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Digital radio game changer

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - DABCAST (Digital radio game changer)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2019-12-31

Terrestrial television across Europe has been already switched to digital standard (DVB-T). Digitization of radio is the next step and the EU has already recommended the standard for it: DAB+ (Digital Audio Broadcasting Plus). It gives great benefits to both listeners and radio stations (broadcasters), including better sound, rich content (slides, text, web contents) and more radio stations (bunch of stations put onto one frequency) available. However, the transition to digital is related to the infrastructure changes and investments. To challenge this market need, we have invented the first ever complete digital transmission platform called DABCAST. It is an integrated solution, supported by the cloud, for providing DAB+ services to the listeners made up of 3 modules:
1. VS (Virtual studio) - a content management app (for music, ads, text, slides, additional digital content, program creation).
2. MUX (multiplexer) – a cloud-hosted application responsible for multiplexing (joining and conforming to the DAB+ standard) multiple data streams provided from broadcasters (created in the VS) and forwarding them to transmission part (TX) through the cloud.
3. TX (transmitter) - a physical device (FPGA-based chip - a highly flexible and “easily” programmable electronic circuit) that is connected to the MUX and converts the signal from the cloud to the RF (radio frequency) signal delivered to antennas and sent in the ether (waves). The TX is always placed on the transmitting site (terrestrial tower), which is physical location with complex infrastructure (electricity, cables and antennas).
These three elements together are a unique business service, trademarked as “the first ever digital Radio as a Service (RaaS)” created and owned by the company (www.radioasaservice.com). For the broadcaster RaaS means instant and complete digital transmission (studio to air interface) with all the technicalities “hidden” in the DABCAST cloud. Currently there is no other solution on the market that supports broadcasters in such a wide range (VS + MUX + TX) in the one form.
DABCAST implementation covered multidimensional aspects: hardware design, software development and integration, cloud services administration, telco infrastructure operation.
All elements of DABCAST platform have been designed and developed successfully:

- Virtual Studio (VS) has been integrated, tested and deployed in the cloud together with the cloud-optimized Multiplexer unit (MUX).
- Integrated Transmitter Unit (hardware module) has been designed and implemented.
- Transmitter unit (TX) named DABCAST DTX050 was professionally certified.
- All elements (VS, MUX nad TX) are being overseen by a Monitoring unit, which automatically verifies that all DAB+ services are served as requested.

Within the project the network for early adopter demostration has been built and validated.
To perform tests and demonstration with future customers, the administration rules have been defined (including signal coverage, emission power levels and high - availability). Since early stage of the project implementation, the prototype of the DABCAST system has been introduced, which was periodically updated and iterated until the release of complete RaaS architecture. The solution was assesed by users (testers), their recommendations for improvements have been addressed and confirmed in final trials with customers.
DABCAST RaaS proved to be unique and challenging concept.

In parallel to the technical implementations, both Communication Plan and Business Innovation Plan were prepared. Communication Plan proposed tools and actions, which were assumed to strengthen company image as highly innovative (by reception of the SMEI) and boost the presence of BCAST (as company) and DABCAST (as product) in the media. The implementation of Communication Plan went extremely positive (more than 200 posts in social media, 40 articles, 1.5MLN of readership reach and more than 1.1MLN EUR of advertisement equivalent).
The Business Innovation Plan, supported by H2020 coach, outlined strategy and plans for the DABCAST product commercialization. Customers demanded demonstration of the services. Hence, from early weeks of the project, we have set up cloud demo environment allowing us to constantly monitor the development and update the solution (the approach was called “walking skeleton”). The initial concept eventually transformed into trial network and demo services in Poland, Italy, Germany, and on Tenerife. Also Intellectual Property Rights process was performed, allowing to secure the IP assets like trademarks, utility patterns, graphical interfaces, etc.

Successful execution and delivery of the project makes DABCAST solution well-prepared and well-tested for international commercial implementations.
Having the market experience and qualified team of engineers, BCAST was able to introduce the DABCAST platform as a way of supporting the digitization process. SMBs, being a major target group, will not have to worry about technical issues, they will just pay one monthly fee based on the simple plans reflecting to different levels of redundancy and performance.

DABCAST is a catalyst for the development of digital radio among SMBs, as well as other market entities (like large and internet broadcasters, manufacturers of radio receivers, listeners, content providers, regulators), by providing full support and flexible tools. Cloud distribution and programmable hardware design will additionally make the solution future-proof (open on new features and tech releases). In wider sense DABCAST plays also important role in the cultural and societal evolution: by enriching the versatility of the radio stations and promoting democratization of the radio air space, it will allow people to listen to the wider range of small, local or even niche stations, that would never appear or be only available via Internet streaming.

DABCAST solution has also changed the way of thinking about creation and distribution of radio by industry people. The radio stream production process went from highly sophisticated hardware solution into highly effective software solution, where preparation, management and delivery of the content is being done purely in the cloud. Even hard-thinking hoary engineers have switched their optics into reliable and flexible cloud solutions, which at the end of the day prove to be not only cheaper, but also safer, better secure and better performing. This may be treated as one of the biggest successes of DABCAST introduction and can expand the technological perspective beyond traditional service creation model among all radio makers.
Virtual Studio GUI layout
Capture from web gui of TX
Capture from web gui of MUX configuration panel
Presentation on the regulator KRRiT conference, Warsaw Poland 05.2018
DABCAST Transmitter
DABCAST as a main technology provider for Digitalradiogroup.it
Capture from front-end of MUX configuration panel