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Help Covid-19 researchers by turning your phone into a supercomputer with DreamLab

By downloading Vodafone’s DreamLab app, you can lend the processing power from your smartphone to scientists who need a computational boost.

It’s frustrating when your work laptop just isn’t up to scratch. It must be even more frustrating when you’re trying to run analyses on a global pandemic and haven’t got the computing power that you need.

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This where DreamLab comes in. The app is designed to harness processing power from the general public’s phones and lend it to scientists, who need a little boost for their data-based calculations.

Originally developed by Vodafone Foundation, the app has previously been used by cancer researchers at Imperial College. As the same university is now turning its attention to coronavirus, researchers there hope to use the app again to borrow a little juice from the public.

It’s important to note this isn’t mining your data, but instead using smartphones to form a kind of supercomputer.

The researchers at Imperial College want to study which drugs and food types could help people with Covid-19, and how these things could be combined to maximise their effects. Although they have the data they need, they don’t have a machine that’s capable of processing millions of calculations.

Dr Kirill Veselkov, who is leading the research at Imperial College London, said: “We urgently need new treatments to tackle Covid-19. There are existing drugs out there that might work to treat it; and the great thing about repurposing existing drugs is that we already know they are safe and therefore could get them to patients quickly.

“However, we have to do difficult and complicated analyses using artificial intelligence and all of this takes a huge amount of computing power. DreamLab creates a supercomputer that enables us to do this important work in a relatively short timeframe.”

Related: How to stop Google using your location data for its Covid-19 behaviour tracking reports

As most of us spend our waking-day glued to our phone, the researchers are encouraging users to plug in the phone to charge and switch on the app just before going to bed. To download the app, search for DreamLab in the App Store store or Play Store for Android.

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