Life-Saving Technology Will Leverage Next-Generation ATSC 3.0 Broadcast TV Standard
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Lab is now playing host to a technology demonstration of AWARN – the Advanced Warning and Response Network.
Developed and supported by leading technology companies and broadcasters, AWARN will leverage next-generation broadcast technology to transmit next-generation emergency alerts to the public. AWARN capitalizes on existing emergency alerting standards and builds upon the Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) developed during a pilot project and standardized by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC).
FEMA’s testing, in the IPAWS Lab located at the Joint Interoperability Test Command in Indian Head, Md., will demonstrate the feasibility and operational deployment of AWARN within the IPAWS suite of technologies and allow public safety officials to gain confidence using IPAWS in a secure environment, according to FEMA.
AWARN’s equipment will be put through its paces at the IPAWS Lab, where closed-environment testing will be employed to assess its capabilities. Testing will begin with M-EAS using current-generation digital broadcast technology as a solid foundation for advanced emergency alerting using next-gen broadcasting technology.
AWARN senior advisor John Lawson, president of Convergence Services, Inc., called broadcast Advanced Emergency Alerting “a major addition to FEMA’s ‘network of networks’ for public safety communications.” It will provide vital information to the public whether or not the cellular network is functioning or the electric grid is intact, he explained.
The current U.S. broadcast standard, the ATSC A/53 Digital Television Standard adopted in the 1990s, is being upgraded to a new more flexible and powerful version called ATSC 3.0. This new broadcast system, currently being standardized, promises to provide a more robust transmission, a higher data throughput and improved indoor reception.
Integrated into the new ATSC 3.0 standard will be a capability for Advanced Emergency Alerts such as AWARN. Mobile digital television reception is a core component of the new standard, meaning that the same broadcast signal going to home TV sets can easily be simultaneously transmitted to ATSC 3.0-equipped smartphones and tablets.
Just as with M-EAS, AWARN is designed to integrate seamlessly with IPAWS. Alerts generated by state, regional, or local authorities currently trigger text and tone alerts under the legacy Emergency Alert System to be received by viewers and listeners.
AWARN uses the new capabilities inherent in ATSC 3.0 to deliver rich media alerts. Video, photographs, text, evacuation routes, maps, plume models, radar images, html pages, shelter information, Amber Alerts and more can be transmitted as part of the AWARN alert.
This advanced use of rich media allows the public to search for more information on each alert issued, all via the broadcast transmission stream or, to put it another way, without using their data plan or having to access LTE or 4G at all. The use of Internet Protocol technology allows the new application to be flexible and extensible. Data delivery, non-real-time delivery, and electronic service guides are all included.
Lawson said that testing at the IPAWS Lab will address more than technical issues. It also is an opportunity for emergency managers to move beyond text messages and sirens to distribute rich media assets, including multilingual and accessible alerts, such as text-to-speech. He said initial FEMA testing with first-generation technology lays the groundwork for further testing of the very robust advanced alerting system as the ATSC 3.0 standard process proceeds over the next year.
AWARN is supported by leading broadcasters and technology companies including; Gates Air, LG Electronics (and its U.S. R&D subsidiary Zenith), Digital Alert Systems, Monroe Electronics, Triveni Digital, NAB Labs, Capital Broadcasting, PBS, Convergence Services, and others.
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