and it has been available for some time. The difference of the new announcement is that it is installed in the dashboard, even though it still requires the phone.
Back in the 1990s I was flabbergasted by the extraordinary potential of internet radio, delighting in listening to radio stations in Harare, LA, Amsterdam and elsewhere over a dial-up internet connection. I already saw that music radio would be a global market, while local content such as traffic and talk-back may go over different channels.
Back in my Six Trends that are Transforming Online speech, and then in Connected Home’s feature interview Predictions for the future of the home and immersive technologies, I said:
“A key indicator of pervasive access is when car radios become IP-based, as this will indicate there is always good access to the internet, and all radio stations simulcast over IP.”
We are not quite there yet. However we are getting closer to pervasive internet access wherever you go (far cheaper mobile data will come along the way), and it is becoming standard for radio stations to simulcast over IP. Internet radio will before long be pervasive, giving less reason for many stations to use expensive transmitters and licenses.