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Systems Inside Small Computers Need Special Attention


By Lynda B. Valencia

MANILA, March 5 (PNA) -- Small control chips known as embedded system need to be addressed separately from computer system for Y2K compliance.

This was disclosed by Dr. Keith Eagles, general manager of Singapore-based ERA Technology, during the Second Global Y2K Summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC)

Eagles said organizations might be ignoring the extent of the problem of embedded systems since people started addressing this aspect of the Y2K only in the past two to three years.

Embedded chips are used to monitor, control and diagnose electronic, electrical and electro-mechanical equipment and systems used in commerce and industry.

Recently, companies discovered that many of these chips also misread the year 2000 as 1900, and churn out erroneous data.

Examples of systems that are controlled by embedded chips are airplanes, communications, power plants and transportation equipment.

"It is a very small failure but has very nasty effects," said Steve Corbin, managing director of Hongkong-based Fibrestream Ltd., a Y2K solution firm.

As an example, he cited a Y2K roll-over test by a power plant in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the plant's system clock was advanced to Jan. 1, 2000 from Dec. 12, 1999. The clock read as "00," causing the plant's power valve for cooling to automatically close.

As a result, the power plant automatically shut down, causing total electrical failure in the areas it was serving.

Eagles said the potential impact of non-Y2K compliant embedded systems might be wide-scale, as there are about 40 billion embedded chips being used around the world.

Besides power plants, embedded chips are also used in fax machines, photocopiers, desktops PCs. traffic control signalling systems, fire control systems, elevator controllers, closed-circuit televisions, among others.

To address this problem, Corbin said organizations need to give as much attention to embedded chips as they are giving to computer systems.

 


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