Feb 1 2014, 5:53am CST | by Forbes
I was more than surprised earlier this month to encounter National Public Radio (yes, that NPR) at the International CES (which no longer wants to be called the Consumer Electronics Show). Why would a very non-commercial entity be interested in participating in such an extremely commercial venue?
It ends up that the organization was there to show devices they had invented to assist an under-served audience to which the organization caters.
On display were devices to assist invalids in natural disasters to understand the level of danger in their surroundings.
As a matter of fact, the Consumer Electronics Association, or CEA, bestowed the title of “Honoree” in the “International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards” to NPR for the organization’s development of an FM receiver that could be used as a part of an emergency alert system for the hard of hearing.
I asked the same question that you would ask: “How many deaf people listen to the radio?” I received an interesting reply. It seems that the organization’s outreach program has provided these people with devices that give typed transcripts of the programs. In other words, probably more deaf people tune in to NPR than to any other radio station. With this as a basis, it makes sense for NPR to take it upon themselves to find a way to alert this audience of impending emergencies.
The device is actually very well thought out. It works even in a power failure, which is a common symptom of natural disasters.
NPR is piloting the device in the Gulf Coast of the US, testing it in hurricane conditions.
More about this effort, and other similar work, can be found at NPRlabs.org .
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