CES 2011: More Choices for Hurricane Kits

Back when the digital transition was pending, I raised the question of battery-powered portable televisions for use in emergencies. The old analog sets that people had stored in their hurricane kits no longer work with the digital signals. At first, there were few choices.

Now the market has responded and you’ve got more choices than in those early days of digital broadcasts. At CES 2011, however, I found some interesting products from RCA. These portable LCD sets not only receive the standard ATSC digital broadcast signals; they also can get the new Mobile DTV programming that is becoming available in cities around the country. This new free service from local broadcasters is designed to work better with portable devices, especially when they are moving. (ATSC signals apparently were not designed to work with devices that are moving, though I have seen examples where it seems to work just fine.)

It remains to be seen whether or not Mobile DTV takes off. It probably depends on how many devices support it, though the tuners are showing up in unusual places including the new Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet. It’s not clear how much consumer demand there is for the separate television broadcasts; it’s possible that the project is driven more by local broadcasters not wanting to relinquish some of the broadcast bandwidth that the FCC wants to get back for broadband wireless services. Given the uncertain future of Mobile DTV at this point, it would be smart to get a portable television like the RCA models that can receive both types of television signals, just in case.