01 March 2009

Timezones & DST Version 2.0

Timezones and Daylight Savings Time are antiquated ideas that need to be replaced. I propose that they be replaced with a new Universal Time that would synchronize the globe

Standard Time was an invention for the emerging global economy. A version 1.0 if you will. Of course it was never implemented with the order that Sr. Sanford Flemming originally envisioned. Standard Time solved these problems:

  • each city had a different noon and midnight based on the local view of the sun
  • communication and train schedules were complicated and convoluted

Standard Time introduced:

  • 24 zones representing 15 degrees of latitude that would use a consistent time
  • each zone would be exactly 1 hour different from the next
  • colloquialisms such as 'noon' and 'midnight' remained with minor changes

Unfortunately, Standard Time had its own set of problems:

  • confusing when a political region is divided into multiple time zones
  • scheduling meetings and coordinating events are problematic since Noon is different depending on your local timezone
  • Therefore timezones became organized using political boundaries instead of latitude zones causing broad inefficiencies of the use of solar time

Daylight Savings Time was finally enforced after WW2 as an attempt to reduce the use of incandescent light bulbs at night (the primary use of electricity) and ultimately maximize the sunlight for working hours.

However, DST has its own serious drawbacks:

  • DST doesn't reduce electricity use but increases electricity consumption
  • psychologically, people are more likely to go out in the evening if it is light after work - thus more automotive & gas consumption
  • Schools and office buildings use more gas/energy to warm up in the morning because the ambient temperature is lower due to the darkness.
  • DST is least efficient for central US states and Canadian provinces and benefit the East and West costs the most.
  • In these central states and provinces DST is not observed causing switching costs and potential loss of productivity during the adjustment.
  • Each country has its own DST rules

Ultimately DST is an inefficient attempt to recreate the solar efficiencies that local-time once had.

As we move to a more and more globally dependent economy, timezones still introduce complexity and communication hurdles when dealing with different organizational units spanning the globe. Often businesses will adopt a single timezone to communicate companywide (often choosing the timezone of the company headquarters) More importantly, we are looking for ways to optimize our daily routine to minimize utility costs. Heating big office buildings in the dark hours of the morning is less efficient than letting the sun heat them up and

To solve these problems, I propose a new Universal time. We'll call this Version 2.0 for timekeeping in a global environment. Here is what I propose for the New-Universal-Time:

  • Globally adopt a single timezone for timekeeping. Ideally this would be UTC, but I'm fine with arbitrarily choosing NST too.
  • Each region locally defines how to maximize solar time. For example, in Boston, the local hours of business could be 13:00 to 21:00 while in San Francisco it could be 16:30 to 00:30

Aside from the transition period, this will solve the two major problems: 1) communication consistency and 2) maximize daylight to minimize electricity/gas consumption (and minimize SAD). While each city/state/region will define their own business hours there will be a universal language to communicate the difference.

Now, when someone on the west coast proposes a meeting at 22:00 (middle of the local solar day) the person on the East will say, "sorry I can't make it, I'm putting my kids to bed then."

Of course, I realise that while the benefits might be many, getting wide spread adoption will be next to impossible. It'll likely happen right after the US adopts the metric system.