Sunday came and went and all’s well, more or less. The ticking bomb called the Energy Policy Act of 2005 made a polite pop! but didn’t cause too much trouble when DST came into effect earlier this year than usual. Strangely enough, PCs were mostly unaffected, in large due to Microsoft’s success moving consumers to auto-update their PCs.
There were reports of a few problems with other types of devices. For example, George Ou @ ZDNet reports problems with his and his wife’s Sprint phones. I heard of similar problems for some Cingular models. Verizon made me patch my Blackberry but after I installed that I had no problems.
My car, which gets its time from the GPS signal feeding the nav system, had a problem. It’s a 2007 model, which is a shame. Acura wasn’t able to squeeze in a software patch between July 2005, when the Act was signed into law, and November 2006, when I got the car. In addition, Acura hadn’t thought about telling their customers (or their service centers for that matter) to expect a problem and so I (and many others, I presume) had the pleasure of making a few calls this morning to discover the buried “turn auto-DST off” feature. (If you’re thinking RTFM, my excuse is that I don’t even recall where I put the nav system manual.)
The broader story here is about the changing nature of software delivery in a world with lots of devices. The experience with Windows PCs and OTA-updatable cell phones this time around suggests that it is easy to deliver updates to many networked devices, which are configured to auto-update. If the devices are not networked, as in the case of my car, there are problems. If the updating mechanism is not automatic, as in the case of some cell phones, there also can be problems (over-reliance on user action). In short, the DST change has been a classic example of the benefits of software-as-a-service delivery models. (Just as a clarification, SaaS doesn’t have to mean everything happens on the server and runs in a browser. More here.)
Another story here is about the need to interconnect devices that don’t have direct access to the Net. The best example is everything in your home that has a processor and a clock but no network connectivity–from your car to your stereo to the clocks on your microwave and bedside table to the climate control panels. How long did it take you to change all these clocks? How many did you miss the first time around? DST clock changes are such a common use case that some climate control panels have specialized DST change buttons.
ZWave and Zigbee are the two competing standards offering the best hope for resolving these problems. (Polaris has invested in Ember, a leading Zigbee proponent.) When your climate control panel is connected to the rest of your home, not only can it automatically change to DST but it can also tell you when it’s time to change its battery or the house air filter. The fridge can tell you when it detected a leak or when its water filter should be changed or when the ice tray is empty because you forgot to turn the ice maker on. This is far short of the near sci-fi image of the fridge contributing to your shopping list and a lot more useful IMO.