Qarnot: Rendering Farm That Heats Houses
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Qarnot: Rendering Farm That Heats Houses
22 September, 2016
Interview

During last SIGGRAPH, we’ve met with the founders of Qarnot. This is a very interesting startup from France, which combines rendering farms and heating technologies. Inside the device is the electric radiator using high-performance processors as a heat source. It’s absolutely amazing.

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Introduction

About 10 years ago, Paul Benoit, CEO and co-founder of Qarnot, was working in the R&D department of a major bank which was intensively using thousands of computers night and day, to run computations. He was impressed by the amount of energy used to supply the data centers, these “digital factories”, and especially to cool them down. He thought: “Why not use these computers as a heating system”? In 2010, he created Qarnot computing to implement this idea. In 2012, the first Q.rads were installed, followed the next year by 300 more heaters in a social housing building in Paris, France. In 2015, Qarnot started computing for large clients in the banking industry, 3D animation and research. In 2016, Qarnot raised €2,5 million with the European datacenter operator Data4, and was awarded the “Best of CES” Editors’ Prize by the American magazine Popular Mechanics.

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Could you discuss the way your project works? Could you talk about the hardware that is in the center of your startup? Who produces it? What is in the center of this technology?

Qarnot computing has designed and produces the Q.rad, an electric radiator using high-performance processors as a heat source. Totally silent, the device gets its computing instructions through the Internet. Depending on the version, each Q.rad embeds 3 to 4 processors. A Q.rad can heat a 150 to 300 sq. feet room in a building meeting modern isolation standards. The Q.rad is a system with high inertia and produces a so-called high quality “soft” heat as opposed to electrical convectors.

How does the heater work with the computing? How does it all work? How do the rendering and processing units work?

The heat produced by workload processing provides free and efficient heating for any premises connected to the Internet. Through a thermal regulation system and a proprietary workload distribution platform, processing and heating power can be matched all year long. It constitutes a complementary alternative to data centers, which create waste two-fold: heat from data processing that goes unused, and the subsequent cooling of this wasted heat. The Q.rad thus significantly lowers the carbon footprint of both data processing and household heating. As the American Economist Jeremy Rifkin puts it: “Qarnot computing promotes a new era of data centers where computing power is distributed between buildings and where excess of heat from computer/radiators heat homes”.

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How can you become the part of this initiative? How do you install these things in your place? Do you get paid for it or do you need to pay for it?

Today, Qarnot installs Q.rads in buildings for a minimum of 20 units. We receive a lot of requests from individuals, and we hope to provide this segment with our free and green heating solution in the near future.

Qarnot computing sells the computing power of the Q.rads to companies and research centers.

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The selling of these services pays for the electricity used by the Q.rads and therefore the heating that is produced. Each Q.rad records continuously its energetic (kW/h) and computing (CPU) consumption which enables Qarnot to bill our computing clients and refund the electricity consumed.

Hélène Legay, Marketing & Communication Manager at Qarnot

Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.

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