Vodafone backs smartphone-based distributed computing for cancer research

DreamLab uses Android smartphones' processing power for cancer research

Vodafone Australia's charity organisation, the Vodafone Foundation, has partnered with The Garvan Institute of Medical Research for a distributed computing initiative to help fight cancer.

The organisations today announced the launch of DreamLab. The app, which runs on Android devices, allows smartphone owners to contribute their phone's processing power to cancer research.

The app functions when a smartphone is plugged in and its battery is over 95 per cent charged.

The app relies on a cellular or Wi-Fi connection to receive and transmit data.

Any Android user can install the app, but Vodafone today announced that the bulk of the data transmitted for solving research problems would not come out of its customers' monthly quotas (a small percentage of data used for app analytics still counts towards a user's quote).

The app was developed by b2cloud and infrastructure is being provided by Amazon.

"The Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia is at the forefront of a revolution in cancer research," said Dr Samantha Oakes, who leads the breast cancer unit at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

"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," Oakes said in a statement.

Vodafone said that if 100,000 users install the app, Garvan researchers will be able to crunch data approximately 3000 times faster than they currently can.

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DreamLab is not the first distributed computing initiative to leverage on donated processing power.

One of the early examples was SETI@home which used contributed processing cycles to aid the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (it uses the BOINC platform, for which an Android client is available).

Folding@home is another example of a medical-focussed distributed computing project. The project, which marked its 15th anniversary earlier this year, studies protein folding and seeks to understand diseases such as Alzheimer's.

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