Washington – A handful of the nation’s top public television
stations are participating in a new Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) pilot
project that is being coordinated and funded by the Corporation for Public
announced this week.
The mission of the pilot project is to assess the potential of
using an enhanced method of information sharing through existing Mobile Digital
TV services that are now being deployed throughout the country.
Beyond life-saving emergency broadcasts and simple text alerts, the
next-generation emergency alert system will provide a new tool for first
responders who need to access critical information, and for federal and state
agencies to instantly reach millio2ns of Americans with a single broadcast.
The new M-EAS system will provide consumers with instantaneous, reliable,
rich media alerts anywhere, anytime.
Stations participating in the M-EAS pilot project include: WGBH
Boston, Vegas PBS (KLVX) in Las Vegas, and Alabama Public Television stations WBIQ
(Birmingham) and WAIQ (Montgomery).
These public television broadcasters are serving as test markets
for the new M-EAS being developed now by PBS and LG Electronics.
By using terrestrial “over the air” TV broadcasting, rather than
cellular network connectivity, M-EAS is expected to meet critical needs for
emergency alerts, according to PBS.
The goal of the project is to prove the viability of M-EAS, use
existing standards with the cooperation of three public TV stations, and to
create a template for deployment by any broadcaster – public or commercial.
“If we’re successful, the results of the pilot will help usher in
a new era of mobile alerting systems. They will be extremely valuable to
federal, state and local emergency management agencies and the publics they
serve and will extend the community service role of public and commercial
broadcasters alike. We welcome the leadership of PBS stations to serve as the â€˜test
bed’ for these rich-media emergency transmissions,” said Dr. Jong Kim, Zenith
R&D Lab (an LG operation) president.
“With the Mobile EAS
service, we’ll be able to send everything from Amber alert photos to detailed
maps with escape routes, live video, and extensive information that viewers
will find invaluable in a disaster. This goes way beyond just a text message on
a congested cell phone network. It’s harnessing the power of â€˜one-to-many’
transmissions from a TV broadcaster to the viewing audience,” said John
McCoskey, PBS Chief Technology Officer.
The Mobile EAS project will evaluate system’s capabilities for
delivering multimedia alerts (utilizing video, audio, text, and graphics) to
cellphones, tablets, laptops, netbooks, and in car navigation systems.
In the spirit of its public service mission, public television is
leading the way in testing the use of the new communication platform.
McCoskey said a key goal of the M-EAS project is to develop “a
system that can be easily replicated by both public and commercial broadcasters
throughout the country, and give access to vital emergency information to
millions of viewers – regardless of the type of mobile device that they’re
using to tune our channels. Whether utilized in times of national emergency, to
warn of a local fast-approaching storm, or to advise the public of missing children,
we believe that the new Mobile DTV system can be harnessed to do far more
than just the delivery of linear TV
channels,” he said.
Utilizing terrestrial “over the air” broadcast TV transmissions,
rather than spotty cell phone systems, the M-EAS requires no additional
spectrum and will be an additional use of existing TV transmitters and towers.
Standard equipment used to
upgrade stations for transmission of Mobile DTV signals will be utilized.
Mobile-EAS using Mobile DTV could significantly enhance current
capabilities for sending emergency alerts, PBS said, because it does not have
bandwidth bottlenecks that might overload current or planned cellular systems
with millions of devices attempting to receive the alerts simultaneously.
The M-EAS pilot will use existing standards for implementation,
including the digital TV standard and the A/153 Mobile DTV standard (both
adopted by the Advanced Television Systems Committee) as well as the
international Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) that specifies how messages are
The ATSC A/153 Mobile DTV Standard uses Internet Protocol (IP), enabling
the new application to be flexible and expandable, PBS said. Streaming, data
delivery, non-real-time delivery, and electronic service guides are included.
The project will evaluate a number of factors relevant to
providing any next-generation emergency system, including feasibility, technologies,
implementation costs, cost-sharing possibilities, the ease of using such a
system compared to other technologies, acceptance by both the general public
and emergency messaging managers, and expectations of future needs and system
The current Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public
warning system that requires broadcasters, cable systems, and satellite
operators to provide communications capabilities to the President to address
the American public during a national emergency.
It has its roots in the early days of the Cold War. And since the
9/11 attacks, federal agencies have upgraded the nation’s communications
capability to respond to man-made and natural disasters.
PBS along with LG Electronics and its Zenith R&D are developing
handheld mobile DTV devices to receive the new alerts and provide funding for
Harris Broadcast and Roundbox also are providing key components
and technology for the project. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is
providing matching grants to local public television stations for Mobile DTV
broadcasting equipment and grant funding to assist PBS participation in this