Emergency-mass-notification vendor AtHoc recently announced new mobile applications for its IWSAlerts platform that are designed to leverage the capabilities of mobile broadband wireless networks and the functionality of smartphones and tablet devices.

Using the current version of its alerting platform, AtHoc can send notification via text messaging, a technology that is "very limited" and "relatively slow," according to AtHoc CEO and President Guy Miasnik. With the new IWSAlerts mobile applications, AtHoc will be able to leverage the more robust data channels available in wireless broadband networks, he said.

"What we've done over the last several months is develop an extension to our technology that uses the data channels of mobile devices, like smartphones, to communicate and integrate into our system," Miasnik said. "It provides a much more prominent notification to the end user, including certain alarming sounds and vibrations … that were not feasible up to now as a standalone application."

In addition, the new IWSAlerts applications enable location tracking of users and allow them to respond to the message, confirming receipt, Miasnik said.

During an exercise with the U.S. Navy, the new AtHoc notification applications were used to notify personnel in a given location of a mock emergency event, so they could respond to the scenario, Miasnik said. In addition, non-official people on the base — for instance, the families of Navy personnel — also received a separate notification, he said.

Most people not part of the enterprise will not want their location tracked normally, but the new AtHoc notification system allows them to opt in at any time — for instance, they can opt in for the duration of a given incident, so they can be assured of getting the most appropriate notifications during the critical time, Miasnik said. In addition, responses from users with location information are helpful to emergency-management coordinators as they assess the status of an evacuation or the risks associated with particular actions, he said.

"We are enabling the use of the smartphone in the context of an emergency-management scenario to know the location of the people, to be able to track them on a map and to alert only the people in the appropriate location," Miasnik said. "Then, when they respond, we can capture that information location and bring it back to the operator."

Miasnik said the new AtHoc mass-notification applications are being tested at various beta sites. The applications are expected to be commercially available during the third quarter of this year.