Tuesday, June 4, 2013

IBM uses custom, ever-vigilant Roombas to protect its data centers

We live in a time when automated robots that slink around the floor while eating all of your unswept refuse is a common, socially accepted occurrence. Yes, the Roomba provides a must-have service for those that would rather have an adorable robot slave do the housecleaning, but IBM has found another use for the cute little guy. Taking your cat’s favorite motorized toy, IBM transformed the Roomba into the watchful eye of a data center, monitoring the level of heat, which could raise cooling costs, or even damage or destroy the hardware if left unchecked.
Using iRobot’s customizable Roomba platform, iRobot Create, IBM built a Roomba that moseys around a data center with sensors and a webcam attached, measuring temperature and humidity, and creating maps of their distribution. IBM uses the resulting maps to see where hot spots are developing and endangering the hardware, as well as to figure out if any cold air is being wasted and how to better distribute it. These maps not only help cool the hardware, but also help save energy via increased cooling efficiency.
Along with temperature mapping, the autonomous cartographers can scan RFID tags, so they can also do a bit of inventory while they’re seeking heat. Just like menial vacuuming, the IBM Roombas alleviate a once-manual task, where people had to push a mobile cart around the data centers in order to create the temperature maps. However, as any Roomba owner knows, the little vacuums aren’t completely autonomous, as their favorite activity seems to be getting stuck under things, or falling prey to an infinite loop of bumping back and forth between tight spaces. So, the attached webcam allows an operator to pilot the device just in case it runs into any obstacles.
IBM currently has nine of the Roomba cartographers up and running in its data centers, but plans to add to that population by the end of this year.
Now read: Seawater cooling saves data center $1 million, but is susceptible to jellyfish
View the original article here


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