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2010 Zonar Handheld Inspection Device (Zonar Systems Photo)

Zonar Systems, a Seattle-based company that provides electronic fleet inspection and tracking systems for public and private fleets, experienced a firmware glitch on Thursday affecting a significant number of its mobile inspection devices.

Ben Hohmann, a Zonar spokesperson, confirmed the glitch and said the company is working to fix it. The issue is affecting Zonar’s 2010 Electronic Inspection Device, which is used primarily for school bus safety inspections.

Hohmann described the device as Zonar’s “legacy product.” The 2010 devices made their debut more than a decade ago. They’re equipped with Zonar’s Electronic Verified Inspection Reporting software, which uses RFID technology to verify that school buses and other types of equipment are thoroughly inspected.

Although the glitch cropped up suspiciously close to the start of the 2020s, Hohmann said this isn’t a rerun of the Y2K date turnover issue, which sparked worldwide concerns about potential software failures in 1999-2000.

“Our firmware had random code put in in 2005 when the product was made, to address a different issue at the time,” he wrote in a text to GeekWire. “It just happened to trigger this hiccup now.”

Hohmann said the firmware update for the 2010 devices should be ready within a couple of days. But because the devices are based on older-generation tech, they can’t be immediately updated over-the-air. The company is working on “formulating an individualized plan” to get the update to customers, he said.

It’s not clear exactly how many handheld devices might be affected. “Is it a significant number of devices? Sure,” Hohmann said. “But it’s not a major proportion of the devices that we have out there. … We have millions.”

The 2010 inspection device is used for school buses in the Seattle and Tacoma public school districts, according to First Student, the company that provides transportation services for those districts.

“We are aware of the glitch,” Chris Kemper, a spokesman for First Student, told GeekWire in an email. “Our teams will move to a paper-based system until the issue is resolved. This will not cause any interruption in our operations.”

Founded in 2001, Zonar provides GPS and telematics hardware and software solutions for fleets across a variety of industries such as construction, transportation and the utility industry. The idea is to use hardware and software to help fleet operators save money on fuel, improve maintenance, and increase safety.

German automotive giant Continental acquired a majority stake in Zonar in 2016. Zonar recently hired Michael Gould, a veteran of Oracle and Hewlett-Packard, to be its chief operating officer.

Update for 8:20 a.m. PT Jan. 3: We’ve added comments from First Student’s Chris Kemper about the impact on Seattle and Tacoma public school districts.

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