New System to Harness Power of Mobile Terrestrial Broadcasting to Enable Media Rich Emergency Communications
The groundbreaking Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) pilot project gained momentum today when the first commercial television broadcaster announced its support for the next-generation alerting project spearheaded by PBS.
KOMO-TV in Seattle, owned by Fisher Communications, Inc., joins three public broadcasters selected for the project in producing simulated emergency alerts using their Mobile Digital Television (MDTV) signals being demonstrated next week at the 2012 International CES®. Meanwhile, the Mobile500 Alliance reaffirmed its support for the project.
PBS, with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and LG Electronics, launched the M-EAS project last April. In November, PBS and LG Electronics announced the public television stations selected as test beds for the pilot: WGBH Boston, Vegas PBS (KLVX) in Las Vegas, and Alabama Public Television stations WBIQ (Birmingham) and WAIQ (Montgomery).
The Mobile500 Alliance of broadcasters, which is working to launch Mobile DTV nationally and locally, has included MDTV-based alerting in its “Statement of Principles” for the emerging MDTV industry and specifically endorsed the PBS M-EAS project last spring. Fisher Communications is a founding member of Mobile500 and agreed to support M-EAS on behalf of the whole alliance.
“We greatly appreciate the contribution of expertise, content, and technology by Fisher Communications and KOMO-TV for the M-EAS project,” said John McCoskey, PBS Chief Technology Officer. “Having the participation of Fisher and the Mobile500 Alliance will help us achieve our goal of creating a standards-based template for ready deployment by any broadcaster – public or commercial,” he said.
“Mobile EAS is right in the sweet spot of new public services that broadcasters will provide through Mobile DTV,” said Colleen Brown, president and CEO of Fisher Communications and chair of the Mobile500 Alliance board of directors. “And we feel that giving consumers access to rich media emergency warnings, anytime and anywhere, will be a major selling point for MDTV-enabled consumer devices,” she said.
By using terrestrial “over the air” TV broadcasting, rather than cellular network connectivity, M-EAS is expected to meet critical needs for emergency alerts. M-EAS can work hand-in-hand with new text-based alerting that is coming from wireless carriers. With the one-to-many architecture of MDTV, however, M-EAS is not affected by network congestion and bottlenecks and can instantly send rich media content, including video, audio, photos, graphics, evacuation maps, and text.
In addition to the support by Fisher Communications and the Mobile500 Alliance, PBS has identified key partners to support the landmark pilot project, including LG Electronics Inc. and its U.S. R&D subsidiary, Zenith, which are developing handheld mobile DTV devices to receive the new alerts. Harris Broadcast and Roundbox are providing key components and technology. LG and CPB are co-funding the project. (No CPB funding is going to KOMO-TV, Fisher Communications, or the Mobile500 Alliance.)