TCS to study improved geo-targeting for wireless emergency alerts

It can be mighty frustrating to receive an emergency alert on your cell phone regarding a situation 100 miles away, and it might even convince you to switch off reception of emergency alerts on your handset. The government apparently recognizes that is a problem and has awarded a contract to TeleCommunication Systems (TCS), which will work on the first phase of a research study aimed at enhancing geo-targeting methods based upon cell site propagation footprints for delivery of wireless emergency alerts.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate awarded the contract to TCS, which will produce recommendations for ways to improve geo-targeting granularity and accuracy for wireless alerts.

"The research study also will help standardize algorithms and data management processes that can be critical for increasing citizens' awareness of pending emergencies within their immediate geographic location," TCS said.

Implemented in 2012, the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system delivers notifications regarding presidential emergency alerts, AMBER Alerts and warnings of imminent national and local threats to life and property, such as natural and man-made disasters. Wireless customers can block all but presidential alerts.

Alerts are supposed to be geographically targeted to cell towers in the immediate vicinity of the emergency. But some cellular customers have received notifications about events located too far away to impact them. TCS noted that improved geo-targeting would produce better user experiences and "alert notification integrity"--which appears to mean cellular customers would contend with fewer alerts regarding faraway emergency situations.

The study's scope is currently limited to test environments. But a second phase of the project is under discussion and would facilitate field-testing with mobile operators to verify theoretical concepts, TCS said.

The First Responders Group of the DHS S&T is responsible for testing, evaluation, research and development of the WEA service. Research findings made by the group over the next two years are expected to influence where future research funding is directed.

For more:
- see this TCS release

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