The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers holds its annual Broadcast Symposium in San Antonio this week. And if I could be there, I’d be hitting up the last session of Thursday afternoon, for there may be a few fireworks.
There are two planned speakers: first up is David Layer, the Director of NAB Labs’ Radio Technology Committee, who will give a status report on the state of all-digital AM-HD signal testing. The most recent round concluded in Seattle, and depending on who you ask, the results were either spectacular or so-so.
The second speaker is not likely to toe the same line: Branimir Vocjic is an engineering professor at George Washington University, and the chief scientist behind Digital PowerRadio, a company that’s developed technology by which to dramatically increase the robustness of digital radio reception, across practically any digital radio platform—radio, television, telephony, you name it.
Dr. Vojcic has an interesting history with HD Radio. He was a consulting scientist working on the HD system back in the technology’s early days (1990s), when he began skecthing out a system to improve HD signal reception on the receiver-side. But iBiquity, in a rush to get HD Radio to market, dismissed his ideas as too undeveloped and elected to go with an inferior, off-the-shelf codec system it acquired in the merger of USA Digital Radio and Lucent Technologies.
Since then, Vojcic’s continued his work, and DPR is now in discussions with a variety of device manufacturers and digital wireless service providers about implementing its inventions. He even approached iBiquity directly last year with an offer to test DPR technology. After contentious meetings at industry conventions (during which the NAB intervened as mediator), the two sides met at iBiquity headquarters last summer for a tightly-controlled test of DPR’s algorithm.
Results of this experiment have not been made publicly available, but purportedly documentation exists that demonstrates a significant improvement when HD and DPR code work in tandem. However, it’ll never see the light of day because admitting that DPR has something that demonstrably improves HD Radio threatens to break iBiquity’s black box surrounding its intellectual property. And that jeopardizes the company’s business model, which rests solely on its proprietary nature.
Meanwhile, DPR is pursuing multiple patents on its inventions, some of which directly mention their usefulness in improving HD Radio signal reception, and all of which were published this summer. It will be interesting to see if any of this forward motion invokes any substantive response from HD’s proponents—of which NAB Labs is a big one—especially since they’ll be in the same room again in San Antonio.