The government is to test a text message alert system in Glasgow, Suffolk and Yorkshire, to see how the public reacts to messages sent to their mobile phones with warnings about emergency situations.
EE, Vodafone and O2 will help the government with the trials, and customers will be able to sign up to receive the alerts, with around 50,000 messages expected to be sent.
The trials are designed to find out which is better for sending information: a cell broadcast service (CBS), which sends a "text-type message to all handsets in a defined area", or a location-based SMS messaging service, where all numbers in a specific location receive an SMS message.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude welcomed the involvement of the operators, and said testing out mobile alerts was a key part of the government’s use of technology to improve citizens' safety.
“The government will conduct separate tests later this year to look at a how different technologies work and how the public react when they receive an emergency alert to their phone,” he said.
“The message itself will make clear that it is only a test and I do not want the public to be alarmed in any way. We are also looking for help from the public in evaluating how well the tests worked and how they felt about receiving messages in this way, and we would welcome the public’s views.”
Maude also thanked the operators for getting involved with the test, as he said providing quick information, such as in the form of text messages, was vital in the modern age.
“Ensuring that local areas receive quick accurate information in the event of an emergency is crucial to an effective response and the information that we receive from these tests will help us develop systems that local emergency responders will be able to use in the future,” he said.
The tests will be conducted in Easingwold in North Yorkshire, Glasgow city centre, and around Leiston in Suffolk. Those interested in receiving messages who live in these areas are asked to email the Cabinet Office.
Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal.