Could “Dark Cores” Make Stratford a Virtual Data Center?

Will opening a local campus of the University of Waterloo be as important to Stratford as distributed computing?

The home of Canada’s most famous Shakespeare festival (and a finalist for an “Intelligent City”) will apparently be the home of a technology that attempts to tap unused processing power as a next-generation “data center.”

Specifically, LeoNovus, run by Gordon Campbell (former founder of SEEQ Technology and Chips & Technologies, which manufactured early PC chipsets) has laid plans to tap into the “dark cores” within the city of Stratford, Ontario. In conjunction with hardware manufacturer Leadtek, Campbell and LeoNovus plan to embed gateways within Stratford’s homes that, when powered on, will always be processing local content; when powered “off,” they will remotely process third-party Leonovus software.

VentureBeat’s recent interview with Campbell sounds like a reinvention of the sort of distributed computing used by SETI@home, Folding@home, or any of a number of services that tap into unused PC compute cycles for processing a slice of a given compute problem. Either that, or it’s something even more wacky.

The odd thing about LeoNovus is the fact that the company hadn’t given much of an indication that it planned to go this route. In fact, LeoNovus’ description of its technology sounds very much like Google TV, a small set-top box Google developed to marry the best of TV and the Web.  The company’s patent application covers “Media Action Scripts.”

“In order to extract the Web browsing capability of the PC platform and transport this powerful tool to the consumer electronics space, LeoNovus embarked on a strategy of decoupling the browser itself from the hardware and software it has been so tightly embedded into,” the company said. “As it started to do so, the company found a tremendous amount of inefficient code stacked on top of equally inefficient programming and protocols. After more than 3 years of diligent development, the company has succeeded in defining an integrated hardware and software platform optimized for Web browsing and able to be implemented in small form factor, low cost devices.”

The company’s product, LeoNovus TV, combines a Web browser, photo viewer, full-screen Flash playback, and other techologies: nothing about “dark cores” or unused computing power. LeoNovus began deploying LeoNovus TV in 2011 with Rhysome Networks, Stratford’s municipal broadband system, which operates a 70-km data transmission grid of buried optical fiber running throughout the city, and has built a citywide wireless network that accesses the grid to provide mobile high-speed Internet access. It’s this network that has helped propel Stratford into finalist status for the Intelligent Community Forum, an annual award handed out by a New York City think tank, and the one that will serve as the communication underpinnings of this distributed “data center.”

Stratford mayor Dan Mathieson told VentureBeat that each of the 32,000 homes within Stratford would receive LeoNovus set-tops so that they could tap into the network.

LeoNovus has apparently convinced the mayor that its technology is for real. Still, setting aside some of the sillier statements in the story (“In a typical home, he said there are 2,000 underutilized cores across various electronic devices. There are another 20,000 in a typical office, and 300 in a car”) does anyone want all of their electronic devices running full tilt, 24/7? Do businesses? It would seem that the first month’s electric bill would greatly diminish the town’s enthusiasm for the project, even if they can surf Slashdot to their heart’s content.

 

Image: Stratfordsmartcity.ca

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