App lets phone owners participate in scientific projects

July 23, 2013 at 7:27 PM
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BERKELEY, Calif., July 23 (UPI) -- Android smartphone owners can be citizen scientists and participate in important scientific research every time they charge their phones, U.S. researchers say.

A new phone app created at the University of California, Berkeley, will allow users to donate a phone's idle computing power to crunch numbers for projects that could lead to breakthroughs ranging from novel medical therapies to the discovery of new stars, a university release said Tuesday.

The app was created by a Berkeley project called Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, known for its computer software that supports more than 50 volunteer computing projects around the world.

The software allows projects to tap unused processing power donated by computer owners around the world to analyze data or run simulations that would normally require cost-prohibitive supercomputers.

The new Android app, also called BOINC, is available from the Google Play Store and works on Android versions 2.3 or later.

"There are about a billion Android devices right now, and their total computing power exceeds that of the largest conventional supercomputers," app creator David Anderson, a research scientist at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory, said. "Mobile devices are the wave of the future in many ways, including the raw computing power they can provide to solve computationally difficult problems."

The app will run only when the phone is plugged into its charger and after the battery is more than 95 percent charged since computing can slow the recharge rate, Anderson said.

It will only communicate with computing projects through the Internet when connected via WiFi to avoid burning through users' data plans, he said, although users can change the default settings.

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