Research to find cures to diseases like cancer require huge amounts of computing power to run the intricate calculations that scientists use when postulating possible solutions to these health problems. Developed by the Vodafone Foundation Australia, one app is aiming to harness the collective computing power of idle smartphones to create a virtual supercomputer that helps scientists in their quest for cures and vaccines – and it is now also being used in the fight against Covid-19.
DreamLab cuts the time spent processing data by utilising a network of phones that have the app installed, and it is making a huge difference when time is of the essence. A desktop computer that runs 24 hours a day would take decades to process the data that is crucial to finding scientific solutions to health problems, while a network of just 100 000 smartphones running overnight could complete the same tasks in a matter of months.
By combining artificial intelligence and the processing power of idle smartphones, DreamLab has been aiding scientists in their cancer research since it was launched. Now, the app is also being used to help scientists who are researching SARS-CoV-2.
DreamLab is part of a partnership between the Vodafone Foundation and the Imperial College London, and is currently available for download in Australia, the UK, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Romania, Portugal, Ghana, Germany, Lesotho and South Africa, with plans to launch in Albania, Greece, Ireland and Turkey later in the year.
The app does not collect or disclose users’ location data, and also doesn’t download or process any personal data from a user’s phone. Users can decide how much data they wish to donate to the project or can specify that the app only runs when a device is connected to Wi-Fi. While their phone is charging overnight, DreamLab uses the processing power of a device, in collaboration with other devices all across the globe.