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Mobile EAS trial aims to lay foundation for easy, early deployment — Part II

The ongoing trial of Mobile EAS — a backwards-compatible extension of the A/153 Mobile DTV standard that gives broadcasters a way to transmit rich media to mobile viewers in the event of an emergency — has five specific goals.

According to Jim Kutzner, chief engineer of PBS, who is taking a lead role in the trial, it is focused on determining the feasibility of delivering emergency information to mobile receivers; developing the core technology needed to make M-EAS a reality; identifying the implementation costs to add basic M-EAS capability at TV stations; ensuring the system is simple for broadcasters to deploy and the public to use; and developing acceptance among emergency managers on the federal and local level.

Although the M-EAS trial is ongoing and not due to wrap up till the end of May, early indications reveal the project is on track to achieve its goals, says Kutzner. For example, in Las Vegas at the 2012 International CES, the tsunami, tornado, Amber Alert and suspicious device emergency scenarios gave the public the chance to interact with M-EAS-enabled mobile DTV handsets and its GUI.

Similarly, deployment of M-EAS at the three PBS trial participants is helping Kutzner gauge the ease with which the system can be deployed at stations and even helping to raise awareness of the system among emergency managers, he says.

Between now and the end of May, Kutzner will be focused on discussing the overall infrastructure necessary to make M-EAS a reality, and the 2012 NAB Show in Las Vegas, April 14-19, will provide a forum for broader input. “I want to include a lot of broadcasters in the discussion of how this gets put together,” he says.

At this point, Kutzner says, he is reluctant to put a dollar amount on deployment of M-EAS at the station level because it is still so early in the process. However, he does say the cost should be “a small fraction” of the estimated $100,000 to add mobile DTV service.

Currently, there is no defined second phase for the trial, says Kutzner. However, if the trial goes on beyond May, some of the issues likely to be addressed will include how rich data gets assembled and inserted into M-EAS messaging, ways to ensure a base system can automatically generate emergency messages based on triggers generated by FEMA or state sources and whether emergency messages are pre-generated and triggered for playout when needed.

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part report on Mobile-EAS. The first installment which examined the M-EAS trial and participation of Fisher Communications’ Seattle-based KOMO along with PBS in a scenario played out at the 2012 International CES in Las Vegas, is available on the Broadcast Engineering Website.