Next Generation Alerting Technologies
Every aspect of our society has been revolutionized by advances in information and communication technologies – smartphones, broadband, facebook, twitter etc. have permeated our everyday lives. This revolution includes how we receive emergency alerts and warnings from public safety – TV and radio alerts not enough for today’s wired society. A slew of new alerting methods have appeared over the last few years, and MobiLaps has been active in pioneering innovative technologies for next-generation alerting.
Social Media Alerting
Social media is a new and promising frontier for emergency management. In the last five years social media have played an increasing role in emergencies and disasters, with social media sites ranking as the fourth most popular source to access emergency information. In particular, social media is an increasingly popular method for disseminating alerts and warnings to the public. However, there is a significant increase in workload for EOCs in terms of monitoring and responding to messages in the aftermath of issuing an alert; during and after a disaster.
Funded in part by an NSF SBIR grant, MobiLaps is developing a SaaS application that leverages the power of the Internet and mobility solutions to virtually augment the EOC staff with trusted digital volunteers, whose responsibility is shoulder the vast majority of the social media load, freeing the EOC staff to focus on response efforts. The digital volunteers will handle incoming run-of-the-mill citizen messages directly; while escalating only urgent messages to the EOC staff.
In response to the Congress' 2006 WARN Act, WEA (wireless emergency alerting) was rolled out nationwide in 2012. WEA broadcasts text messages to all cellular devices in an emergency-impacted area. However, it has one major limitation: the message cannot exceed 90 characters, to the great dislike of emergency managers around the country. MobiLaps developed a novel patent-pending compression/re-encoding technique that allows increasing the message size.
There has been an increasing migration to the web for infotainment, with nothing replacing the TV/Radio emergency alert system on Broadband. As more citizens "cut the cord", alerting authorities need a way to reach citizens on Broadband, in a way that does not require citizens to subscribe or install software. This technology delivers Broadband alerts in collaboration with ISPs (whose role is analogous to TV/Radio stations).
The technology enables federal and local authorities to send next-generation emergency alerts to the public over Broadband. If someone is browsing the web, it cuts in over it and displays a webpage containing the emergency alert; or if someone is viewing an online video, such as YouTube of ESPN3, it cuts in over that and shows instead a video alert. A key feature is that it does not require the end-user to install special software or register for the service. Also one advantage is that once the alert is web-based, it inherits the advantages of the web, including richness of information, customizing the alert to the language and location of the recipient, and linkability to social networking platforms such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter.