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Friday, 2 June 2017

Fancy a server-powered hot shower?

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
You know just from using a laptop that computers give off a lot of excess heat. For data centers containing tens of thousands of servers, this is a big problem, wasting energy and money. To try and mitigate this, companies have experimented with moving facilities to near the Arctic Circle and even submerging servers underwater. But Dutch startup Nerdalize has a different approach. Rather than trying to dissipate excess energy from servers, it wants to harness it, using it to heat people’s homes instead.

The set-up is simple enough. You pay Nerdalize to install a server in your home; it heats your house for free; and Nerdalize makes money by selling the server space to other companies. Back in 2015, the company unveiled its first product — a standalone wall heater powered by a single server that was used in a year-long pilot in five households. The heaters were slow, taking about an hour to warm up, and fairly weak, only providing enough heat for a small room. But they worked. And Nerdalize is now moving onto a second pilot that integrates its sever-heat more tightly with customer’s homes.

Nerdalize’s first pilot scheme placed servers inside wall heaters. 
Image: Nerdalize

Nerdalize’s first pilot scheme placed servers inside wall heaters. Image: Nerdalize
From August, Nerdalize plans to equip 42 Dutch households with servers to heat their water supply, providing, it says, hot showers using nothing more than data. (Well, data, and piping hot silicon.) The company says its setup will save customers €300 a year ($336) while costing companies 50 percent less for data services. Each installation also takes three tonnes of CO2 away from a household’s carbon footprint. Nerdalize says it’s a “win-win-win” scenario, and has launched a crowd-funding campaign to expand the project. Its reached its initial goal of €250,000, and is now aiming to raise half a million euros.

It’s an ambitious project, and one that just sounds so clever, killing a number of inefficiencies at a single stroke. However, there are lot of unresolved questions about Nerdalize’s plans. Like, will companies be happy about having their data sitting in people’s houses? And how will customers feel when they need to let an engineer in to fix their malfunctioning servers? And, more simply, will the whole business plan even be sustainable at scale? It seems for Nerdalize that the proof is in the pudding, as it continues to put its technology in more houses.

Source : The Verge


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