How geo-location services will influence the next generation of car radio

Staff Writer

Anthony Ghergetta is lead mobile development strategist at The App Studio in Melbourne, Australia and was one of the originals at 96.9 Wild FM in Sydney in the 90's.

He has asked us to share this article with Radio Today readers. 

Over to Anthony;

This is the second article in a series exploring the next generation of car radio. The first article can be read here ……

As a radio broadcaster, imagine if you knew the exact location of each listener, where they are, where they have been and where they are going.

Sound far-fetched? Nope. This is the next generation of car radio.

Car radio is changing. What was once a lone signal broadcast from the top of a mountain is now turning into an interactive service delivered to the car via mobile networks.

Services like Spotify and Pandora are eating into the car radio audience – this is especially true in the United States and Europe. According to a recent report from Juniper Research, app capability in vehicles will reach one fifth of all vehicles in Western Europe and the US by 2017. Soon, to stay in the game, every radio broadcaster will have to provide an interactive service for cars. However, unlike Spotify and Pandora, these services will be more than just music.

Car radio is big business. 36% of all Australian radio listening is done in the car. Radio stations generate a high proportion of their income during the morning and afternoon commute. To protect this revenue, radio stations must adapt.

The market is opening up to new competitors, but existing radio broadcasters with compelling content will have the upper hand if they move fast to take ownership of this space.

Geo-location services

The most popular mobile applications are built around the physical location of the user. While there are many valid privacy concerns surrounding this information, most people click ‘yes’ when an app asks for access to their location. They do so because they know from experience that the service and the content will be much better if it’s geographically targeted.

However, there are a few hurdles for mobile developers when it comes to accessing location information.

A mobile application can only access a user’s location when the app is open and running in the foreground. If the app is closed or running in the background, it can’t access this information.

Say, for example, you check in on Foursquare. The app will record your latitude and longitude when you check in. If you close the app, travel across town and open the app again to check in at a second location, the app will record your latitude and longitude for a second time.

But, here’s the issue. The app will not know the route you took to get from point A to point B. There is no way that the app can access your geographical location when the app is closed or running in the background.

Imagine if Foursquare had this information. Rather than just finding your friends and making suggestions around the two geographical points where you checked in, it could make suggestions along the entire route you took from point A to point B. But because the app was closed or running in the background, this information is not available.

The beauty of car radio – it runs in the foreground

There is one app that runs in the foreground when people are driving. Radio.

You get in the car, turn on the radio and start driving. You don’t have time to check emails, surf the web or look at Facebook updates. In most cases, the radio app is turned on, and it’s left running.

This will become more and more common as radio apps are integrated into the car dashboard.

Unlike Foursquare and other location apps that are used intermittently, car radio applications remain open and in the foreground as you drive.

Radio is in a great position to harness the geographical data of its listeners.

Follow your listeners

The next generation of car radio will know exactly where its listeners are. This will reinvent radio and make it a true one-to-one medium.

From providing local information to listeners, to traffic reports, to improving marketing and promotional campaigns, the next generation of car radio will be tailored to each listener’s location.

So how does it work?

The following image is a heatmap of a radio listener in Melbourne.

The red areas show where the car radio was turned on or off and the yellow and green areas show where the listener travels. The darker the colour, the more often the user drives that route.

As a radio broadcaster, you now know exactly where each listener is and where he or she has been. From this data, you can also predict where they are going.

So, how can a radio station use this data?

These are just some examples of how a radio station can use location data. It only takes a bit of creativity to think of many more ways.


Traffic is an obvious example. If I travel the same way to work every weekday I need a traffic report as soon as I turn on the car radio.

I only need to know the traffic for the route that I drive to work, not the entire city.

With the geographical data, radio stations can make content like traffic reports that are much more relevant for the listener.

Announcers and Spoken Content

If a radio station knows where their audience is, they will know what subjects interest them.
If the entire audience heads to an event, the radio broadcasters will be able to create content around that event in real time.

Promotions and Marketing

Likewise, if a radio station knows where their audience is, they will know where to direct their marketing and promotions.


This is the big one, and I’ll talk about this subject more in the next article.

Every time a user has the radio running we are collecting geographical data.

If I drive to the snow twice a year, the platform will flag me as a winter sports person. Then, if I drive past a ski shop on the way to work everyday, the platform will know to advertise that ski shop to me.

Pretty simple, and lots of people have tried to implement this model. But most people have failed, because they don’t have the necessary volume of geographical data of their users. The next generation of car radio will have this data.

Radio broadcasters need to embrace this new technology so that radio can become more local that ever.

The car radio is changing and before you know it, apps will be commonplace on the car dashboard. Radio broadcasters are in a unique position to harness the location of their listeners.

Anthony Gherghetta is the lead mobile development strategist at The App Studio in Melbourne, Australia. You can contact Anthony here.

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