Heating by Bytes

File this one under Green.

Sometime in the near future, district heating in Helsinki will be supplemented by heat thrown off by local data centers. This will enable them to cut back on greenhouse gases produced by more traditional methods to heat the water that is pumping through radiators across town.

In a first of its kind experiment, the city of Helsinki will look at piping the waste heat produced by a data center, specifically the underground Academica Data Centre, to run under buildings and provide much needed heat for the residents. In a further move to enhance the greenness of this data centre, it is also going to be cooled by the icy waters of the Baltic Sea. This is one of the unique features of this system – the pump can both heat and cool water. This efficacy means that the output energy is five times more than the input energy. This directly translates into five times cheaper power. . . They can heat around 500 houses [and also save] around $ 563,000 annually for the company in power bills.

Pretty nifty.

Source: The Data Center Journal

USPO should copy Finnish NetPosti

netposti

A recent editorial in the New York Times spoke of how internet commerce is eating into the US Postal Services’ bottom line.

The Postal Service made a profit until 2006. Since then, declining mail volumes — as more Americans use e-mail and pay their bills online — and the demands of its retiree health benefit system have dragged it deeper and deeper into the red. Last year, it delivered 17 percent fewer pieces of mail than in 2006 and reported losses of $1.4 billion, this year it expects to lose $7 billion. Postmaster General John Potter warns that unless the service takes major steps to bring its costs into line, it will lose $238 billion over the next 10 years.

Some of the suggestions include ending Saturday delivery and closing lesser used branch offices and replacing them with ATM-like kiosks in supermarkets or malls. While these may make sense to cut costs, if there was more flexibility for the postal service to expand into new businesses, they would stand to gain from the growth in other areas where they have suffered such as online, electronic invoicing.

Here in Finland I was surprised that the Finnish Postal Service has a strong online presence (NetPosti) that is an integral part of everyone’s life.

  • Receiving e-invoices in NetPosti does not carry a fee.
  • An e-mail notification and/or SMS message of e-invoices received in NetPosti
  • Pay for the e-invoice in any online bank from any account using the virtual barcode.
  • The e-invoice is convenient to attach to an e-mail as a PDF file.
  • E-invoices can be read and archived in all online services that offer the NetPosti service.
  • A free-of-charge archive for seven years (instead of the previous six years)

Netposti has not only everyone’s physical address (they get a feed of all address changes from the Finnish government), but they also provide an account for everyone tied to your social security number and an email address that you can provide.

I get my paychecks delivered electronically as a PDF and I can neatly archive them into folders for future reference. As it says above, I can receive my bills via NetPosti and pay them online via my bank’s website. All for free.

Why doesn’t the US Post Office partner with PayPal, Visa, Amex, etc and deliver invoices electronically and take part in the 21st Century?