By John Lawson, Convergence Services
With the approach of the 2014 hurricane season, TV stations in Florida are preparing to begin field testing of the new emergency alert capabilities of mobile digital TV, which can deliver lifesaving information to mobile phones when cellular is jammed or the electric grid goes down.
Pearl Group (www.PearlTV.com) stations in West Palm Beach and Orlando that are already transmitting Mobile DTV are coordinating tests of Mobile EAS with existing receiver adapters from smart phones and tablets this spring, demonstrating how enhanced emergency information can be easily sent and received.
That news was announced in early April at the 2014 NAB Show, where thousands of broadcasters converged to learn about the latest technologies that are helping broadcasters reach more people and also provide better public services in times of need.
TVNewscheck reported that “M-EAS, which relies on broadcasts one-to-many over-the-air reach, sidesteps the cellular industry’s wireless network and can connect people with enhanced emergency information, which not only warns of an emergency but also can transmit rich media, such as maps of evacuation routes, video, and other vital information to people in danger.”
According to the leading industry newsletter, delivering lifesaving information via M-EAS “could play a key role in getting receiver chips into cell phones.”
TV Technology quoted Pat Laplatney, vice president of Digital Media for Raycom Media, speaking on behalf of the Florida broadcasters: “Information about fast-approaching severe weather is often one of the most critical needs of TV viewers, and M-EAS can be configured to distribute short announcements, longer audio and video instructions, maps, text and other vital information without having to rely on the cell phone network.
“Past experience shows that severe weather can play havoc on cellphone systems while most broadcasters with robust transmission capability stay on-air to advise viewers and report on incoming storms.”
The Mobile EAS demonstration at NAB 2014, spearheaded by the ATSC M-EAS Implementation Team, showed how easy it is for broadcasters to update existing equipment to be ready for Mobile EAS transmissions. Supporters of the Mobile Emergency Alert System providing equipment and expertise for the NAB Show demonstrations included LG and its Zenith subsidiary, GatesAir, Monroe’s Digital Alert Systems and Triveni Digital.
The bottom line: a service like Mobile EAS — a life-saving service for the American public, whether there’s a tsunami, or a chemical spill, or nuclear accident, terrorist attack, tornado or hurricane — is a system can save lives.