Field Report: Deva Broadcast SmartGen Mini

January 5, 2013


Deva Broadcast is a Bulgarian company that produces many RDS products gaining popularity in the United States. The hallmarks of its products so far have been their small size, powerful features and reasonable price. The SmartGen Mini fits well within this metric.

Deva Broadcast SmartGen Mini

This scaled-down version of the full-sized SmartGen 5.0 is a full-featured RDS encoder for remote transmitter sites. Deva''s comparison chart (devabroadcast.com/RDS) explains the most salient differences between the SmartGen 5.0 and the SmartGen Mini are front-panel control, LED display, and a GPI for enabling TA. The SmartGen Mini can be driven with ASCII or by the native language of RDS encoders, UECP. The encoder is programmed and controlled through the USB port or via IP (TCP, UDP) through a dedicated application. There is also an internal Web page where some of the basic functions can be managed, such as dynamic PS and group sequencing.

The Encoders Manager application (which runs on Windows) is designed to manage multiple encoders, such as with a station cluster, or in European terms, a national network. Encoder characteristics are backed up in XML files, but individual encoder RDS data programming is saved as data sets, which allows a configuration to be propagated to multiple encoders. For those not fully versed in RDS, all the settings might seem a little overwhelming, but using the software makes it fairly easy to figure out. Settings within the application are divided among on-screen tabs: Hardware, Basic RDS, Advanced RDS, and an embedded console interface (no need use a separate telnet session).

Pick up the tab

The Hardware tab is self-explanatory. The network settings and address, site name, and UECP Port speed/method is set on this page. The setting for loop through or sidechain mode is an easy drop-down selection (as opposed to a physical jumper).

On the Basic RDS tab, the PI code, static PS, the AF list and RT entries PTY selection can be set. There are a couple of nice tools on this page. One is the PI Code calculator. The NRSC-4A (RBDS) standard stipulates that a station''s PI code be derived from the station call letters. By entering the call letters in the provided field, the SmartGen Mini software will automatically populate the PI field with the appropriate value. Another nice tool on this page is a mock-up of a Kenwood KDC-DAB41U car radio. This helps to demonstrate the effect of RT or PS changes on a consumer display.

Performance at a glance
■ Supports RT+, TA, PS and Radio Text Scrolling
■ Supports TMC (Traffic Message Channel)
■ Supports US NRSC standards
■ Compatible with EWS (Emergency Warning System)
■ Fully digital synthesis of RDS signal

On the Advanced RDS tab, settings like injection level and phase, TA controls, and the encoder connection methods are set. There is actually a whole lot happening on this page. The Phase and Level can are changed by double-clicking on the values. Phase in degrees and level in millivolts (assumed to be P-P). By clicking the active check box, one of six reference levels/phase settings can be employed instantly. The SmartGen Mini has a way to address one of my pet peeves: Clock signal (CT). The NRSC RDS Usage Guideline (NRSC-G300) recommends that stations do not send CT in the RDS stream unless the encoder is provided with a synchronized clock reference. Unfortunately, some stations send this data but do not keep up with the clock setting on their encoder, so the displayed time is wrong. The SmartGen Mini provides the option not only to set or unset CT, but the encoder can be selected to sync its internal clock to an Internet time source. I''m not sure what servers the encoder polls, but I found the time to be accurate. It can also be set to sync its clock by the computer when connected with the encoder application.

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The SmartGen Mini encoder has five native methods to connect, front panel USB, two ports of TCP and two ports of UDP. It seems apparent that the device is intended to exist on the public Internet receiving data or configuration from multiple sources without needless exposure to hacking. On the Advanced RDS tab the port IDs and access rights are set. With choosing access rights, a particular UDP port can be set to a non-standard IP Port ID, and access to any of the data and configuration settings can be enabled or disabled through the port.

rear panel

RDS Programming gets a little more involved on the Advanced RDS tab. This is where multiple data sets are laid out; where the individual RDS data components are selected and repetition rates are scheduled. If ODA groups are being sent (i.e., traffic data or song tagging). There is a useful spinning wheel diagram that can show how repetition rates, time slots and delay times will affect the amount of useful data that is sent every 60 seconds.

Although UECP is the native communication protocol for RDS encoders, many, including the SmartGen Mini can also accept ASCII text for a scrolling PS, RadioText or other data. Using its application, a port is configured to accept data for the appropriate part(s) of the RDS stream, then the system providing the data, such as a radio automation is set up to send the ASCII data to the correct IP/Port. Documentation on the acceptable syntax could be a bit more explicit, but with some trial and error I was able to get my automation system to send artist/title successfully.

In the details

There are a couple of caveats regarding the SmartGen Mini application. Keep track of the included CD; you will need it to install the USB driver. Some features like dynamic (scrolling) PS are easier to manage using the embedded Web page as opposed to the application.

Although the application is a powerful configuration tool, the most effective use of the SmartGen Mini is for feeding live data over an IP or USB connection. The encoder can support RadioText+ and is fully compliant with the latest encoder communication standards UECP EBU SPB490 Version 7.05. The SmartGen Mini has the ability to parse incoming scrolling text into phrases reducing the chance that consumer radios will display partial or nonsense words.

Deva Broadcast
855-428-7272
devabroadcast.com
sales@devabroadcast.com

Deva updates firmware and documentation very often as improvements happen. Even in the course of evaluating the SmartGen Mini, there were a couple of releases including an extremely helpful instruction manual on configuring the RDS encoder for RadioText+. It''s important to keep checking back with the site for updates.

Overall the SmartGen Mini is an extremely useful and powerful RDS encoder in a small package.


Thomas is vice president of engineering for Lincoln Financial Media, Atlanta.



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