Just because you’re catching some ZZZ’s doesn’t mean you can’t put your mobile device to good use.
image via (cc) flickr user sharkroman
What do you do with your smartphone when you go to sleep? Set an alarm? Leave it in the other room with the ringer on in case of emergencies? Maybe just turn it off entirety?
What about “cure cancer?”
image via vodafone // dreamlab
DreamLab, a new app from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Vodafone Foundation, wants users to put their mobile tech to good use crunching cancer research data after they’ve turned off the lights for the night. The goal is to enlist enough smartphones, with enough untapped processing power, that scientists working to unravel cancer’s mysteries will have what amounts to—in essence—a modular supercomputer, capable of handling the vast and complex data sets inherent in this type of scientific study. The apps creators explain:
Your smartphone is a small but powerful computer. When it's idle - like when you're asleep at night - that power goes untapped. DreamLab puts that power to use for good to fast track cancer research. When it's plugged in and fully charged, each phone is given a tiny research problem, processes it, and sends the result back to the research team at Garvan.
According to Garvan, if just one thousand people install the app, the institute’s research would move ahead thirty times faster.
To use the app, all one has to do is identify an area of cancer research to focus on, set parameters for how much data to use in the process, and let the charged phone do the rest.
In an email to Mashable, Garvan Institute of Medical Research breast cancer unit head, Dr. Samantha Oakes, was enthusiastic about the app’s potential, saying:
“As a nation who loves their smartphones, we now have a tremendous opportunity to put them to good use and help find a cure for cancer. Together, we can come to a greater understanding of how to treat it more swiftly. With the help of game-changing innovations like DreamLab, I am hopeful that we will see cures of certain types of cancer in our lifetime.”
Garvan and Vodafone are hardly the first to identify the untapped potential in idle processing power. Over fifteen years ago, the SETI@Home initiative was launched with the aim of linking personal computers into a vast network of processors to crunch radio data brought in by researchers as part of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project. Similarly, the BOINC initiative (of which SETI@Home is a part) offers a number of data-heavy research opportunities—from chemistry to translation projects—toward which ordinary users can commit their computers otherwise-untapped processing power.
DreamLab is currently only available for Android phones on the Google Play store, although its makers have announced an iPhone version is in development, as well.