Kudos to Sprint for being the first U.S. carrier to support CMAS, or Commercial Mobile Alert System (which apparently, FEMA has decided needed another acronym, PLAN, or Personal Localized Alert Network) on their wireless network. For now, it looks like it’s only available in a limited area on specific devices, and it’s an opt in (from what I can tell, this will be mandatory on all carriers by April 2012). I first saw the news in an article at Android Central, since I don’t lurk on Sprint’s website much. Call it what you will, this is a pretty exciting initiative, capable of sending distinctive alerts to customers based on their geolocation, and at no cost.
I’m sure there will be some push back from privacy advocates and the tin-foil hat crowd, but the initiative has been in the works for years, so I hope they’ve had their say. It will be interesting to see how the security is implemented on this system, I hope it’s not easily compromised.
The applications for the system are supposed to be limited to Presidential alerts, imminent threats to people or property, and AMBER alerts. When you consider situations like school violence, suspicious packages, missing children and hazardous chemical releases, the geolocation capabilities of this system should make it very powerful. Along with the EAS initiative for TV broadcasts, it’s great to see this systems getting modernized. It was impressive to see Japan’s earthquake early warning system in action earlier this year, it undoubtedly saved lives, and I hope these new initiatives will be equally effective here in the U.S.