Wireless Emergency Alerts will be longer, more specific, sent to more places

wireless emergency alert augmentation smartphone user
Tatsiana Yuralaits/123RF
Used for Amber alerts, natural disasters, and every other critical warning in between, the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system has gotten a nice shot in the arm from the Federal Communications Commission that looks to strengthen its capabilities in the face of new technologies.

Since WEA’s launch in 2012, messages were restricted to 90 characters. That can be a good number in certain cases, but the limitation was put in the spotlight earlier in September when New York City issued its first WEA message related to a wanted suspect. In that case, the WEA was on the lookout for one Ahmad Rahami, an identified suspect in the Chelsea neighborhood bombing. Even though the message included his name and age, it did not include other specific details, such as an image.

According to the new rules, the maximum length will be increased to 360 characters for 4G LTE and future networks. However, the wording implies that those on 2G and 3G networks will still receive WEAs with 90 characters. Digital Trends reached out to the FCC for clarification on the matter and will update accordingly.

The government agency also brought into the fold Public Safety Messages, a new type of alert that will list essential and recommended actions for folks in affected areas in order to keep themselves or their property free from harm. Other additions include sending WEA messages to “more granular geographic areas,” with participating carriers required to embed phone numbers and URLs in every WEA message. This allows people to click to see a photo of a suspect or missing child, as well as call the authorities from the message.

The new rules also mandate supporting carriers to be able to send out Spanish-language alerts. Finally, the rules promise to make it easier for state and local authorities to test out the WEA system, train personnel, and better educate the public about the system.

It is unknown when the updates WEA rules will go into effect, but seeing how the FCC already approved them, it should just be a matter of time until they are formally instituted.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: Deadpool 2, The Umbrella Academy, and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Deadpool 2, The Umbrella Academy, Lorena, and more.
Music

The best new music this week: Robert Ellis, Golden Daze, and more

Looking for the best new music? Each week, we find the most compelling new releases just for you. This week: Brand-new music from Robert Ellis, Broken Social Scene, and Golden Daze.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Mobile

Bag yourself a bargain with the best budget tablets under $200

The battle for your budget tablet affections is really ramping up. Which tablet, costing less than $200, should be commanding your attention? We take a look at some different options for the budget-conscious.
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Mobile

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.
Wearables

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Mobile

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases to keep your titanic phone safe

The new Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a gorgeous device, with one of the best dual-lens cameras we've ever seen. Keep your titanic device safe and scratch-free with the best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Fitbit Versa smartwatches for Presidents’ Day

Amazon is offering a solid $30 discount on this great fitness tracking smartwatch right now. So if you're looking for a wearable that can help you track steps, sleep, and activity, now is a great time to pick one up for less.