smartphone charging

Cancer-fighting crowdsourcing app leverages power of charging smartphones

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Smartphone users can help in the fight against cancer via an app that crowd sources the processing power of mobile phones overnight.

The DreamLab app, developed by the Vodafone Foundation, uses the collective power of a network of phones to analyse huge amounts of information in a much shorter space of time.

As part of the project, called DRUGS (Drug Repositioning Using Grids of Smartphones), a team led by Dr Kirill Veselkov from Imperial’s Department of Surgery and Cancer, has designed an algorithm that breaks down enormous datasets into small chunks.

Through DreamLab, these small data chunks will be analysed by a network of smartphones to find links between datasets which could help identify more effective combinations of existing drugs to treat cancer.

Star Wars actor John Boyega is among those encouraging the public to get involved by downloading the app and ‘donating’ the processing power of their idle smartphones while they sleep.

“We are currently generating huge volumes of health data around the world every day, but just a fraction of this is being put to use,” Veselkov said.

“By harnessing the processing power of thousands of smartphones, we can tap into this invaluable resource and look for clues in the datasets.

“Ultimately, this could help us to make better use of existing drugs and find more effective combinations of drugs tailored to patients, thereby improving treatments.”

While this data processing could be performed by a computer, it would take much longer.

dream lab app

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A desktop computer with an eight-core processor running 24 hours a day would take 300 years to process the data, the developers said.

However, a network of 100,000 smartphones running six hours a night could do the same amount of work in three months.

A new device - if fully charged and plugged in - could run up to 60 calculations and solve up to 24,000 problems in six hours.

Andrew Dunnett, director of the Vodafone Foundation, said: “DreamLab is a great example of the transformative power of connectivity and technology.

“This innovative app gives everyone the chance to play a part in the fight against cancer while they sleep.

“We hope DreamLab will significantly increase the speed at which Imperial College and other researchers are able to make breakthroughs in cancer research, ultimately saving lives.”

The app, available on the App store for iOS or Play Store for Android from May 1 2018, is free to access for Vodafone customers and will not use any of their data allowance.

Those on other networks can choose either how much of their monthly data allowance to ‘donate’ or connect to Wi-Fi.

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