Your phone’s spare processing power could soon be used to fight cancer

A new collaboration between Vodafone and Imperial College will see smartphones used to analyse data while they’re not in use. 

If you’re anything like us, your phone probably doesn’t get up to much while you’re sleeping. Maybe if you’re well-organised you’ll have it download a podcast or two overnight, but for the most part it’s just going to sit there charging.

Now a team of researchers at Imperial College London thinks they can put your phone to better use during these periods of standby. A new app, called DreamLab, will use your smartphone’s processor to analyse data that would traditionally need to be processed by expensive supercomputers.

The key to getting this to work is an algorithm that breaks these gargantuan datasets down into chunks that are small enough to be analysed by a network of smartphones.

It’s hoped that this analysis could allow the use of genetic profiles to more effectively treat cancer sufferers than current methods allow.

A history of distributed computing

This isn’t the first time large datasets have been opened up to the public to help their collective processing power deal with tasks that would otherwise take years.

Most famously, SETI@Home allowed users to run a screensaver that would help in the search for extra-terrestrial life, while the PS3’s Folding At Home application did the same for analysing long protein strands.

In both of these instances, we always held reservations that encouraging people to leave their power-hungry electronics on 24/7 would do as much harm for the environment as it would good for their various scientific endeavours, but the nice thing about DreamLab is that the comparative power-efficiency of a phone’s processor makes this much less of a concern.

The DreamLab app is available now for iOS and Android, and if you’re on Vodafone then any data used by the app is zero-rated and hence won’t count towards your monthly allowances.

Do you plan on contributing your smartphone’s processing power to fight cancer? Let us know @TrustedReviews.