Every start-up has its Eureka moment. For Nerdalize it was when two of its founders, Mathijs de Meijer and Boaz Leupe, broke the thermostat of the house they were renovating. Struggling to keep warm, Mathijs was using his laptop when it suddenly dawned on him, “Well, you know what, how about we take 100 laptops, put them into one of the rooms and then we’ll have nerd-heat heating our house?” What started as a joke soon turned into a business. Inspired by that cold day in 2012, the Dutch start-up has developed a new radiator that instead of hot water contains a computer connected to the internet. The heat generated by the computer while it does its clever stuff is put to good use and heats up the room.
There’s more. Not only do the now presumably warm founders believe they have come up with an alternative, environmentally friendly means of generating heat but also a solution to the expensive problem of preventing data centres, which store tens of thousands of servers, from overheating. Currently a third of a data centre’s energy bill is down to air conditioning systems to cool the equipment. It’s a problem that has exercised the minds of Microsoft and the University of Virginia. In 2011 they published a paper in which they estimated the IT industry could double in size without increasing its carbon footprint, if the heat generated by computer servers was channeled to heat domestic and office buildings.
Nerdalize is leading the way. It’s plan is to break up data centres and spread them across homes using fibre-optic cables to connect them together. Instead of going to waste, the heat generated is then used to warm up the building. When the radiator is turned off the server inside does not stop working, instead the heat is pushed into an extractor outside. Just in case the internet is down and the users need heat, the server starts working on dummy equations to produce heat. As Nerdalize generates revenues by providing data services, the heat is free for users after the payment of a single small set up fee. A year long pilot is underway and among the trialists is the Leiden University Medical Centre which is using the radiators to analyse protein and gene data. Smart radiators.