Why We Must Dematerialize End-User Computing

We can all have more — much more — by having less. The secret is dematerialization, a simple concept backed by some of the smartest minds on the planet. Peter Diamantis, CEO of XPRIZE and founder of Singularity University, talks about the “dematerialization and demonetization of the products and services we know today” in his book “Abundance”. Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, describes dematerialization as “a radical decrease in footprint size for a great many of the items we use in our lives”.

Dematerialization is a crucial lever for improvements in sustainability, because of its positive impact on so many different environmental issues. Dematerialized goods and services replace items that used to require significant natural resources to produce and a physical distribution system to disperse. As the world population grows, this decrease in the consumption of energy or goods per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) has a positive impact on the environment.

A typical example of dematerialization is the smartphone. Instead of previously separate physical products, the cell phone housing, camera, radio, GPS, flashlight, board games, translators, etc. are now combined in one single device. This shift from a reliance on individual products to multiple services provided by a single unit is the process of dematerialization. Digital music distribution systems, bike hire schemes and laundry services are all examples of dematerialization. The same trend will continue in most of the products that we know today.

Another example of beneficial dematerialization is the automobile sector, where robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are driving possibilities of significant reduction in the total volume of cars in circulation. New solutions offer greater efficiency with 100 cars being driven 95% of the time, instead of thousands of cars that stay parked 95% of the time. Just think about the thousands of square kilometres that are currently reserved for parking space. Why not make them into forests again?

Dematerialization of Computer Hardware

The constant urge for more has led to tragic pollution as the picture below shows. We will poison our planet if we keep assembling and dumping products the way we did in the past. The world needs dematerialization now, especially with the arrival of 2.7 billion Chinese and Indian people in the consumer market, eager to catch up with their Western counterparts.

With dematerialization we can all contribute to a better future for our children than this.

With the rise of the cloud computing, we see dematerialization happening with traditional computers and workstations today. Cloud-based servers and virtual workstations simply replace those noisy and unreliable desktop machines on desks and in offices, by moving those desktops to data centres where hundreds of virtual desktops can be combined in just a few single servers.

As a result, the toxic components, which were previously required to construct physical desktop machines, are never manufactured, never transported, and never dumped at dump yards as in the picture above.

Virtualization of desktops is a typical example of dematerialization.

Beam Up Your Desktop

With desktops from the cloud, the processing power (CPU, GPU) and storage comes from datacentres (i.e. the cloud). The whole Microsoft Windows desktop, your online workspace, runs in the datacentre. It’s like having an invisible cable that stretches for miles between your computer monitor and computer. The difference of course is that the computer is now a virtual machine in the cloud, i.e. a hosted desktop. That means that with nothing more than a screen and a mouse, you can use your computer anywhere via the internet.

At Cloudalize, a Belgian technology start-up, we have been working on such a platform since 2011. Part of our mission is to contribute to the sharing economy by replacing old-fashioned and environmentally harmful workstations to give you a GPU-accelerated cloud desktop in return. These cloud desktops can be accessed far more efficiently, using smaller devices such as zero clients and even a Raspberry PI, which only needs 1/50th of the energy of a traditional workstation.

In the future, we believe that computers, displays and interactive components such as the mouse will all be completely dematerialized and thus disappear. Thanks to new systems already being developed today, in 5–10 years you will be able to just “beam” your desktop in the air and use the computational power from the cloud to visualize the richest 3D graphics ever.

What’s best for our climate? (Hint: small is beautiful)

Cloudalize envisions a future where computing is something you rent in a pay-per-use model, just like cars, hotel rooms and music. Existing IT infrastructure such as servers and workstations will be “cloudalized” (i.e. virtualized) to become software-only solutions that are ready for the awesome future that Peter Diamantis discusses in his book. Moreover, progress in artificial intelligence, infinite computing, digital manufacturing, and many other exponentially growing technologies can only be turned into practical advantage by centralizing computing resources and creative minds in collaborative clouds.

Future displays will be completely dematerialized too. This is a working prototype from LG.

So, let’s continue working on creating a greener world and keep on dematerializing.

Cloudalize is the developer of GDaaS, a Desktop-as-a-Service Platform that instantly deploys powerful virtual workspaces via an easy to use internet provisioning portal. You can run it on any device, so feel free to request a free trial by clicking here.