State sending updates on blackouts
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Jul 12, 2001
Californians wondering when the next blackout is going to hit can tap into
their cell phones and other handheld devices for the answer. The state is
offering free, real-time, wireless notifications about upcoming energy shortfalls.
The state has always planned to offer wireless e-mail and cell phone
messaging for various services, said Arun Baheti, California's director
of e-government, but the energy crisis "provided us with the impetus to
move our plans faster than we originally thought."
Previously, Californians could turn to radio, television or a state
Web site called Flex Your Power (www.flexyourpower.ca.gov)
to find the latest information on the energy crunch.
But with the new service, residents can receive instant updates on when
the next scheduled blackout will be, Baheti said. They can be better prepared
and be able inform friends, neighbors and relatives or check on their business,
he said. Or, for example, if a Stage 2 alert is issued indicating that
power reserves are low then people know to reduce their energy usage.
"What we want to do is help them to do their part," Baheti said. "When
we hit these alerts, we need to curtail [energy] use immediately."
It took about 30 to 40 days to develop the service, which meant creating
new templates to present the information on various handheld devices, which
include cell phones, pagers and personal digital assistants, he said. The
state's new portal, unveiled earlier this year, was designed to support
wireless functionality, otherwise "you would have to literally hand key
all those Web pages," he said.
In addition to the energy crisis notifications, Baheti said the state
also offers traffic information and lottery results via wireless devices.
Before creating more wireless options, state officials plan to survey members
of the public and state agencies to assess their needs.
The wireless features were developed in conjunction with Deloitte Consulting,
BroadVision Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., Roundarch and Kana Inc.
Another addition to the state's Flex Your Power Web site is a new program
called the Energy Brain resource, which guides homeowners through an energy
questionnaire and then provides a customized set of "finely-tuned tips"
to save energy, Baheti said.