Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hurricanes and Technology

Like many others in the Northeast, our home was without power for a number of days.  Compared to many others, we were luckier; no property damage, no flooding and no loss of life.  And like many, our routines were disrupted.  As a family, the loss of power meant no heat, loss of food, and no light.  During the day, natural light was plentiful, but night meant candles, flashlights, and a fire in the fireplace.

Worse, was the threat that our mobile devices would run out of power; cellphones for communication, laptop and iPad for entertainment.  At night we played games on the iPod, watched DVDs on the laptop or on movies previously downloaded on the iPad.  We are a power hungry family.  And one night's use meant that they needed recharging

So what did we learn.  First, that we needed to go daily to the charging station at the  town hall or rec center to juice up.  We learned which restaurants had power and which didn't.  And the same with neighbors and friends that got power first.  We learned that the cloud may be a great way to get content, but that ultimately we need to keep a copy of the content at our fingertips.  More downloaded films and more DVDs for that "rainy" day.

Andy while my Verizon cellphone could make calls and get emails, my AT&T phone could not connect.   "Among the concerns: that backup-power strategies for cellphone towers based on batteries that can run for eight or 12 hours aren't sufficient in the face of outages that can go on for days."  Our electric grid that powers these towers as well as homes and businesses have glaring weaknesses.  Lines on poles above ground crash down as trees fall over and poles split.  We are held hostage by our respective power companies as they grapple with both the storm and public officials.  From town mayors to Governors, all expecting immediate results while some homes have been without power for more  than 2 weeks.  And our patience gets more and more strained.

Natural forces are not going away.  It is not a question of if, but when will the next one strike.  In a month, in a year, or in a decade.  Regardless, as technology improves, more must be done to protect our power infrastructure and improve how our devices are powered.  Solar charging, kinetic charging, or some other quantum leap to stay "juiced".  And while we expect the cloud to hold all our data, and our entertainment, we should always consider having backups accessible and ready to use.  The hurricane may be over but hopefully it provides an impetus to a better "powered' future.

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