Ajabox when space inspires a sustainable alternative to energy-intensive cloud services
It was in 2021, in the gentle atmosphere of a night on a beach of a paradisiacal island, that the spark occurred. As a computer engineer and entrepreneur, I was lying on the sand, gazing at the stars. I was preoccupied by an article I had just read: The Carbon Footprint of the Internet.
In 2021, digital technology at home already produced as much CO2 as global air traffic, and predictions were a doubling by 2025! Since the cloud's share represented a third, having doubled in five years with a clear trend towards domination of this storage mode, this was not just a drop of CO2 in the atmosphere.
At that time, I was working on a self-hosted cloud (in-house cloud) project. My primary goal was to bring to market a solution that would protect our privacy to the maximum. By making it possible to host at home a personal cloud dedicated without any technical knowledge, rather than entrusting our data to digital giants who do not hesitate to analyze them.
I am not exactly a traditional eco-activist, waving protest banners. I am more of an eco-pragmatist, a man of solutions, an innovator who believes in the power of creativity to provide solutions. At that moment, I think I must adapt my project and kill two birds with one stone: protect users' privacy and reduce the ecological impact of the cloud.
While pondering these thoughts, I watched the bright points of planes in the sky and told myself to stay motivated that it would compensate for still taking the plane to my paradise island where I lived part of the time.
Can you believe it, taking a photo like this with your smartphone emits a significant amount of CO2! Especially since it will then sync to the cloud and indefinitely emit CO2 for maintaining its storage in that cloud. And then, I might send it to friends via WhatsApp, it will be stored in their phone's gallery, then synchronized again in their cloud. How many clouds will it be duplicated in finally? How much CO2 will these copies emit? For how long?
With horror, I realize that my simple click to take this photo may pollute more than this fraction of a second of movement of that airplane I see in the sky. Considering the number of photos taken by smartphones, it's quite chilling.
I was disturbed by this inconsistency. The world was obsessed with planes crossing the sky but overlooked the silent servers buzzing day and night, consuming enormous amounts of energy and emitting CO2 in silence. It was an invisible and neglected problem, but just as urgent. I had to tackle this issue.
Lying on the sand and continuing to observe the sky, after a while, I came across a strange plane that had no red and green blinking lights at the ends of its wings. I tried to find an explanation, but could not. No matter its orientation, I should have been able to see one of these two lights, green or red. Then I realized it was a satellite made visible by the reflection of the sun!
That's when it clicked for me. I thought about how these satellites have significant communication and computing capabilities but have strong energy constraints. I remembered a scene from the film "Apollo 13" that retraces NASA's mission of the same name. To bring the crew back to Earth alive, NASA engineers are shown to be ingenious in saving every watt of electrical consumption of the module.
The path was there; I had to start over with a blank sheet and use computer components used in space. I couldn't do better in terms of energy efficiency.
At that moment, the project started from scratch to become what it is today: a well-protected home cloud with terabytes of data for less than 3 watts of total consumption, which is:
5 times less than a simple internet box,
15 times less than a simple laptop,
30 times less than a desktop computer.
The invisible pollution of data centers is a challenge we must all take on. My talent, knowledge, and entrepreneurial spirit have allowed me to bring you this pragmatic and significant solution.
Your decision-making ability must take over and do the rest so that through a silent migration, your data finds its way back home and pollutes less.
Producing locally, consuming locally is good, but hosting locally as well is better and is part of the solution to the problem.
Join this movement to stop this collective massacre, linked to a currently inefficient and excessively carbon-emitting digital world, to migrate towards a more environmentally respectful usage.
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