IDF launches smartphone alert app

After years of experiments and millions of shekels invested, the IDF is abandoning its old-fashioned method of cell phone alerts, launching a mobile app instead. The app became available for Android phone users last week, and was set to become available for iPhone users starting Tuesday night.

The new Home Front Command application will be able to send warnings for every launched rocket, with a person’s location taken into account in order to prevent false alarms. The app, which is of course free, is considered much more reliable than the previous cell-phone alert system, and is connected directly to the IDF.

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This means that the app should be faster than public alert systems, potentially notifying users at least one second before public sirens go off. The Home Front Command also notes that it managed to send an alert four seconds faster than the non-IDF app Tseva Adom when a rocket was launched from northern Gaza towards the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council a few weeks ago.

The new app also provides guidance on what to do in case of an earthquake, general emergency instructions (also according to where one lives), and even provides immediate instructions in border-adjacent towns in cases of suspected terrorist infiltration.

A senior IDF officer admitted that the military decided to halt attempts at developing an early warning system for cell phones based on automatic mobile broadcast technology after a series of problems and failures were discovered during four years of experiments, exercises and efforts which are estimated to have cost millions of shekels.

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In dozens of related drills conducted by the IDF in recent years, some civilians received warning messages dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Some manufacturers and cell phone companies refused to develop the technology, prompting the Ministry of Communications to intervene in a regulatory manner, which ultimately proved to be superfluous.

The Home Front Command’s efforts to improve its alert system by increasing the accuracy of location-based warnings continue, with the goal of pinpointing specific streets or neighborhoods in mind. This should enable civilians to continue with their daily routine when a rocket is launched towards populated areas.