APNs for Public Alerting Apps

Notifications matter! In a public alerting App, notifications are a key trigger to get citizens’ attention and increasing app usage. Notifications managed poorly can have the opposite effect, driving app usage down and causing your your app to be deleted outright. Doing alert notifications right isn’t easy, unless you’ve got PEASI!

Research has shown that push notifications boost app engagement by 88%, in general. In our experience with public alerting apps, that correlation is very tight – we consistently see spikes in activity during an alert activation, when reaching your audience may be a life or death situation.

For iPhone and iPad users, the Apple Push Notification Service (APNs) is used to send notification messages to PEASI Apps. APNs is Apple’s robust, highly efficient and secure service for sending notification content to iOS mobile apps. When an app is launched, it establishes a secure persistent connection from the user’s device, which APNs uses to deliver notifications. An internal company back-end server sends message content to APNs, which then delivers those notifications to the end user devices. Notifications from your back-end server can both proactively alert your users to important information, such as emergency alerts, or silently update content that users will see the next time they open your app.

iOS public alerting apps that handle push notifications, such as the Alberta Emergency Alert and SaskAlert Apps, must be permitted to receive messages from APNs. When enabled, the Push Notification capability for your app gets associated with an App ID in an Apple Developer account. An App ID is used to uniquely identify the iOS app and development team, to ensure that notifications can only be sent by an alerting authority, and received by app users.

On the back-end server, referred to as the provider in the Apple Push Notification Service documentation, an Apple-provisioned certificate is used to create a secure trust connection with APNs. The following diagram illustrates the use of an Apple-issued certificate to establish trust between a provider and APNs.

  • Your provider requests a secure connection with APNs using transport layer security (TLS)
  • APNs responds with an APNs certificate, which your provider validates
  • Your provider must then send its Apple-provisioned provider certificate back to APNs
  • APNs then validates your provider certificate, confirming that the connection request originated from a legitimate provider, and establishes your TLS connection

For more information on setting up your app to connect to APNs, see Arter Kirkwood & Associates Setup APNs for Your iOS App in 4 Easy Steps!.

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