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Gracenote makes radio in your car smarter

Using GPS, its music fingerprint technology and a big database of stations, Gracenote shows how it keeps radio relevant in cars.

Gracenote radio localization
At CES, Gracenote showed how its radio base includes GPS location and signal-reach information
Wayne Cunningham/CNET Roadshow

Faced with streaming audio services, it might seem like the days of broadcast radio are over, but music tagging company Gracenote says that 80 percent of drivers still listen to FM. At CES 2017, Gracenote showed how it could use GPS, its own music fingerprint technology, and its database of radio stations to improve the listening experience.

For years, Gracenote catalogued music, developing a huge database that includes what it calls a "fingerprint" for every song. Gracenote uses this fingerprint to identify a song from any audio stream. For its radio demo, the system could identify the song playing from any radio station, supplying additional information, such as artist, album and genre. Gracenote's system works independently of HD radio, or any data signal streamed with audio information.

Gracenote can automatically identify any song playing from a radio station by matching the audio signal with its database.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET Roadshow

In a car, the radio display shows the song information as soon as the system recognizes its fingerprint, which can happen in just a few seconds.

Adding to this capability, Gracenote built a catalog of radio stations, including GPS information for their signal towers and reach of their broadcasts. Using this data, a car would know which radio stations it can receive, presenting that information to the driver, rather than forcing the driver to scan through frequencies.

Gracenote's catalog includes genre information for each radio station, and can intelligently match genres across geographical boundaries. As such, when a driver leaves the signal area of one station, the car's radio could automatically find a station with a similar genre in the car's current location.

Although Gracenote would not divulge which automaker might first use this technology in a production model, the company has an extensive history of working with automotive equipment suppliers.