Urgency and goal
NL-Alert is the national alerting service that notifies the population in the event of crises, disasters, and other emergencies. NL-Alert was launched in 2012 and currently reaches 85-90% of the population. The majority of this reach is directly on mobile phones through the so-called “cell broadcast” technology. With this technology, the Netherlands has become a pioneer in Europe. Over the past 10 years, approximately 1200 NL-Alerts have been sent. According to the Telecommunications Act, every mobile provider is obligated to support the infrastructure for sending NL-Alerts to customers.
Since 2011, the government had contracted Centric as a so-called broker to deliver NL-Alert messages to mobile operators. In 2022, the government decided to change brokers, namely to One2Many. Therefore, Odido initiated the NL Alert project in May 2022. The goal of this project was to continue providing NL-Alert services after migrating to the new broker.
Approach and our role
Bliss freelancer Rob Kuijpers served as the project manager for this project. The main focus was on creating a reliable and secure solution with the highest priority for operational reliability. The project team consisted of specialists in the field of cell broadcasts, IP connectivity, as well as operational staff. Coordination with Odido’s regulatory affairs was crucial to ensure that all developments stayed within legal frameworks.
Additionally, the project required intensive collaboration with the government, specifically the Ministry of Justice and Security and the National Control Room Collaboration (LMS), managed by the police, fire department, ambulance, and military police. The government wanted to avoid any outage of the NL-Alert system, and this was a key principle.
“Rob efficiently manages his projects, striking a good balance between meetings, reporting, and substantive progress. The collaboration is perceived as pleasant by project members, ultimately leading to the satisfaction of the client.”– ANTON VERHEIJEN | MANAGER DATA & MEDIA DESIGN TEAM ODIDO
All platforms of Odido had to be migrated to the new broker. The government carried out the ultimate cut-over, but Odido had to design, install, and test an entirely new infrastructure to make this migration possible. A year of preparation preceded this.
This preparation included building new connections independent of the broker. This eliminated the need to obtain permission from the broker each time for regular maintenance. An extensive testing phase followed to ensure that the so-called GEO redundancy worked well and that alarm monitoring was effective in detecting system failures.
- Migration of NL Alert to the new broker
- GEO redundant infrastructure
- Documentation and adequately covered SLAs for the operational phase
- Plan for the rollout of GEO-fencing
After completing the project, the new control room systems for NL-Alert were linked to Odido via the new broker. The infrastructure is now future-proof and ready to handle new and improved alert services. The migration was concluded with a test message to demonstrate compliance with all legal requirements. An audit by the State Inspection Digital Infrastructure (RDI) is expected to be conducted on both the business process and the technology. Well-documented and traceable actions within this project were therefore crucial.
“My goal was to involve the operational management teams and other stakeholders in the project as early as possible so that the management functionalities and legal frameworks were considered from the beginning. Once the project is completed, they will have to work with it for years.”Rob Kuijpers
The next phase
The new NL Alert platform enables Geo-fencing, or messaging based on the GPS coordinates of the mobile device. This allows the government to send NL-Alert messages even more targetedly, maintaining the relevance of NL-Alert messages for recipients and preventing unnecessary messages. Geo-fencing is mandatory for the government from January 1, 2024.
Soon, the NL-Alert broker will also be linked to the new 5G platform that Odido is currently building. Again, an extensive testing and activation process will have to be followed, as broadcasting test messages is subject to strict rules.
The next phase of Rob’s project will thus focus on the rollout of this new functionality. This will be relatively complex due to the involvement of both Google and Apple as suppliers of smartphones, which will need to execute software updates on all mobile phones to enable Geo-fencing of NL-Alert messages.