why you can receive an alert on your mobile

The government is deploying a new system to alert all French people with a mobile phone in the event of an emergency.

A full-screen notification accompanied by a loud voice. This is the new device, called FR-Alert, deployed by authorities to warn every French person with a smartphone in the event of force majeure. On conventional phones, the notification takes the form of an SMS.

In the past few hours, all iPhone users have received a request to “update operator settings” so that their mobile can display these alerts. A step that is not even necessary on Android smartphones, which are already configured this way by default.

Lots of advantages

Several experiments have been conducted in France in recent months. Exercises-which sometimes shock residents-involve for example alerting the population to a leak from a petrochemical site. According to Gérald Darmanin, FR-Alert will be available in real situations from the end of June.

As explained by the Ministry of the Interior, alerts can be related to many types of emergencies: natural disasters, industrial, chemical or nuclear accidents, serious road accidents, or even disasters. attacks on terrorists.

The FR-Alert system has the advantage of targeting a specific population pool, to alert only the people concerned. Messages are often used to determine the nature and location of the hazard, as well as to announce the action to be taken.

An experiment on
An “FR-Alert” experiment conducted by Martigues © Facebook (City of Martigues)

Alerts are routed using technology called “cellular diffusion” and based on a dedicated channel. So notifications are unlikely to be slowed down when there is congestion on the mobile network, unlike simple SMS. No personal data was collected by the authorities at the time of the broadcast.

Notifications will appear on all 4G or 5G compatible smartphones, including if they are locked. On the other hand, mobiles that are turned off or in airplane mode remain unreachable.

European bond

Above all, this use of the mobile network and the functions combined with smartphones makes it possible to reach a large segment of the population, without the need to install a specific application. An important asset, after the failure of the application called SAIP, was launched by the government after the attacks in 2015 and was installed only by a few French people.

The app was also criticized for being ineffective. During the Nice attack on July 14, 2016, it only issued alerts a few hours after the tragedy.

Contrary to what the Interior Minister claimed, the FR-Alert system is even far from new. It has been used for fifteen years in Japan, for thirteen years in Sri Lanka and for ten years in the United States. It is also used in other countries such as Canada, Peru, Chile and New Zealand.

Due to its high cost (several ten million euros), this method of distribution has long been rejected in France. The arrival of FR-Alert is the result of a European directive from 2018, which obliges all European Union countries to use this technology by June 21, 2022 at the latest.

After this initial deployment, the Ministry of the Interior has ensured that an alert system based on this era of SMS technology will also be installed “later”, especially for the French who have a simple 2G or 3G phone. A first large SMS campaign was organized alone, when the first incarceration was announced in March 2020.

This alternative method of distribution, which goes through the traditional mobile network, however has some advantages. Unlike “cell broadcast” technology, texting allows authorities to obtain statistics on the proportion of messages that have not yet been opened, as well as to send messages to monitor the situation of the people concerned, including that is if they left the area first affected.

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