old smartphones

Unused smartphones tapped to unleash computational cloud power

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A new system has been designed to connect old smartphones and unused laptops into a cloud network of sorts that can be used to carry out heavy computational tasks or store large amounts of data.

There are currently millions of unused devices sitting in drawers gathering dust largely due to upgrade obsolescence which is rife in the tech sector.

To make use of these underused devices, researchers at IMDEA Networks have developed a system called DisCoEdge that they say could “transform our conception of device ownership” in order to improve current utilities and create new services.

DisCoEdge offers the computational power of these devices to private and business users who can join the platform as if it were a social network marketplace.

At that point it will be possible to buy or sell the partial use of personal or industry devices to store information, run a program, mine data and so forth.

The developers believe it could enable novel applications such as commuters working cooperatively to download and share entertainment content on the go, corporate storage systems (similar to Dropbox or Google Drive) that use workers’ smartphones and laptops, or home devices that share disk space for caching videos and music.

“The system aims for energy and cost efficiency. There will be no need to access a cellular network or use WiFi for the system to operate, since people’s devices could also talk to each other using device-to-device communications now commonly available in smartphones, such as Bluetooth,” said Vincenzo Mancuso, one of the two investigators leading the project.

“However, there is a need for an entity to coordinate and make secure sharing possible among a set of not-necessarily trustable machines. Here is where blockchain technology comes into play, as this technology will allow us to build a distributed, transparent and cooperative infrastructure to track transactions between users”.

The most important challenge addressed by this initiative is that devices belonging to either people or companies must dynamically and securely share and access various computational resources available in their vicinity (e.g. WiFi islands, home network deployments, trusted devices forming a personal or community cloud and even 5G, and beyond, mobile radio networks).

This requires developing new secure protocols in order to account for the presence of free-riders or even attackers and malicious users that could hinder the performance of the system or try to steal valuable personal and business information.

“We know that for participation in this revolutionary market to appear worthwhile to businesses and private owners, we must put in place a system of incentives and rewards,” said Antonio Fernández, who also worked on the project.

“The key idea behind DiSCoEdge is not to generate a market of free agents, but rather a platform that acts as a market broker, an intermediary, and provides guarantees. In our vision, the broker makes transactions transparent and traceable thanks to the adoption of innovative blockchain concepts.”

The developers said DisCoEdge could also offer network operators additional opportunities to sell the capabilities of their expensive telecommunication systems to allows customers to buy generic storage and computational power.

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