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Insights from Amazon Logistics & Whole Foods Market on preparing for severe weather events

Enhance emergency alerts with device-based geo-fencing 

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, the importance of efficient and effective public warning systems cannot be overstated. As we face a multitude of natural disasters, civil unrest, and health crises, the ability to swiftly communicate impending threats to the right individuals at the right time has become a matter of paramount importance. This blog post dives into the evolution of emergency alert targeting, introducing the innovative concept of device-based geo-fencing (DBGF), outlining its implications, and shedding light on the road ahead to enhance public safety measures.  

The importance of early warning 

The events of recent years, including severe weather, social upheavals, and a global pandemic, have highlighted the critical role played by public safety solutions. The swiftness and accuracy with which information reaches individuals can make the difference between life and death, not to mention minimizing damage to property and infrastructure. A robust public warning system not only ensures the protection of citizens but also demonstrates a government’s commitment to their welfare. 

Collaboration between governments and mobile network operators 

At the heart of effective public warning systems lies a collaborative effort between government entities and mobile network operators (MNOs). The government, through specialized public warning portals, defines the target area for an alert and offers safety guidelines. MNOs, on the other hand, take responsibility for transmitting these alerts to the specified devices within the delineated area. The challenge is to ensure that the alerts reach only the intended recipients, reducing confusion and alert fatigue among those outside the affected area. 

Evolution of alert targeting: a brief history 

The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system has undergone several iterations in its quest to provide accurate and timely alerts. Beginning with WEA 1.0, which relied on a county-based geocode to identify the target area, the system evolved to WEA 2.0, introducing polygons and circles for cell selection. These shapes aided in mapping the alert’s intended target area onto specific cell sectors, thereby increasing accuracy. 

Device-based geo-fencing: WEA 3.0 

The culmination of this evolution is WEA 3.0, a game-changer in the realm of public warning systems. Recognizing the limitations of previous versions, particularly the phenomenon of over-alerting, the Wireless Technologies & Systems Committee (WTSC) introduced device-based geo-fencing. WEA 3.0 capitalizes on location technology within mobile devices such as GPS and Wi-Fi to determine whether a device falls within the specified target area. This intelligent filtering ensures that alerts are shown only to devices within the area, eliminating unnecessary notifications. 

Advantages and use-cases of DBGF 

The advantages of device-based geo-fencing are abundant. The ability to reduce over-alerting via enhanced accuracy for small and dedicated target areas ensures that alerts are received only by those truly at risk. This precision drastically reduces annoyance and confusion among recipients. Moreover, specific scenarios, such as emergencies in mountainous terrains or remote sections of a road, can be addressed with tailored alerts, eradicating unnecessary alerts to those who would not benefit from the message. 

Technical underpinnings of DBGF 

For DBGF to work seamlessly, mobile devices must rely on the ability of their operating system (OS) to accurately determine their location. This process combines multiple data sources such as GPS and Wi-Fi to locate a device’s position. The introduction of warning area coordinates within cell broadcast (CB) messages allows devices to assess their location against the target area. This ensures only devices within the area display the alert. 

Limitations and impact 

While the promise of DBGF is immense, there are limitations to its efficacy. For instance, CB message polygons have a cap of 100 coordinate pairs, as specified by WEA 3.0. This affects the complexity of the target area. Furthermore, GPS interference or environmental factors can hamper a device’s ability to geo-locate itself accurately. The network’s support for WEA 3.0 and device compatibility with the technology also play pivotal roles in determining the system’s success. 

Conclusion and future innovations 

Preparation for the advent of WEA 3.0 necessitates strategic partnerships with experienced vendors who not only possess a proven track record in deploying public warning solutions but also contribute to industry standards. These partnerships ensure seamless readiness and a smooth transition into the new era of public warning systems. 

Looking forward, the future of public warning systems holds promise. The FCC Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) is actively conducting the necessary research to support new WEA standards that will be created by the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS). These will specifically focus on enhancing the user experience. Key developments include application programming interfaces (APIs) for mobile device applications to retrieve and utilize WEA message parameters, further personalizing the alert experience. Additionally, introducing distinct audio signals and vibration patterns for different types of alerts can expedite users’ response times, inspired by successful systems like Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami Warning System. 

In a world where preparedness and responsiveness are paramount, public warning systems stand as a beacon of hope, leveraging technological advancements like device-based geo-fencing to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals and communities. As these systems continue to evolve, the potential to save lives and minimize damage becomes ever more tangible. 

If you’d like more information, request a demo or read more about the Everbridge public safety solution.

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