The state of Minnesota has posted a dire warning on its Year 2000 site. The problem is embedded systems: non-compliant chips.
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Emergency response systems and vehicles, water & waste treatment systems, security systems, electrical power generation and distribution systems, facilities maintenance systems, medical lab equipment, telephone systems, and traffic lights . . . what do all these things have in common? They are all used by government entities to provide services to citizens, and they are all at risk of failing on 1/1/2000.
By now, state agencies are aware of the Year 2000 issue and project plans are in place to achieve Year 2000 compliance for computer software, hardware, and interfaces. Agencies are also required to address firmware-related issues in Year 2000 project plans. Firmware, in its simplest form, refers to any device that is plugged in, has wires, or runs on a battery. These devices often contain embedded microchips that perform date and/or time functions. They are key components in many critical systems and any of these devices can be affected by the century rollover. Gartner Group estimates 50 million devices worldwide will exhibit Year 2000 problems. Firmware is another important dimension of the Year 2000 problem.
Since most of these devices cannot be fixed by the user, a vigorous vendor management program is required to deal with the firmware issue. . . .
Service providers are another dimension of the Year 2000 problem and can also affect government's ability to serve citizens. Do all hospitals and medical facilities have Year 2000 plans in place? What about insurance companies, credit unions, power plants, local telephone exchange providers, and investment companies? "Other state agencies and local government entities can also play a vital role in creating awareness of this issue and heading off future problems," advises Jim Close, Minnesota Year 2000 Project Manager. Government entities with regulatory or monitoring functions over providers of critical infrastructure services can contact the providers and inquire whether Year 2000 plans are in place that will address all dimensionsof the Year 2000 problem -- computer hardware, software, interfaces, and firmware.