Congressional Testimony: AWARN to Save Lives

Members of Congress heard all about AWARN’s benefits during the U.S. House Communications and Technology Subcommittee’s May 17 hearing on emergency alerting. NAB CTO Sam Matheny testified on behalf of the industry, and his compelling demonstration of  AWARN’s capabilities during the hearing was well received. Matheny highlighted how AWARN’s “public safety benefits of Next Gen TV and advanced emergency alerting can significantly improve the content, pervasiveness, accessibility and reliability of America’s emergency alerting systems and hopefully save lives.”

Download the full statement from Chief Technology Officer Sam Matheny

AWARN a ‘Rare Opportunity,’ Alliance Tells FCC

In comments filed May 9 with the Federal Communications Commission in response to the FCC’s Next Gen TV Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the AWARN Alliance “urges the Commission to adopt the proposed rules to allow the permissive use of the Next Generation broadcast television transmission standard and hasten the day when the American public can take full advantage of AWARN’s many benefits.”

 “AWARN presents a rare opportunity to dramatically improve America’s public safety communications capability. AWARN alerting can provide this public benefit by dual-use of the nation’s existing television broadcasting transmission capacity and the new technology of Next Gen TV,” states Executive Director John Lawson on behalf of the alliance.

Download the full AWARN Alliance Comments on the Next Gen TV NPRM below:

Advanced Emergency Alerts to be Unveiled at NAB Show 2017

AWARN Alliance Membership More than Doubles After One Year

Washington, D.C., April 18, 2017 – Marking its one-year anniversary, the AWARN Alliance will demonstrate what could become the future of emergency alerting in the United States and other countries at the NAB 2017 Show in Las Vegas next week.

The Advanced Warning and Response Network will leverage the powerful new features of the coming Next Generation Television technical standard, also known as ATSC 3.0, to dramatically upgrade the content, pervasiveness, and reliability of disaster warning and recovery information.

“Geo-targeted, rich media AWARN alerts will give people a whole new level of life-saving information, literally at their fingertips. 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,” said AWARN Alliance Executive Director John Lawson.

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.

AWARN will leverage other powerful features of Next Generation Television, 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.

AWARN Alliance Expands

The AWARN Alliance 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 (FCC) 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 on February 23 of this year.

Advanced Alert Demonstrations Using Next Generation Television

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. The Alliance is making steady progress toward that goal, including the demonstrations at the NAB Show in Las Vegas next week:

  • AMBER: With the support of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, WJLA in Arlington, Virginia, and LG Electronics and its Zenith affiliate, the Alliance has produced an advanced AMBER alert demo.
  • Tornado: With ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, Alabama 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.
  • Chemical 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, North Carolina, with the support of UNC-TV in Chapel Hill, is producing an active shooter alert that includes encrypted content for first responders.

Demos and Meeting at NAB Show 2017

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.

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 Hall.

The Alliance is also hosting an executive breakfast on Wednesday, April 26 from 8-9 am PT in Westgate Conference Rooms 1-2 that focuses on synergies between AWARN alerts and Next Gen TV business models. Contact AWARN Alliance Deputy Director Fiona James at [email protected] to register.

Members (Including Key Subsidiaries) of the AWARN Alliance, as of April 18, 2017

Advanced Emergency Alerting Implementation Team, Airwavz, America’s Public Television Stations, Arland Communications, Convergence Services, Inc., Capitol Broadcasting Company/WRAL, Digital Alert Systems, DigiCap USA, the Interactive Television Alliance, Kentucky Educational Television, KPBS/California State University-San Diego, LG Electronics, Lokita Solutions, MHz Networks, Monroe Electronics, National Association of Broadcasters, ONE Media, Pearl TV (joint venture of eight of the largest TV station groups), Sinclair Broadcast Group, Triveni Digital, UNC-TV, Vegas PBS, Wiley Rein LLP, WKAR/Michigan State University, WNET/Thirteen, and Zenith Electronics.

Advanced Alerting Advisory Committee Planned

The AWARN Alliance also is forming an Advanced Alerting Advisory Committee. “The Alliance has consulted extensively with public safety organizations in producing the first demonstration alerts. To convene more structured user groups as template design moves forward, we are in active discussions with multiple alert originator organizations to form the advisory committee,” said AWARN Alliance Deputy Director Fiona James.

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Contact: John Lawson
AWARN Alliance
Office +1 (703) 347-7070
Mobile +1 (202) 302-1654
[email protected]

Key AWARN Resource: Social Science Research From The National Academies Of Sciences

Key AWARN Resource: Social Science Research from the National Academies of Sciences

By John M. Lawson, AWARN Alliance Executive Director

Creating advanced alerting is not just about engineering and bandwidth. It’s also about social science. Ultimately, the most elegant technology is only effective if people understand and respond to messages and take action to minimize danger. Later this year, AWARN Alliance user groups will build on our alerting prototypes and create replicable templates and protocols. We hope to have social scientists at the table.

The AWARN Alliance was invited to make a presentation to the Committee on the Future of Emergency Alert and Warning Systems of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which met on the campus of the University of California, San Diego. The committee of distinguished academics and industry and public safety professionals is completing a report funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate. They will be recommending future research directions, and I was honored to brief them on the Advanced Warning and Response Network and our research needs.

Building on a Foundation of Alerting Research

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A major focus of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) committee has been the 90-character Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA). According to a 2015 study for NAS by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), longer messages, as well as messages that change the traditional order that content is presented, are more effective. The study also investigated additional elements that could be included in a WEA. For a 280-characater mock WEA, adding apps and hyperlinks appeared beneficial, whereas adding maps, did not. Both elements “merit additional research.”

START’s and other social science research has examined alerting in what might be called an environment of “scarcity,” where bandwidth, and therefore, message content is limited. The problem of “milling,” in which people delay taking action because information is insufficient or unverified, is a well-documented alerting shortfall. We believe that geo-targeted, rich-media, and personalized AWARN Alerts can mitigate the problem of milling and improve alerting at many levels.

Possible New Research Areas

In my presentation to the Committee, I outlined some possible research areas in an environment of what I call rich-media “abundance” that could help us create the most effective AWARN alerts:

  • Explore the social science of rich-media, interactive alerting,
  • Identify and inventory rich-media assets of alert originators,
  • Align alert originator assets with ATSC 3.0 capabilities, and
  • Drive latency out of the alerting chain to use AWARN for Earthquake Early Warnings.

We commend the NAS and their Committee on the Future of Emergency Alert and Warning Systems. It is encouraging for the AWARN Alliance to be invited to participate in their important dialogue. The past, current, and future work of this vital group will inform the work of the AWARN Alliance as we move beyond prototypes to the actual deployment of next-generation alerts.

 

AWARN Presents At APCO Emerging Tech Forum

AWARN Presents at APCO Emerging Tech Forum

The APCO Emerging Technology Forum in Raleigh NC.  The Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO), held its Emerging Technology Forum in Raleigh NC, on February 28 – March 1, 2017. AWARN Alliance members, Pete Sockett of Capitol Broadcasting Company, Fred Engel and Adam Woodlief of UNC–TV, presented. Their presentation concentrated on ATSC 3.0 and AWARN’s Public and Public Safety facing capabilities.  The audience consisted of state and local public safety officials as well as on the ground personnel.  The presentation was well received and this presentation was used to illustrate at the Forum.

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Statement by John M. Lawson Executive Director, AWARN Alliance on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for voluntary ATSC 3.0 transmission

“The AWARN Alliance applauds Chairman Pai and the Commission for releasing the text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for voluntary ATSC 3.0 transmission.

“ATSC 3.0 is the world’s most advanced television transmission standard, and it will enable the world’s most advanced emergency alerting system, the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN).

“We commend Chairman Pai for recognizing ATSC 3.0’s life-saving potential during this time on the Commission. The diverse and growing membership of the AWARN Alliance looks forward to the coming rulemaking proceeding.”

SBE FORMS EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM ADVISORY GROUP

Complementing the advocacy work of the AWARN Alliance and the technical work of the ATSC Advanced Emergency Alerting Implementation Team, the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) established a new advisory group on the Emergency Alert System (EAS).According to SBE President Jerry Massey, the purpose of their new EAS Advisory Group is to stay abreast of EAS developments in technology and policy and to communicate pertinent developments to SBE leadership and staff.The SBE has been actively involved with EAS since it was launched. As the system evolved to include new technologies and alerting partners, the SBE adapted to become an effective EAS implementation resource for broadcasters.

Working with various EAS partners, from stations to manufacturers to policymakers, the SBE is “broadcasters’ trusted source of EAS information,” Massey explains. The SBE EAS Advisory Group expands those efforts begun by previous SBE committees.

SBE EAS Advisory Group Chairman Larry Wilkins says the group will leverage expertise of its members and contacts at the FCC and FEMA to address origination or distribution issues of broadcast stations and state emergency communications committees.

For more information about the SBE, contact John L. Poray, CAE, executive director, at [email protected] or 317-846-9000, or visit the SBE website, www.sbe.org.

ATSC 3.0 Broadcasts To Deliver AWARN Data For Connected And Autonomous Vehicles

ATSC 3.0 Broadcasts to Deliver AWARN Data for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

Advanced Emergency Alerting Highlighted in First Demonstrations of Automotive Applications of Next-Gen Broadcasting

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The first public demonstration of important new business-to-business applications of ATSC 3.0 exemplifies how the Internet Protocol (IP) based broadcast standard will enable data services – especially delivery of AWARN advanced emergency alerting – for the connected and autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.

Robust over-the-air transmission of massive quantities of bits to vehicles opens new opportunities for automakers and drivers as well as broadcasters and manufacturers. These new B2B applications complement ATSC 3.0’s proven capabilities for delivery of 4K Ultra HD, immersive audio and interactive services.

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Landmark Demonstration

Sinclair Broadcast Group transmitted AWARN advanced emergency alerting and data telematics firmware updates from Detroit Channel 56 (on loan from Dish Network) to Ann Arbor, Mich., for the landmark demonstration during an automotive technology conference there.

The signals, which included 4K Ultra HD and 2K HD programming in the same 6-MHz channel, were received in Ann Arbor using a simple antenna and shown on displays with receivers and chips based on the approved ATSC 3.0 Physical Layer standards.

Small- and large-screen displays and receivers were provided by LG Electronics. DS Broadcast provided the HEVC and DASH encoders, and DigiCap provided the signaling server and multiplexer. AWARN capabilities are supported by technology partners Triveni Digital and Monroe Electronics.

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AWARN, Telematics, Infotainment and More

Unlike cellular-based technologies, broadcasting’s one-to-many architecture is highly scalable, serving millions of devices simultaneously without straining the network. That means broadcasters can send 4K content to Ultra HD TVs in consumer homes and, at the same time, deliver data to cars – for everything from telematics and infotainment to diagnostics and emergency alerting.

For example, in addition to targeted AWARN data, ATSC 3.0 signals will be able to deliver software updates for electronic control systems and firmware downloads for navigation devices. Other geo-located applications will include real-time weather services, traffic reports and targeted ads. ATSC 3.0 will help transform infotainment with robust technology to deliver digital audio and video services, too.

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Highlighting AWARN capabilities for automotive applications, Mark Aitken, Sinclair’s Vice President, Advanced Technology, says: “Think of vehicles as large mobile devices with multiple imbedded computer-based systems, requiring wireless, high-data-rate connectivity. And with autonomous vehicles, data needs will only increase.

“The new broadcast standard was designed with 5G convergence in mind,” said Aitken, who spoke at the conference about the benefits of ATSC 3.0’s fat IP data pipe and robust transmission capabilities for the automotive industry.

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The AWARN automotive demonstration was conducted during a conference hosted in mid-November by the University of Michigan Mobility Transformation Center. (www.mtc.umich.edu) MTC is a public-private partnership dedicated to advancing the development of connected and automated vehicles to improve safety, conserve energy and increase accessibility to transportation. LG, a member of MTC’s Leadership Circle of industry partners, partnered with Sinclair for the event. 

TVNewsCheck: AWARN Alerting: An ATSC 3.0 Business Model

TVNewsCheck: AWARN Alerting: An ATSC 3.0 Business Model

LawsonThe Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN) based on ATSC 3.0 will save lives and renew broadcasters’ role as “first informers.” It turns out that the first AWARN alert prototypes are also pioneering some of the core business enhancements and new services that promise major financial upsides for the television broadcasting industry.

By John M. Lawson

TVNewsCheck, October 27, 2016

Financial models project major upsides from broadcaster adoption of the next-generation television transmission standard, also known as ATSC 3.0. Increased revenue derives from enhancements to broadcasters’ core business, as well new services. Ironically, a new public service enabled by Next Gen TV — the Advanced Warning and Response Network (AWARN) — is becoming the test bed for some of the same innovations that will give broadcasters a new competitive advantage in the media marketplace.

When we launched AWARN development, we believed that ATSC 3.0 would revolutionize emergency alerting. We soon realized that AWARN also could lead the way for new commercial applications for 3.0. That’s because AWARN will be the first out-of-the-gate service that utilizes many of the key capabilities of 3.0, including: device “wake up,” geo-targeting, robust indoor reception, interactivity, mobile video, and datacasting. Advanced emergency alerting itself is one of the core “use cases” for the new standard.

The AWARN Alliance, a coalition of broadcasters and tech companies, has come together to develop and deploy the service. The alliance has just completed its first 3.0 prototype, a rich-media Amber Alert. Tornado, hazardous material, and active shooter alert demos are in production. We begin demonstrating these prototypes next month.

The Next-Gen Amber Alert

Leapfrogging the current 90-character Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) and the legacy Emergency Alert System, the advanced Amber Alert can serve as a prototype for a range of new 3.0 services.

Amber AWARN Alerts will provide geo-targeted, rich-media content that consumers can instantly access at their choosing, including pictures of the missing child and alleged abductor (if available), images of the make, model, and color of the getaway car, a facsimile of the license plate, and maps indicating last seen location and direction of the car. Local stations can insert their own news clips if they choose.

The wireless industry’s network architecture is not designed for rich-media, interactive messages, and the carriers have fought FCC requirements to add them to WEAs. Next-gen TV broadcasters can incorporate these features with a minimal commitment of bandwidth.

Test Bed for ATSC 3.0 Services

In the ATSC 3.0 standard, the Physical Layer’s “bootstrap” serves as the universal entry point that allows all receive devices to process and decode information, and it carries the bits that can wake up devices. This capability has obvious importance when disaster strikes, especially during off-hours.

AWARN also leverages other 3.0 capabilities that are essential for the Next Gen TV business model.

Geo-targeting is highly important for alerting. It reduces the problem of over-alerting, which leads to complacency when real danger approaches. It also eliminates the need for TV station personnel to make the agonizing call to run or not run an alert that only affects a subset of its viewers but which would interrupt programming for everyone.

Geo-targeting is also a key to higher TV advertising revenue. Along with demographically-targeted ads, “zoned” ads create sales opportunities for customers who many not want or need to reach the whole DMA. With 3.0, the broadcaster will have the bandwidth to transmit any number of zoned ads simultaneously, perhaps at higher CPMs because of their efficiency.

Signal robustness will bring back deep indoor reception for fixed and handheld devices. This capability is extremely important for getting urgent alerts to all members of the family, including teens like mine playing online video games with headphones in the basement.

Robustness also has major potential to accelerate cord-cutting and bring back over-the-air (OTA) viewership. New “home gateway” products will receive 3.0 signals indoors, marry them with existing broadband in the home, and retransmit the combined content to any WiFi-enabled devices within the home. Growth in OTA viewership drives audience share for local stations, which in turn shifts local ad revenue from MVPDs to the stations. This shift more than offsets the loss of cable subs and retransmission fees, according to financial analysis.

Interactivity solves a major challenge of current alerting. Social science tells us that providing too little information in an emergency leads to “milling,” in which people delay taking action as they search for more information or confirmation. Giving them too much information also leads to confusion and delay.

With AWARN, every device in the danger zone receives a banner alert, while rich-media elements, such as storm tracks or evacuation routes, are downloaded from the TV signal in the background, accessible as needed through an on-screen menu.

Interactivity also is the key to certain Next Gen TV business models. Non real-time media elements can be downloaded along with a program from the ATSC 3.0 signal, which will allow viewers to interact with those elements on their device offline. Or they can interact with online content available through the hybrid broadcast-broadband network, or both.

Mobile video is a core feature of 3.0 that has enormous implications for both emergency communications and the future of broadcast television.

The use of a WEA as a “Wanted” poster in the recent New York and New Jersey bombings generated headlines and illustrated both the power of mobile alerting and the limitations of WEAs. Where the WEA could only give the suspected bomber’s age, gender, and name and direct citizens to “see media for pic,” AWARN can instantaneously deliver the suspect’s actual “pic,” plus surveillance video, maps, safety instructions, and one-click links to report sightings.

The commercial potential of Next Gen TV mobile services is enormous. While infrastructure costs are higher, a study commissioned by Pearl TV estimated the increased revenue from mobile video at up to $4.78 billion annually (“ATSC 3.0 Seen Delivering Economic Boon,” TVNewsCheck, Nov. 12, 2015).

Datacasting is another powerful “dual-use” tool. IP-encapsulation of EAS alerts using ATSC was pioneered by the Association of Public Television Stations and FEMA in the mid-2000s. AWARN takes it to whole new level, sending a wide range of non-real-time files to an infinite number of receive devices. All of this content can be downloaded to devices using the TV airwaves.

In commercial models, broadcasters can use 3.0 datacasting for “forward and store” applications, such as popular pay-per-view movies. Machine-to-machine software upgrades in the Internet of Things can be “off-loaded” from other networks very economically through Next Gen TV. Financial modeling commissioned by Convergence Services, Inc. for an East Coast PBS station, using only a fraction of its bandwidth under FCC rules, could generate nearly $6 million a year in new revenue by 2022.

AWARN also will pioneer the use of other capabilities of 3.0, including accessibility and personalization.

A Familiar Pathway for Innovation

Historically, public safety or military technologies have led to successful commercial products. For example, location awareness technology, eventually GPS, was added to cellphones not though market forces but because of FCC rules in the late 1990s, meant to ensure that 911 dispatchers could determine the position of distressed callers.

Wells Fargo Securites equities analyst Marci Ryvicker, commenting at the Smart Spectrum Summitlast November, said AWARN was important to the business future of broadcasting because it would be a “real world” demonstration of the power of 3.0 that investors could understand. We think she’s right: nothing is more “real” than providing information when and where people need it to save their lives.

Smart Strategy

Supporting AWARN provides other benefits for broadcasters. As Hearst Television President Jordan Wertlieb wrote earlier this month in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, advanced alerting with 3.0 offers the opportunity for broadcasters to upgrade their communications lifeline to their communities.

FCC Commissioner Agit Pai has cited advanced alerting as a major reason that the commission should act to allow the voluntary transmission of Next Gen TV.

AWARN also can hasten the day that broadcasters’ signals can be received on smartphones. The AWARN Alliance does not advocate an ATSC 3.0 “tuner mandate,” but advanced alerting will create a powerful consumer demand that even the wireless carriers cannot ignore. It also can solve a problem for the wireless carriers, which have said the FCC’s timeline for upgrading WEAs is “technically unrealistic.”

AWARN Alliance Plans For 2017

The AWARN Alliance was launched earlier this year with the support of LG Electronics and its Zenith R&D Lab, the Pearl TV joint venture, NAB, PBS, Sinclair Broadcast Group and its ONE Media joint venture, WRAL/Capitol Broadcasting and technology companies Triveni Digital, Monroe Electronics and GatesAir. The alliance was a signatory — along with NAB, America’s Public Television Stations and the Consumer Technology Association — to the April Joint Petition asking the FCC to allow broadcasters to begin the voluntary transmission of ATSC 3.0.

In 2017, we aim to stand up “user groups” with public safety officials and broadcasters to operationalize AWARN in time for the commercial and public television launch of 3.0. We invite all broadcasters and allied industries to join us in developing AWARN and paving the way for Next Gen TV.

John Lawson is executive director of the AWARN Alliance.

Reprinted with permission from TVNewsCheck.

AWARN Advisory Council