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2013 Streaming Audio Update
There is at least one other single rack-unit streaming encoder. The Webstream from AudioTX will generate up to six simultaneous streams (different codecs/rate combinations); codecs include MPEG4 AAC, HE-AAC, and MP3 for streams with bitrates between 14 and 320kb/s. The unit will accommodate fixed or dynamic metadata (serial connection via dB9). XLR inputs and outputs; analog or AES. Another interesting aspect of this device is its ability to serve streams; according to their webpage, it will serve up to 5,000 users, dependent of course upon the network connection it has to work with and the bitrate of the streams served. Potentially one Webstream could be located at your studio, and one at the ISP; the studio unit would forward its internally generated streams to the unit at the ISP location, which would subsequently serve all end-users.
You may prefer the CPU-based encoder for your purposes; if so, take a look at Opticodec 1010 from Orban. This codec will generate separate streams such as RTMP for Adobe Flash or Wowza media servers; RTSP/RTP for Apple QuickTime servers or Darwin Streaming servers; RTP Real/Helix Mobile servers, and HTTP/ICY Shoutcast or Icecast2 servers. Codecs include AAC/HE-AACv1/HE-AACv2 and MP3. It supports standards-based, real-time metadata injection. Operating systems supported are Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Server 2003, and Server 2008 (32/64-bit). Opticodec will support one multicast stream, but the number of unicast streams is dependent upon the CPU. You'll still need a way to get audio in to the computer though; when using Opticodec 1010 it makes a lot of sense to use Orban's PC1101 PCI sound card as well. The PC1101 has three on-board DSPs for processing -- AGC, EQ, multiband compression, and look-ahead limiting. The PC1101 also has a built-in mixer, with one stereo analog input, two AES3 digital inputs (with SRC), and two WAV inputs, all of which can be mixed, or switched. Additionally PC1101 has two AES outputs, and two WAV outputs.
Internet access in cars
I've been reading (or so I thought) about the coming of integrated Internet access in automobiles. However, I see nothing so far in 2013 that indicates any model by any manufacturer with an on-board computer that accesses the Internet. For the last three or four years, the car manufacturers have expected you to use your own smartphone for the Internet access, and to connect to the car infotainment system via bluetooth. For years it's been feasible to put a 3G modem/hotspot in the car to serve up Internet access to riders; of course now it could be 4G as well.
To me it seems no progress has been made on this front. On one hand it seems odd to rely on your smartphone plus Bluetooth just to get radio in the car; on the other hand, if you already have one account with your wireless provider, why bother with yet another for your car?
In the last several years we've seen both evolution and de-evolution with streaming audio. At first, we all did simulcast streams with terrestrial broadcasts; then ad-insertion came in to vogue. As time has marched on, some stations have given up ad-insertion (and some have given up streaming altogether); others have taken on very sophisticated and granular ad-insertion techniques backed-up by sophisticated audience measurements. Whether the mass media of OTA radio, with its ability to reach hundreds of thousands (and even millions) of people with a common message that they're all hopefully interested in (such as what is on the 7 p.m. news tonight) will remain viable, when methods now exist to reach individuals with tailored messages, remains to be seen. It would seem that, due to the nature of advertising (i.e., some ads appealing to common needs, and some, to individual needs) a place for both exists.
Irwin is RF engineer/project manaher for Clear Channel Los Angeles. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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