Research & Development

What we're doing

RadioTAG is a technology that enables internet-connected radios to send the current time and station to a broadcaster's internet service, optionally store that data and receive back relevant information. This could allow interactive radio services for people such as bookmarking the current programme or finding out what's now playing.

BBC R&D has been working with a cross-industry team, including Global Radio and Frontier Silicon, to design and draft the specifications for RadioTAG as one of the RadioDNS set of standards. RadioTAG is an initiative under the umbrella of RadioDNS, an industry-wide initiative to enable the convergence of radio broadcasting and IP-delivered services.

We worked with these partners to build and test a demonstration RadioTAG service which lets listeners securely pair their radio with an online account, and then “tag” or “bookmark” radio as they listen.

Why it matters

Our motivation in contributing to RadioTAG is that we want to explore the additional services we can offer alongside our broadcasts on radios that can connect to the Internet. Commercial stations are interested in the same things but also in the opportunities they can offer advertisers in terms of attention data and direct response advertising. Click-to-buy, where pressing the tag button while a song is playing immediately purchases it, is an obvious possibility. Device manufacturers are keen for RadioTAG to provide a rich "out-of-the-box" experience that works without you having to go to a website and fill in some forms.

Having a standardised protocol, broadcasters and manufacturers can implement applications and clients that they know will work together. Both sides benefit from the greater number of collaborating participants, so our audiences can enjoy a richer radio experience.

Our goals

  • Design a protocol to enable bookmarking radio
  • Build a reference implementation
  • Get it running on a real radio
  • Find out what people thought of bookmarking radio

How it works

RadioTAG is a protocol that defines:

  • how a client finds the tag service corresponding to the current station using RadioDNS
  • the transport protocol used
  • the format of a tag request
  • how the service should respond to unauthenticated requests
  • how you pair a client with your account at a broadcaster's web site

How we went about designing RadioTAG is a story in its own right. In brief, we started with paper prototyping, exchanging bits of paper representing API calls until we had figured out roughly which component needs to know what when. We then built a simulation which enabled us to run the client, the RadioTAG protocol service and other components (such as an authentication service) in a controlled manner. By instrumenting this simulation, we were able to easily examine the effect of changes to the protocol in a predictable way.

Once we were fairly sure we had the protocol worked out, we built a reference implementation of the internet services which we could use with the client that Frontier Silicon implemented on an Axis Revo radio.


This project is part of the RadioDNS work stream


People & Partners

Project Team

Project Partners

  • Frontier Silicon

    Semiconductor company providing the technology for many digital radios

  • Global Radio

    National UK radio broadcaster

  • RadioDNS

    Project to steer the future of internet connected radio services