The US government is going to begin sending text messages on a county-by-county basis to alert people to severe weather threats such as blizzard, hurricanes and tornados. It’s an extension of the existing system for radio and television.
Most major network providers, covering 97 percent of cellphone users, will take part in the project. In the event of an emergency, there’ll be a special text message sent to all users in the relevant area. For later model handsets, the message will activate both a vibration and a special tones, even if the user has the phone set to silent.
There is no charge for receiving the alerts. The system is switched on by default for all users, though people can opt out by contacting their service provider.
To avoid sending too many messages and being accused of crying wolf, officials will restrict the alerts to full-blown warnings. Only the most severe weather incidents will trigger alerts, which doesn’t cover even severe thunderstorms.
Meanwhile TomTom is adding crowdsourced travel data as a free service to all compatible devices, covering around 60 million gadgets and handsets. The new feature isn’t designed to cover traffic news and temporary diversions, but rather permanent changes such as renamed streets, roads that have been opened or closed, and changes to the speed limit.
Users who spot an error or outdated information can add the changes directly to their device. They can then keep the info to their own system or share it.
TomTom will review all submissions and update its system with minor changes such as speed limit alterations daily. More substantial changes such as a new roundabout will be verified and included in a quarterly update.