California fires: smart speakers and emergency alerts

Sean Donelan sean at donelan.com
Wed Aug 1 18:14:20 UTC 2018


Heavy sigh. Its not about AM radios, although some tinkers have 
hooked up raspberry pi's to weather band radio chips. Its a cool hack, but 
not the point.

Today, 99% of emergency alerts are diissiminated via the Internet, in 
addition to other channels (over the air broadcasters, cable, twitter, 
even Google maps and Google search show emergency alerts, etc). You don't 
want a single dissimination method. You want diversity of warning 
channels.

For example, only 77 cell phone companies participate in Wireless Alerts. 
While you are roaming on another carrier's tower, even if your home 
carrier participates, your current roaming tower might not transmit any 
wireless alerts about that wildfire heading your way.
https://www.fcc.gov/pshs/docs/services/cmas/WEACarrierRegistry121313.xls

Nonparticipating cell phone companies are required to inform customers at 
the point of sale they do not provide wireless alerts. Roaming customers 
often don't know.

The point of the study in proposed bill is customers of Netflix and 
Spotify (just to pick on them because everyone seems too) watching videos 
on "Smart TVs" or listening on "Smart Speakers" may not realize those 
devices won't get emergency alerts like their old-fashion AM/FM radios 
and over-the-air TVs.  If Netflix or Spotify customers are watching or 
listening on their "Smart Phones", they do get emergency alerts from the 
cell phone provider.

Much like watching Netflix and listening to Spotify on smart phones, 
Netflix and Spotify do not control the alert function on Smart TVs and 
Smart Speakers. The alarm API of smart devices is predominately controlled 
by Amazon Alexa (34%), Google Assistant (34%), Apple Siri (10%), and 
others (21%). The message waiting notification API isn't a real substitute 
for an emergency alert API.

Even if you created a new Internet of Thing warning device, that device 
would still have to work in the ecosystems controlled by Amazon Alexa, 
Google Assistant, Apple Siri. The API product managers at Amazon, Google 
and Apple make those decisions.

Netflix and Spotify -- wrong place for emergency alerts, over the top 
content doesn't know what else is happening with the user interface on 
the smart device.

Internet Service Providers -- wrong place for emergency alerts, too low in 
communication layers to break in.  ISPs keep wanting to insert 
advertisements in web pages -- bad idea.

Smart device APIs (Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri) already mediate 
user interaction. The "intelligent assistant" seems like the best place 
for the user to control how they receive emergency alerts.



On Wed, 1 Aug 2018, Jeff Shultz wrote:
> If someone wants that sort of thing... does anyone still make AM
> transistor radios?
>>> Capitalist solution: Build yet another IoT device that just does emergency
>>> alerting.
>> Please no.  The IoT is already a security/privacy dumpster fire of enormous
>> proportions and this will provide yet another vector for attacks.


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