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A brief history of automated mass notification

Tin can phoneAs long as there are events that interrupt the status quo, there will be a need to inform those who need to know—not only those affected by the interruption, but also those who can get things back on track.

In the days of Paul Revere, this involved riding a horse through town. Fortunately, however, things have changed since then. Here, for interest, is a brief history of automated notification.

The birth of automated notification

Arguably, the idea that is today’s automated notification got its start with the one-way numeric pagers that were primarily used by medical staff for on-call resources. These pagers offered a reliable way to get in touch with staff, no matter where they were located.

However, since pagers were primarily one-way communication tools, recipients were

hampered in their ability to indicate they had received the message—pagers, of course, lacked a built-in mechanism for response. Message recipients often had to find the nearest phone to call and confirm message receipt, and only then receive direction.

The two-way revolution

When two-way pagers gained traction they opened up the opportunity for closed-loop communication, and with that came continued growth in the pager market. (Not to mention staying power; two-way pager technology is still in use in many organizations today.)

It’s not all bliss, however. The complexity of today’s notification rules and escalation requirements is quickly taking the shine off the pager as an efficient means of communications during an incident.

Advances in the 80s

With the adoption of new solutions in the 1980s, notification could extend beyond pagers. A typical set-up consisted of point-to-point one-way emails and pagers, with email usually working only within closed corporate networks.

The 90s: Email for everyone (or not quite)

The early ’90s saw the introduction of email for the masses, although at first it was available only with subscription services, and only at dial-up speeds.

At the same time, advances in Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) and

T1 technology had the effect of dramatically decreasing the cost of telephony ports—while increasing the capacity of trunk lines. These advances paved the way for what was to come.

The 2000s: mass notification arrives

By the year 2000, costs and capacities were at a point that sending an urgent message with thousands of simultaneous phone calls became both practical and cost-effective. Email had also advanced to become a universal communication medium, making it a practical way to reach many people quickly.

What’s happening today?

The 2000s also saw new technologies making new solutions possible, such as VXML, improved text-to-speech, SMS, and Web 2.0.

And the worldwide proliferation of mobile (there are now more mobile devices in use than people on the planet) marked a tremendous milestone for workforce connectivity. Notification solutions have matured in step.

Accordingly, enterprises of all kinds have begun notifying and alerting groups—from one

to thousands—of pending disasters, more commonplace business interruptions, and simply for day-to-day communication.

The days of Paul Revere are definitely over, and that’s a good thing. That alternative to using an automated system for IT alerting, BC/DR, emergency notification, or even staff messaging would involve a whole lot of horses.

Interested in finding the best mass notification system to complement your business continuity program? Download the Automated Notification System RFP Template.