Europe Should Embrace Diversity in Emergency Communications Solutions for Enhanced Resilience
Did you know that Defne's E-SMSC (Emergency SMS Center) platform has the ability to send warning SMS messages to ALL mobile phones in Turkiye, in just 15 minutes? That makes over 86 million mobile phones.
Seems like the Guardian didn't know. In an article from April, they claimed that SMS is unsuitable for nationwide emergency communication, citing that it took the UK 48 hours to deliver SMSs to all citizens in the outbreak of COVID, due to what the Guardian article alleged, was inherent congestion problems of the SMS.
That is not an inherent shortcoming of SMS technology; The reason the UK's delivery took so long was not related to a limiting capability of SMS, it was the lack of a mobile warning infrastructure in the UK.
Things could be different if the UK had an automated Emergency SMS service, built by mobile software developers working in collaboration with Network Operators. A service that can allow mass warning SMS alerts to be sent automatically over all mobile networks in a country.
This is what Defne's E-SMSC platform does.
It enables the government's disaster management agencies to issue customized SMS messages over all mobile networks without running into congestion problems.
Instead, what happened in the UK was: there was no automated system in place, and there was no consensus between network operators on building a mobile warning system, designed to enable mass-warnings from the government. When the need finally arose, the UK government had to manually contact operators and arrange the mass SMSs.
Defne's E-SMS service provides a software that eliminates the need to individually contact each network operator. This design was made possible by telecommunications standards involving the government and mobile network operators of Turkiye, and such standards exist around the world.
Defne's E-SMS software overcomes the risk of congestion by properly using its resources. Called Defne's E-SMSC Automatic Pacing Feature, it is designed to identify network congestion in real-time and adjust the speed of sending accordingly. By dynamically regulating the message delivery pace, Defne ensures that emergency alerts reach their recipients without overwhelming the network. This technology enables a seamless and reliable emergency alert system, making SMS a viable and efficient communication tool during critical situations.
SMS has been a part of mobile standards since its launch over 20 years ago. It's been a mainstay of mobile messaging since it came out, and continues to be included in the core package of 4G, and 5G.
SMS is part of every mobile phone's core structure, it doesn't depend on any external apps or an internet connection, and is sent by the network directly. This makes it a great tool to use for emergency warnings. Network operators can deliver SMSs en-masse, faster and more reliably than internet and app-based communication channels.
Cell Broadcast Calls, which is mentioned as emergency calls in the Guardian article, is another service that functions on the same premise. CBCs for short, are also sent over the mobile network without requiring an internet connection or an app, just like the SMS, and can be sent by the government automatically, using the service supported by the operators.
CBC (Cell Broadcast Center) is part of many countries' mobile warning standards. This platform has been implemented alongside Defne’s E-SMSC in Turkiye in each operator, and Defne's CBC is part of the portfolio. Meanwhile, the UK government has agreed to a CBC based system starting this year. The first time they tested the CBC was four months ago, last April. The US has been using a CBC based system for a relatively longer time, as part of the Wireless Emergency Alerts and Amber Alerts. The Wireless Emergency Alerts platform was designed in 2007, after the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2004 exposed the need for better emergency systems.
Diversity in communication systems is important. Having E-SMSC and CBC available on a mobile warning platform is important. Different situations require different warnings.
US's warning platform ran into this problem: in the outbreak of COVID, the state of Utah was issuing CBC alerts to all mobile subscribers entering the state's borders. However, a lot of people complained. They were getting multiple warnings upon successive crossings of the border, and lots of subscribers who got near the border, but didn't cross, were also receiving warnings. This led to the state revoking the warning upon border crossings .
E-SMSC could fix this problem. If the warnings were issued over E-SMS instead of cellular broadcast, it would be less annoying, but would still get the message across. This is important for all warning situations, to "Alert As Needed", as we mentioned in a previous blog post .
The Guardian article mentions the infamous 4 AM child abduction warning issued in the US , that led to many complaints about the CBC system, because it woke people up around New York City in the middle of the night . This is another example of how "Alert As Needed" strategy is important. On one hand, even if it happens at 4 AM, you have to warn people of a child abduction in their area. But on the other hand, these people are not police officers and don't have to be actively awakened to help with the rescue efforts for the abducted child. Nonetheless... you should at least notify them. Maybe some can help.
The 4 AM warning could be handled much better by an E-SMS warning. It would notify people, call to action those who could help, and still not wake people up in the middle of the night. Additionally, Defne's E-SMSC platform allows choosing specific subscriber groups, so you could choose to message only public sector workers, for example.
E-SMSC and CBC are two mobile warning technologies that let us better adapt to different emergency situations by having diverse communication options.
J-Alert is the Japanese emergency warning system that champions diversity. The Guardian article also mentions the Japanese warning system, saying they still use the old loudspeaker system from the early 20th century .
The Guardian article fails to mention how the J-Alert has a diverse array of alerting technologies on the same platform. When a Japanese disaster management agency issues a warning, an integrated and automated system carries that message over all available channels, such as: TV, radio, loudspeakers, mobile text like SMS, and even email!
Why is Japan using all these communications channels for their warnings? Because Japan is a country that regularly faces many natural disasters and even military threats. It faces all the natural disasters many other countries face combined: the US has hurricanes, Turkiye has earthquakes, Chile has volcanoes. Japan has it all—tsunamis, hurricanes, regular massive earthquakes, active volcanoes on many of its islands...
When there are so many possible threats, it's absolutely important to alert people wherever they may be, in whatever situation they might be in. Using diverse and automated mobile warnings ensures that people can be reached in any scenario.
Defne's public warning system, by combining CBC and E-SMSC, brings much needed diversity to mobile warning systems. Leveraging expertise with mobile networks, it allows for fast and reliable E-SMS alerting that can reach millions of subscribers in short amounts of time. As each government strives to build better mobile warning systems, it is important to keep the core qualities of diversity, instantaneity and adaptability in mind.
A. Roberts, “Utah no longer sending mobile COVID-19 alerts to those who cross the state line,” _kutv_, Apr. 14, 2020. Accessed: Aug. 08, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://kutv.com/news/local/utah-no-longer-sending-mobile-covid-19-alerts-to-those-who-cross-the-state-line
G. Arat, “Alert as Needed,” _Defne_, Jul. 26, 2023. https://www.defne.com.tr/single-post/alert-as-needed (accessed Aug. 08, 2023).
W. Hu and J. D. Goodman, “Wake-Up Call for New Yorkers as Police Seek Abducted Boy,” _The New York Times_, Jul. 17, 2013. Accessed: Aug. 08, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/18/nyregion/early-morning-alert-issued-after-7-month-old-boy-is-abducted.html
A. Hern, “How the UK emergency alert system test has been years in the making,” _The Guardian_, Apr. 21, 2023. Accessed: Aug. 08, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/apr/21/how-the-uk-emergency-alert-system-test-has-been-years-in-the-making