With the rapid spread of the Internet, WiFi has become almost ubiquitous across all walks pertaining to the network and connectivity sector. One segment that has, for a long time, withstood the intrusion of WiFi was radio transmission.
But not anymore. WiFi radio is all set to replace its conventional twin. You may consider this a hyperbole because there are only 200000 such radios all over the world, but the idea of the WiFi radio replacing the traditional radio is not so far-fetched indeed.
In this article, we’ll spare a holistic discussion on WiFi radio aka Internet radio.
How WiFi radio works?
You may feel surprised to know WiFi radio has several modules. The modules are different because the chips inside the radios are different. The essential parts of a WiFi radio are;
- It is connected to the internet
- Streaming data codec from the uniform resource locator
The data is transmitted from the URL and played back in the speaker. A WiFi radio essentially requires to be connected to a web portal. The portal stores a number of radio stations and the WiFi radio receives the feed from them.
Some of the celebrated radio web portals are http://www.iradio168.com, http://www.reciva.com, etc. These portals store nearly 10000 stations. The stations are distributed across various geographical regions. iradio168, for example, mostly keeps stock of Asian stations while reciva is famous for its collection of European stations.
Once the WiFi radio connects to those stations, you can play back its feed on your computer, while doing that, just make sure the computer is connected to the local area network. The underlying technology might be complex, but its execution, as it appears to users is not so difficult indeed.
Many WiFi radio buyers wonder whether they’d have to move from FM stations to the portal stations, described above. Regardless of whether they’d like it or not, the international stations and web based shows will be entirely new to them because traditional radio had made them used to the FM stations.
Well, the apprehension is not valid; using WiFi radio doesn’t translate to saying adieu to your favorite FM stations. Most FM radio stations are available online. The FM radio tuner is also there for the user’s rescue. If your WiFi radio includes FM radio tuners, then you’ll be able to access all the FM stations and won’t have to miss out on them.
Finding your favorite station
It’s difficult to find someone in a crowd. But it’s not difficult to find your favorite radio station when you are using WiFi radio; in fact, you can find your favorite station with complete ease. A WiFi radio is developed keeping in mind there will be hordes of stations, and the manufacturers embed solutions so a station could be located easily.
The web portals also work in favor of the users. When the stations are organized by the portals, they are put under categories that are easy to navigate. One of the categories is location; this category helps users search for content that are specific to their locations.
Like location, genre could also be a category. Searching for content based on musical genres, such as Jazz, International Music, etc can help you access your favorite content. Similar to the bookmark feature offered by the browsers, you can have the favored radio stations saved as presets. This will save you time.
Hence, quite contrary to what most people believe, finding a radio station in a crowd of hundreds and thousands of stations is actually not so difficult.
If your broadband package comes with a limit to monthly usage, then you need to be frugal at the time of listening to WiFi radio. If you listen to a normal online radio, then nearly 25MB of your bandwidth will be consumed. WiFi radio will use up almost the same bandwidth, which means listening to it for 3-4 hours every day will subtract 2.5-3GB from your monthly bandwidth plan. If you have an unlimited plan or ready to spend the said volume of bandwidth each month, then go for it.
DIY WiFi radio
You can visit a store and buy an Internet radio any day, but do bear in mind it will trim your wallet down because the price of an Internet radio ranges between $100 and $200. To save money, you can opt for DIY, this will help you have your own WiFi radio for only $50, and even enables you to control it through your Smartphone.
The first thing you need is a Raspberry Pi computer, which is super-affordable and of the size of a credit card. Next, you need a SD-card with memory capacity 4GB or more, a wireless power adapter, a USB WiFi adapter, speakers and an account on an Internet music streaming site.
Make sure the SD-card is compatible with the OS disk image because you’ll need to down the disk image and write it to the card. You can download the OS from a range of choices. Plug the card into the computer only after the disk image is written. When you start the computer, it will show you information about the OS from the card. If you are inclined to pay attention to the details, then give a look the OS information.
After the boot information, you need to carry out the configuration task. Two important configurations are expanding root partition to make sure all space of the SD-card can be used and enabling SSH server. Then you need to configure the wireless USB adapter through the setup screen. Commands for USB adapter configuration depends on which OS is put to use.
Next, you need to configure the SSH server, update your computer and install online music streaming player. When done with the whole configuration process, you need to download an application for SSH in your mobile phone and control the wireless streaming player remotely.
The process, described above may get difficult for you if you never used Raspberry Pi before or not familiar with the Linux commands.
There’s an alternative way to build your a WiFi radio on the Windows platform. You can follow this tutorial if you want to make this whole process hassle free.