Bitcoin’s crazy carbon problem

The popular cryptocurrency now consumes as much electricity in a year as a large-sized country. PLUS: How product barcodes really work

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Good morning! Here’s what’s on our radar at the moment:

Bitcoin’s crazy carbon problem

Bitcoin is hovering in the US$6,000 range, having spiked as high as US$7,400 in early November. That’s a lot of incentive for cryptocurrency miners to keep their server farms running at full-tilt, verifying the math that makes the whole system possible. But computers don’t run for free: bitcoin mining takes a ton of electricity, and in most places that still means carbon emissions. One recent calculation puts the annual energy consumption of the bitcoin network at 24 terawatt-hours of electricity—comparable to the entire country of Nigeria:

This averages out to a shocking 215 kilowatt-hours (KWh) of juice used by miners for each Bitcoin transaction (there are currently about 300,000 transactions per day). Since the average American household consumes 901 KWh per month, each Bitcoin transfer represents enough energy to run a comfortable house, and everything in it, for nearly a week. On a larger scale, De Vries’ index shows that bitcoin miners worldwide could be using enough electricity to at any given time to power about 2.26 million American homes.

Link: Motherboard

What to watch for this week

Coming up in the next few days of #cdnbiz:

  • Wednesday: Proceedings continue in the fraud prosecution against several former SNC-Lavalin and hospital executives in Montreal. Defence counsel will argue that the case has taken too long to come to trial and should be thrown out.
  • Wednesday: Executives with online gambling firm Amaya will answer questions from the Ontario Securities Commission, which is investigating allegations of insider trading relating to Amaya’s 2014 purchase of PokerStars.
  • Friday: Statistics Canada publishes the latest consumer price index, for October 2017. In September the CPI rose to 1.4%, edging closer to the Bank of Canada’s target rate of 2%.
  • Friday: The fifth round of NAFTA renegotiation talks get underway in Mexico City. The fourth round, hosted in Washington, D.C., ended on something of a sour note.

Earnings reports preview

Canadian publicly traded companies of note scheduled to report quarterly earnings today:

Absolute Software (ABT), Callidus Capital (CBL), Cargojet (CJT), Frontera Energy (FEC), Gold Standard Ventures (GSV), H&R REIT (HR.UN), Imperial Metals (III), InterRent REIT (IIP.UN), MedReleaf (LEAF), RMP Energy (RMP), TAG Oil (TAO), TearLab (TLB), Trevali Mining (TV), Americas Silver (USA), GoldMoney (XAU)

Coming later this week:

Tuesday: Boardwalk REIT (BEI.UN); Wednesday: Loblaw Cos. (L)

The scourge of push notifications

Carrying around a smartphone has lately become like having a blinking, flashing slot machine trying to get your attention every few minutes, as social networks and news organizations have availed themselves of the “push alert”—prominent notifications that show up on your screen even before you’ve unlocked it. This growing procession of needy little boxes is a growing nuisance, but for the tech giants and media organizations that employ these tactics because they crave consumer engagement, it’s a simple business imperative:

No matter who you voted for or what your politics are, life changed the instant Donald Trump won. The information faucet turned on, gushing scoops and leaks and scandals, and never stopped. Something happened to the news this year. It wasn’t only Trump. It was the convergence of Trump and technology and the media landscape, with the invigorated news giants and hungry digital outlets duking it out for our bloodshot eyeballs. And there was no better way to get our attention, to barge into our days with the latest revelation, than with a push alert. A bubble of news, just a sentence or two, to alter the course of your day.

Link: Slate

WATCH: How barcodes work

Around 5 billion Universal Product Codes get scanned every day around the globe—their distinctive black-and-white bars adorning everything from axe handles to zucchini bread. They’re so ubiquitous that consumers hardly notice them anymore, but behind these simple patterns lies an entire standardized global identification system that requires a lot of coordination, and that’s before you get to the technology necessary to actually read them properly. Here’s what all those numbers and lines mean—plus more about the organization that keeps the whole system running.

Link: YouTube

Thanks for reading! Have a truly excellent day.