System Meltdown - How Things Really Work
How self-sufficient we believe we are? How safe are we in our little world of technology I-do-it-for-you? We have been so dependent on technology and systems over the years that we can’t also notice how vulnerable we are. Almost everything we use and depend today also depends on chips, circuits and micro embedded systems. From the car we drive, communication, to even basic necessities such as electricity, water and food.
We hava a small example about it when our cell phone is out of service for just a while. Especially for those younger, who grew up in the cell phone era. We become desperate!!! When 20 years ago the person who had access to this kind of technology was quite rare. I didn’t understand, when I was young and fashion, how people lived without television.
Today everything is so dependent on systems, technology and informatics that requires complex plannings and huge investments to ensure the things working.
Eletrobras Distribuição Rondônia (a power company in North Region of Brazil), for example, invested R$600 thousand to implement an Integrated Operations Center (IOC), to gather in one place professionals and services for Operation Center of Distribution of all regions of the state, Departments of Distribution of Operations, Distribution itself and Maintenance Services. The IOC is fully computerized to provide the system operators all conditions to control, from anywhere, the electrical installations of power substations, power lines and power distribution network, keeping the economy, security and efficiency needed to ensure continuity in the supply of distributed electricity.
The more complex the environment is, the more investment and better contingency planning are also required to prevent a failure in the system. Firewalls, redundancy, backup plan, etc. And even with all this, between 2011 and early 2014 were registered 181 blackouts in BRazil, according to a survey of the Brazilian Center for Infrastructure (CBIE). Furthermore, in a hacker invasion of the IOC System, for example, it could turn off the power of an entire state.
In SOuth Australia a death of a patient is under investigation, where apparently there was a falt in the system that categorizes emergency calls, by prioritizing in dispatch ambulances and giving advices of procedures to be done. A patient died after the system flagged an emergency call as a collapse when in fact the patient was unconscious and not breathing. Thus the system also couldn’t send the advices to give a little extra survival time for this patient, by someone close to him, until the help arrives.
But let’s get out from large and complex environments to a private, small complex environment. The futuristic Driverless cars - a car without drivers. NIssan is about to launch by August this year its autopilot system, named ProPILOT. An autopilot system to be used in heavy traffic situations, slow traffic or during extended commutes.
The system can automatically manage the distance between the car and any leading car, between speeds ranging from about 18mph to about 60mph, also It also fully stoping when the car in front stops. It also keeps the car in the lane, using a monocular 360-degree camera system communicating with an on-board processing system. The plans are to gradually introduce more autonomy, but it’s staging the release of additional features. Lane switching in highway conditions is set to come to ProPILOT in 2018, and city driving, including full intersection negotiation, is currently supposed to make its debut in 2020.
Now what happens if the system fails or is compromised while the car is in motion? Even if for a brief moment, to the user recover the control isn’t instantaneous and in between this moment a serious accident may occur. A cyber-attack of this central system or some critical failure can compromise the security of several drivers.
To resume, I won’t to return to ride camels and use torches throughtout my house. The point I’m trying to getting at is that we still have a lot to improve in terms of technology to let things totaly by system control. The manual and mechanical interaction is so essential and necessary as safety to avoid disasters. The problem is that we became so used to systems thinking for us that we even forgot to think by ourselves!