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Chasing Innovation

Chasing Innovation

If you’ve ever wiled away your time on a treadmill pondering whether the energy you’re expending could be harnessed to power the lights in the gym, you’re on to something. In a busy gym, where dozens of people are running at one time, it only seems logical to make the most of that effort. Finally, this idea is gaining traction—it seems the world really can be powered by a hamster wheel.


Kirsten Nelson

According to a company called ReRev, which retrofits gym equipment to generate electricity, “a typical 30-minute workout produces 50 watt hours of clean, carbon-free electricity.” Beginning with numerous university gyms around the country, and no doubt coming soon to a fitness facility near you, ReRev is redefining sweat equity.

A similar stroke of genius may be occurring in the computing equivalent to a roomful of treadmills—the data centers associated with cloud computing. As more and more data is transferred to the cloud, expansion is rampant in the server space. The costs associated with building and operating facilities to house servers are a function of the world’s growing technological needs.

As we all know, servers generate a lot of heat, and thus require pretty serious cooling systems to keep them operational. With so many of these server farms springing up, one has to wonder if infrastructure costs could be reduced while that heat energy is also better utilized. How about eliminating the need for a new building and heating existing homes with all that computing power? According to an article by Randall Stross in The New York Times last month, researchers at the University of Virginia and Microsoft Research are looking at the very real possibility that servers may be hosted in homes, generating heat for the residence. This would not only reduce costs for homeowners, but also for server owners.

There is much talk about what cloud computing will bring to the AV industry and the world at large, but few would have expected it to heat homes. Maybe when you requisition space for your next equipment closet, instead of air conditioning you should propose that a sauna be installed.

As we close out this calendar year and look ahead to the next, we are lucky to be at the center of the question of what new technology can do for those in our industry and beyond. The concept of multitasking is taking on new forms in these and other new experiments combining energy conservation with time and resource savings. This is where true innovation happens.

Whether they occur on a treadmill or in a boardroom, the best ideas maximize potential and reduce costs. As an industry, that is what we do. So keep running, and watch the lights go on.