Rosie Smith, WorldDAB
With over 400,000 visitors over 9 days, the Brussels Auto show is a significant automotive event for the BENELUX region. This year is particularly significant for DAB digital radio, with 2017 expected to see the growth of DAB+ in the two main Communities of the federal state of Belgium.
This year in a positive and progressive step public broadcasters RTBF and VRT and network operator Norkring came together to promote digital radio to both automotive manufacturers and consumers. This event saw the launch of the joint website maradio.be, the consumer portal for digital radio in Belgium. We were at the show to find out first-hand how car manufacturers are promoting DAB, how much visitors and staff know about it and how easy it is to use.
Leading from the front
On the joint maradio.be and Norkring stand there were two cars demonstrating digital radio.
Both cars could receive VRT and RTBF stations and it was great to see broadcasters taking advantage of Slideshow, delivering album artwork, artist info, news and traffic information via DAB. One particular station that caught our eye was Zen with its innovative use of slideshow and high quality audio stream.
DAB by manufacturer
We managed to visit most of the big manufacturers at the show, quizzing staff on their DAB knowledge and what models are being sold with digital radio;
“I don’t know much about DAB but I know that Norway is switching off FM and Belgium will switch off in 2020.”
“I’ve got DAB in my car, it has my favourite station which I listen to in the morning as it has news, traffic information and music – no talking.”
“DAB is great, the sound quality is better and if it does lose the signal it just drops and you don’t get the annoying crackles.”
“DAB is fantastic, I lived in the UK and hope Belgium goes digital soon there’s just so much choice.”
As many of the staff on stand were dealers we were pleasantly surprised to find that their knowledge of DAB was good, if not comprehensive. One said to us he’d be happy to have more training on DAB, as the manufacturers offer them a small amount but not enough.
Plenty of cars had DAB but there’s still work to do in raising awareness and helping manufacturers educate staff on the benefits.
VW was showing the latest Golf, which will be shipping in Belgium with DAB as standard.
Hyundai was typical of many stands, with the higher-end models featuring DAB. Audi, BMW, Opel, Nissan, Renault, Fiat, Ford, Subaru and Toyota were all showing some cars with DAB. We won’t name and shame the brands that didn’t have DAB on stand, with a few big names missing from the list, however as a first year the overall feeling towards DAB was positive.
“DAB doesn’t exist, it’s not a thing”
As ever there was one area in which work really needs to be done. Some stands hired young people aged 18-25 and within this group the awareness of DAB was very low. Even though some stands were giving DAB training, younger staff had no knowledge of DAB and some didn’t even listen to the radio.
UX work to do
The radio button seems to be heading to extinction in new cars, replaced with either musical notes, media symbols or a jumble of other symbols and numbers.
Radio remains a feature that drivers won’t give-up, so it’s essential that manufactures make it easy for people to find the services and stations they love.
On touch-screens it’s much easier to see the radio button, but we found a number of cars where it requires jumping through several menus or options to get into presets or station searches. Fine when you’re at a show, not so good for those on the road!
WorldDAB is working on this through the Automotive User Experience Group, bringing together broadcasters and automotive manufacturers to make the digital radio user experience as easy and intuitive as possible.