FEMA has awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman, which is working with its partner Global Security Systems.
GSS says the aim of the contract is “to validate FM radio data chips plus RDS-based protocol for cell phones and consumer electronics.” According to a GSS summary, “This task will validate the effectiveness of RBDS technology to notify a broad range of emergency users through system tests, exercise alerts and unplanned events that happen in real time.”
The company was part of an FCC committee to develop Commercial Mobile Alert Standards, or CMAS. GSS is developer of an alerting technology called AlertFM, which it sells to emergency management organizations; that system uses the nation’s FM infrastructure for dissemination and is used in 140 U.S. locations at present.
“The award is a bellwether event as it positions GSS as a major supplier for the next-generation United States alerting and warning platform, called Integrated Public Alert and Warning System,” GSS states in a technical bulletin to radio broadcasters about the new contract from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
About a year ago, GSS and Northrop Grumman Corp. began a business relationship seeking to deploy alert and warning systems using wireless and non-wireless communications infrastructure and consumer devices like cell phones, music players and GPS devices. The companies hope to address requirements of the Department of Homeland Security to deploy IPAWS.
“IPAWS extends the current EAS alert system to provide text, video and audio (beyond the main FM audio carrier) alerts to commonplace devices used by today’s consumers,” GSS states.
The company said it has been working with chip maker Silicon Laboratories to develop government and commercial FM-based message distribution systems and receiver chip designs supporting Radio Data Service (RDS) aspects of FM broadcasting.
“Silicon Labs’ embedded FM antenna technology further enhances the system by allowing the FM receiver to use internal antennas inside the mobile device instead of requiring plugged-in headphone wires. The integrated technologies provide cell phone users with FM listening, and add the important feature of state and federal emergency messaging via the FM radio-broadcast infrastructure. The group has pioneered power-saving techniques and internal antenna designs to overcome objections suggested in the CMAS proceedings,” it states.
A GSS executive told RW this week, “We want radio broadcasters to understand the FM chip’s technical impact and potential using FM radio-based alerts. The key point is the FM chip supports analog FM radio, EAS and radio data services including alert messages.”