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Wireless alerts join California blackout arsenal

Computerworld
graphic


By Matt Hamblen

(IDG) -- Residents and businesses in California can now get wireless alerts of impending power blackouts to help provide system protections.

State officials last week introduced notification features at the My California Internet portal. Users can set up profiles to get alerts of pending rolling blackouts and other types of state information -- even lottery scores, according to officials.

The wireless power warnings could tell subscribers when to turn down air conditioners, appliances and lights, said Arun Baheti, California's director of e-government. The last rolling blackouts in the state were in April. So far, the weather has been mild this summer and demand is low, but officials said that could change at any time.

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Deloitte Consulting in New York is the integrator for the portal, which is based on technology from BroadVision Inc. in Redwood City, Calif. The Web site provides alerts to any wireless device, including cell phones and handhelds, using e-mail and Short Message Service.

State officials couldn't identify any businesses that are using the alerts, but some companies expressed interest.

"We might use wireless alerts in the future, but we don't have any wireless devices and would need to purchase those," said Mel Reeves, CIO at ARB Inc. in Lake Forest, Calif. A construction company, ARB is building several power plants and has been affected by four rolling blackouts at a site in Pittsburg, Calif., each lasting an hour.

Wireless notification at that site could be helpful, since battery backup lasts only 30 minutes, said Reeves. That forces workers to download server data to hard drives, he said.

John Burke, systems and operations manager at Pacific Coast Building Products Inc. in Sacramento, Calif., said he constantly checks electricity demand via his desktop computer at the California Independent Service Operator site.

"It's worked out so far, but a wireless alert wouldn't hurt," Burke said. Mainly, he said, the company is relying on a diesel generator installed during the Y2K crisis to provide data center backup. The generator provides power for eight hours on a single tank of fuel.








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