Future Alerting


Cars with internet connectivity are increasingly coming on the market.

The “connected car” has been one of most-watched trends in emergency consumer technology. As we’ve reported before, auto manufacturers are increasingly building internet connectivity into their new lines of vehicles, allowing for better access to information and a more convenient—and hopefully safer—driving experience. But as we saw on Fast Company’s CoDesign site, a proposed rule from a Federal transportation agency could push this trend into reality faster than we expected. Continue reading »

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An Alternate Approach to Public Alerting

On January 24, 2013, in Future Alerting, by with SRA International

One commonly used approach in emergency alerting is to send out the emergency message across all distribution channels so it reaches the maximum number of people. This approach is beneficial since it increases the probability that the alert will reach everyone, assuming that not every person will have access to all distribution channels or devices. As an example, consider someone in a rural area where there is no cellular coverage. Though they might not receive a Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS) message, this person might see a message on TV or radio. Similarly, if an event occurs in the middle of the night, those who are asleep may not see an email, radio or TV alert, but they may be awakened by a buzzing cell phone.

So distributing the message across multiple channels increases the probability that people will get the alert. But what if we changed this to a more methodical approach? Continue reading »

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Public Safety at the Speed of Light

On January 14, 2013, in Future Alerting, Uncategorized, by with SRA International

Recently, MIT researcher Ramesh Raskar presented an extraordinary TED talk on femto-photography, “a new type of imaging so fast it visualizes the world one trillion frames per second, so detailed it shows light itself in motion.” This fascinating presentation, which features an ultra-slow motion video of a laser beam passing through a bottle, is a great example of the ability of basic research to inspire us and change the way we think about the world around us.

So why is this video being featured on the AWARE Forum? It is certainly not a video about alerts and warnings. However, in the latter half of the presentation, Mr. Rashkar explains that this new technology now allows a camera to see around corners, with applications for cars to see around busy intersections or firefighters to look into inaccessible bedrooms. This is a great example of basic research having unexpected real-world benefits. These real world applications are years away, but their mention in this video shows that the public safety community has a stake not just in the sometimes frustrating worlds of interoperability and policy, but also in the most advanced technology of our day, including a camera that can take pictures at the speed of light.


As the recent Hurricane-Sandy-related storms have shown, wireless communications systems are vulnerable and frequently cell phone service is knocked out during major weather events. In a previous story here on AWARE last summer, we noted that having an FM radio receiver in all cellular handsets would provide a means to receive emergency information that comes directly from the broadcast station towers and does not depend on the vulnerable cellular networks. In the article, we explored why FM is currently lacking on U.S. wireless devices and highlighted the ongoing campaign of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) advocating for wireless carriers to provide FM chips in handsets. The work of broadcasters has apparently paid off, as Sprint announced this week that it would indeed begin activating FM in many of its smart phones. Even more encouraging is that the press release hints of interactive aspects to this FM tuner application, making it more than just a mere radio receiver.

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Targeted Alerts on FM Radio

On December 6, 2012, in Emergency Alert System, Future Alerting, by with SRA International

Could FM broadcasters someday soon be able to send geo-targeted emergency alerts to their audience? A recent series of articles in Radio World Magazine highlight a new, experimental technology called ZoneCasting, which allows FM broadcast stations to geo-target program content to specific zones in their coverage areas. While designed to target advertising, purveyors of the system point out that it can be used to target emergency alerts as well.

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