The NAB Show is a big event. There's lots of activity on the exhibit floor, usually some stimulating ideas in the sessions, and always something to do in the evenings. If you will attend the convention, I hope you have started planning your time there. There's too much going on to just coast through. So what will this year bring? Here's what I expect will be getting the most attention during the week.
I know you're not surprised that HD Radio is going to be a popular topic. Now that increased digital sideband power has been approved, stations that put HD Radio installations on hold can move forward. We have already seen transmitters with smaller footprints, and some techniques on squeezing more power out of them have been developed. I also expect the combiner manufacturers will see some interest from stations that want to increase the digital power of existing installations.
Radio is a mobile medium in itself, but other new mobile technologies are in the hands of consumers as well. Look for plenty of apps for radio stations scattered throughout the exhibit floor. In addition, automation manufacturers are enhancing their methods of uploading mobile content and controlling their systems from handheld devices, and codec manufacturers are adding apps to transmit audio, too. Also look for ways to enhance your station's mobile streams.
You can't get away from IP audio today. It's being used within facilities and to send audio to and from the studio. There will be more refinements and enhancement on the various uses of IP audio. Also look for more ways to connect various elements of the facility via IP, although we still have to wait a while before various IP audio routing systems will be able to communicate directly.
Emergency alerting is an omnipresent topic that continues to be a focus. While the specifics of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) are not yet available, broadcasters are waiting for the day when FEMA will trigger the countdown clock. In the meantime, EAS equipment manufacturers are working as far ahead as they can even though CAP specifics are not yet completely available.
A good overview of new technology at the show will be revealed in our annual Pick Hit awards. Created in 1980, this prestigious list — chosen by a group of radio engineers and not the magazine staff — highlights the top 15 new products from the convention. The recipients will be selected at the convention, so look for the Pick Hits signs to appear late on Wednesday afternoon at the convention.
Attendance predictions are common sport leading up to the convention. I expect that attendance will be flat if not slightly lower than last year. We are all aware of the current economic situation, and many travel budgets set several months ago will affect the numbers. While indications of recovery are being seen and radio forecasts are looking up, the budget cuts from last fall are likely to still be affected. However, it appears that hotel rates are more affordable than ever. It might be worth another look to see if costs can fit a reduced budget.
What's going to be out this year? While pondering this, I remembered that it was about 10 years ago when we noticed there were no cart machines being displayed on the convention floor. What's next in line to be retired? With the proliferation of IP audio, some technologies could be on their way to the extinction list, such as ISDN codecs and TDM-based routers. They're not gone yet, but they could be close.
I'll see you in Las Vegas.
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