April 14, 1912 – The best ship, the best captain, the best crew, indulgent passengers, calm seas, no moon, full speed, discounted warnings of ice, and a false sense of security.
“Iceberg, right ahead!”
Too late. Titanic sank, on its maiden voyage, 103 years ago this month. The lessons from that fateful night were immediately carved into history, never to be dimmed by time. Yet, those same lessons are repeatedly unheeded, even today.
Technology keeps improving and allows data and consumables to be delivered, stored, accessed, and analyzed with seeming ease. At least, that is what the average consumer believes. From appliances to smart phones, our lives are becoming more dependent on energy and data.
In 2015, we have the best devices, the best minds, the best inventions, indulgent consumers, unlimited plans, increased speed, discounted warnings of infrastructure concerns, and a false sense of security.
See what I did there?
Today, the story of Titanic remains a microcosm of what can happen, when a string of events creates fate. The stinging truth about the tragedy that occurred 103 years ago is that no one outright failed the night the Titanic sank. Given the same circumstances, the same decisions would most likely be made again. At the time, many second guessed the decisions…after the ship sank.
“Thank you for the iceberg warning from the other ships in the area, we have accomplished sighters on lookout. I’ll take it from here. Full speed…21 knots.” From all accounts, that was the mindset of Edward J. Smith, the very accomplished and well-seasoned captain of the doomed vessel.
If the ship arrives in New York ahead of schedule, as was the plan, the headlines read very favorable for days, and the White Star line’s huge investment pays itself back through wondrous publicity. Captain Smith’s decisions are not even documented, nor commented on, ever again. Off to retirement he goes, using his anonymity as a cocktail party conversation starter.
Alas, pesky things, those icebergs. Just one of them changed the story forever. With only visual sightings and a shipboard radio to guide the Titanic safely through iceberg-infested waters, the liner was ill-equipped to detect its nemesis.
I mentioned that Titanic was a microcosm for today’s circumstance. Here is what I mean, as it pertains to backup power and battery monitoring: The ship represents the best of what technology offers, whether it be data, or devices. The iceberg is a power outage. The passengers are consumers who expect the best (and willingly pay for it), and the captain is you.
Yes, you. Now, don’t get too defensive. Remember, after evaluating the information at hand, Captain Smith made what he considered to be the correct decision. The fact that he became one of history’s biggest scapegoats is pertinent to this blog, but it wasn’t like he neglected his responsibilities. He just didn’t know enough. It’s nice to know.
So, whom did I leave out of the microcosm? Oh, I remember, the sighters. What role are they assigned? They hold two roles, actually. They represent both battery backup power and battery monitoring (or lack thereof).
Think about it. They had one job; watch for icebergs and be the first line of defense against catastrophe (power outages). For centuries, that was the nature of their position, and they did it to the best of their ability. However, no matter how often they checked the horizon, they were only spot checks that were only good until they looked in another direction. And, they depended on moonlight, and ocean waves to help them spot trouble. Let’s face it, they were limited. What the crew of the Titanic could have done with proper warning, huh? It’s nice to know.
Almost immediately after the tragic event, changes were put in place to bolster reporting and charting of icebergs. However, the arrival of radar and satellite technology greatly enhanced the capability to avoid such catastrophes.
So, here is the continuous battery monitoring point. Periodic spot checking of battery health, or discounting the probability of a harmful outage because the information at hand doesn’t adequately elevate the concern, can cause great harm to a very large investment (not to mention people).
Just as radar and satellites greatly diminished the risk of an iceberg collision, thereby providing the best protection for the ship and its passengers, the arrival of cost-effective continuous battery monitoring has greatly enhanced the assurance batteries will perform their sole, incredibly important, function.
The ultimate goal for battery monitoring is not to detect battery failure. It is to ensure the batteries work when needed, so as to avoid the worst possible outcome, when the power goes out.
I’ll leave you with this point to consider: If the sighters on the Titanic were better equipped to perform their duties, Captain Edward J. Smith would have retired in anonymity…just as he would have wanted. In my mind, I can picture Captain Smith standing on the bridge of Titanic viewing a radar and satellite report of an iceberg miles ahead. You know what I hear him saying? “It’s nice to know.”
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