Secret mining apps buried in browser extensions have caused a stir because they soak up excess computer processing power to let hackers make money from cryptocurrency.
But the hackers have just found a different way to utilise idle computer power.
If you look at the task manager on your laptop, you’ll see the machine is idle for most of the time.
As computers have speeded up and become more efficient, they have more power under the bonnet than they really need to carry out most home-based applications that are not graphic intensive.
If you want to make use of this extra processing time, then you can join projects desperate for help through grid computing.
Cures for disease
The two main grid projects are Folding@Home and SETI@Home.
Both make run on top of a system called BOINC – Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing
Folding@Home runs simulations designed to help find cures for diseases, while SETI – the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life – analyses huge tranches of astronomical data in the hunt for alien life outside our solar system.
Now, Vodaphone is extending grid computing to the smartphone.
The communications giant is linking with researchers at Imperial College, London, to offer unused smartphone processing time to improve cancer treatments.
Chasing a dream
An app called Dreamlablinks the phone with software written by scientists at the university.
“We are currently generating huge volumes of health data around the world every day, but just a fraction of this is used. By harnessing the processing power of thousands of smartphones, we can tap into this invaluable resource and look for clues in the datasets,” said project leader Dr Kirill Veselkov.
“Ultimately, this could help us to make better use of existing drugs and find more effective combinations of drugs tailored to patients, thereby improving treatments.”
“To give you an idea – once there are 100,000 smartphones on the scheme, running six hours a night, Dreamlab will be able to do the same level of analysis in three months as an octa-core desktop running 24/7 would manage in 300 years.”
To take part in the project, phone owners simply must leave their device alone overnight – the app does the rest.