VA.–Marking its one-year anniversary, the AWARN
Alliance provided a preview of advanced emergency alerting capabilities via
Next Gen TV that will be demonstrated at the 2017 NAB Show.
to R): John Lawson, executive director, AWARN Alliance,
James, AWARN Alliance deputy director, and Sam Matheny, NAB CTO
The demonstration of the Advanced
Warning and Response Network—held at Sinclair Broadcast
Group’s Washington, D.C. ABC affiliate WJLA-TV—was designed
to show how the ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard, which will be approved within the
next several months, will allow broadcasters to dramatically upgrade the
content, pervasiveness, and reliability of disaster warning and recovery
information to TVs and mobile devices, according to AWARN Alliance Executive
Director John Lawson.
AWARN will leverage other powerful
features of Next-Gen TV, including the ability to “wake up”
devices, robust indoor and mobile reception, personalization, and integration
with hybrid networks. AWARN alerts can also be delivered to mobile devices even
if the cellular network is overloaded or the electric grid is down.
“Geo-targeted, rich media
AWARN alerts will give people a whole new level of life-saving information,
literally at their fingertips,” Lawson said. “AWARN has the
ability to deliver not only text, but photos, surveillance video, storm tracks,
plume models, evacuation routes, shelter-in-place instructions, hospital wait
times, power outages, and many other forms of vital content.”
These capabilities will far exceed
emergency systems available to the American public today, primarily the
Emergency Alert System (EAS), rooted in the Cold War, with its familiar tones
and bars for radio and television, and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) text
messages, currently limited to 90 characters, distributed by wireless carriers.
“Because of the flexibility of ATSC 3.0, AWARN can easily transmit
multilingual and accessible media as well,” Lawson said. The WEA,
which was initiated after 9/11, will be expanded to provide over 300 characters
in the future.
Lawson noted that AWARN can be used
in conjunction with WEA when cellular networks can become overwhelmed.
“I think [broadcasters] and wireless and going to be able to work
together on this,” he said, adding that the advantages of
broadcasting’s one-to-many transmission approach, coupled with ATSC
3.0’s hybrid IP/broadcast technology, will provide a more
comprehensive emergency alert network. He used the Integrated Public Alert
Warning System (iPAWS), which was created in 2006 to illustrate this
“[The concept of] iPAWS is
an excellent one in that alerting should be a ‘network of
networks’ and wherever one network touches another in a mesh, then
that alert should be relayed across the new network,” Lawson said.
“So eventually we think the Wireless Emergency Alert and what
we’re doing can work together. But because we’re using the
television airwaves to send the alert directly to the device, whether
it’s in your living room or in your hand, we don’t need the
cellular network. But if the cellular network is available, we can embed urls,
or we can embed the right hashtag, for example.”
A key goal of the Alliance is to
develop models that can be adopted seamlessly as ATSC 3.0 is launched by early
adopter stations in 2018. Lawson said the Alliance is making steady progress
toward that goal, including the following demonstrations at the NAB Show:
AMBER: With the support of the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children, WJLA in Arlington, Va., and LG Electronics and
its Zenith affiliate, the Alliance has produced an advanced AMBER alert demo.
Tornado: With ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, Ala. and
LG/Zenith, the Alliance has produced a tornado warning based on the real events
of April 27, 2011, a “super outbreak” that claimed more
than 250 lives in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa area of Alabama.
spill: And with WJLA, LG/Zenith, and Digital Alert Systems, the
Alliance has produced a “HazMat” chemical spill alert,
loosely based on the May 2016 CSX train derailment in Northeast Washington, DC.
Triveni Digital also supported
production of each demo. Currently WRAL in Raleigh, N.C., with the support of
UNC-TV in Chapel Hill, is producing an active shooter alert that includes
encrypted content for first responders.
The three prototypes encoded by LG
for ATSC 3.0 can be viewed at the Next-Gen TV Hub, booth L11, in the Grand
Lobby of Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
will include several demos of its alert system at the Next-Gen TV Hub, booth
L11, in the Grand Lobby of
Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center during the NAB Show.
To test and demonstrate
broadcasters’ flexibility in implementing advanced alerting, NAB
PILOT has re-encoded two of the alerts as HTML5 apps that can be broadcast
through the ATSC 3.0 signal and received on tablets via a home gateway device.
Those demos can be viewed at Futures Park in NAB PILOT booth N1838FP in North
The Alliance will host an executive
breakfast on Wednesday, April 26 from 8-9 a.m. in Westgate Conference Rooms 1-2
that will focus on synergies between AWARN alerts and Next Gen TV business
models. Contact AWARN Alliance Deputy Director Fiona
James to register.
Lawson also used the anniversary to
announced the expansion of membership into the AWARN Allliance, which is a
coalition of commercial and public broadcasters, consumer electronics and
broadcast technology companies, national trade groups, and service providers
who have come together to develop and deploy AWARN. Membership in the Alliance
has more than doubled since its founding just one year ago, adding public
broadcasters, national groups, tech companies, and law firms.
The Alliance, along with the
Consumer Technology Association, the National Association of Broadcasters, and
America’s Public Televisions Stations, is a signatory to the April
2016 “joint petition” to
the Federal Communications Commission requesting rules to allow
broadcasters to begin transmitting in the ATSC 3.0 standard on a voluntary
basis. The FCC approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
for that purpose in February.