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The Urban Grid
Jamais Cascio, 3 Feb 05

Now here's an unexpected combination of WorldChanging interests: AlmereGrid, a city-wide distributed computing grid. Taking advantage of the fiber-optic network installed in the town of Almere, in the Netherlands, AlmereGrid will be the first "heterogeneous city computer Grid" in the world, and will initially be used for medical and scientific research. Design began last year, and testing is now underway. Details in English are pretty slim, though -- any Dutch-speakers out there want to let us in on updates?

AlmereGrid aims to select a number of essential and appealing applications with researchers "from the neighbourhood". The advantage is that computing time donors can establish a relationship with the ongoing research. The computing time donors will receive a programme that has to be installed on their computer. AlmereGrid will only use the processors of the connected systems whenever the owner is not using the computer.

A design document (PDF) from July of last year gives a good overview of what the AlmereGrid initiative wants to accomplish. According to the website of the Aurora Grid group at Rotterdam Institute of Informatics Education, AlmereGrid is testing a variety of grid applications, including the open source distributed computing software, BOINC. (Aurora's grid software overview is a good summary of what's out there and how it's being used, by the way.)

This project feels like the first tremble of a pretty big earthquake. As fiber optic networks get installed in more communities, projects like this will become easier and easier to do. The motivations for joining in on projects will vary -- some places will do so out of altruism, others will seek to rent "supercomputer" time to the highest bidder, and others will be driven to compete with neighboring towns for bragging rights over total calculations per month. And what happens when communities realize that the various computers around town (in everything from traffic light controllers to parking meters to, eventually, local information hubs) are actually "idle" for most of the time? The BOINC folks better start working on a version for embedded processors...

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I wonder if we'll have a way to tap onto the power of human grid.

Just imagine you can signal yourself as "idle" and have "work" being brought to your place: translations to do, ideas to improve, even (let's go wild!) human communication to be available for.

Depending on how well you do or how you rate your own satisfaction (just like in that Flow "the psychology of happiness" thing), you receive a different menu each time. Or maybe even an "I feel lucky" option.

Hey, folks at WorldChanging - won't you try creating a wiki thing where people can register and sign-up for translating? "I'm free for 5 minutes - gimme a 5 minutes sentence or paragraph and I'll translate it - you machine take care of the rest".

(substitute NUMBER for the actual thing to email me)

Posted by: lugon on 4 Feb 05



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