Federal gov’t looking to expand emergency alerts to online platforms, devices
News | 11/25/2020 10:42 am EST
As Canadian emergency management authorities hold their regular test of the public emergency alerting system Wednesday, the federal government is exploring how to extend those alerts to online platforms and digital devices.
The Department of National Defence is interested in expanding the emergency alerting system to computers, digital personal assistants, gaming platforms and IoT devices, a spokesperson confirmed to The Wire Report.
The department issued a tender earlier this month for research and a demonstration of emergency alerting technology. It closes on Wednesday, the same day the National Public Alerting System is scheduled to hold its regular test of the Alert Ready system, which sends out emergency alerts through TV and radio broadcasts and wireless devices.
The project, according to a National Defence spokesperson, “is seeking more efficient and timely ways of reaching Canadians to take advantage of the increased use of Internet-connected devices.”
That includes looking into issuing alerts so they can be received “directly on computers and gaming platforms in real-time,” over digital assistants like Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home devices, as well as “leveraging other new Internet of Things devices to convey alerts.”
The initiative, called the emergency alerting technology research and demonstration project, is part of Defence Research and Development Canada’s Canadian Safety and Security Program.
The department declined to provide additional information, such as whether the government tender was for a research paper or demo software. “Sharing additional information could influence the competitive process, so we cannot disclose any further details at this time,” the spokesperson said.
The current alerting system, which is run by Pelmorex Corp., was extended to wireless devices in 2018. It experienced various glitches and errors in early wireless tests and alerts, while it emerged that those in charge of the wireless alert system had overestimated how many Canadians had alert-compatible phones.
Those problems led the CRTC to launch a smartphone testing program. It released the results of that testing in October, which it said showed devices play alerts at variable volumes, while putting a phone in “do not disturb” mode did not always prevent an audible alert from sounding.
Pelmorex spokesperson Karen Kheder said in an email the company wasn’t involved in the National Defence tender process.
CRTC staff have been consulted for their views of the National Defence research, though it is outside the regulator’s scope, CRTC spokesperson Anne Brodeur said.
“The primary objectives of this research, to enable alerts to be distributed to systems such as Alexa and [Apple Inc.’s] Siri, are outside the jurisdiction of the CRTC,” she said in an email.
“However, research findings will be helpful to CRTC staff to understand the potential evolution of alerting platforms.”
— Reporting by Anja Karadeglija at email@example.com and editing by Michael Lee-Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org