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UC Berkeley Android App Uses Phone's Idle Computing Power for Scientific Research

The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) project has released an Android app that lets users donate their smart phone's idle computing power to scientific research.

The app, also called BOINC, runs only when the phone is plugged in, more than 95 percent charged, and connected to the Internet over a WiFi connection. When those conditions are met, the smartphone helps crunch numbers for any of some 50 volunteer computing projects around the world.

Computing projects currently supported by the app include:

  • OProject@Home, which simulates quantum computing and Goldbach's conjecture;
  • theSkyNet POGS, which conducts astronomy research;
  • Asteroids@home, which aims to derive shapes and spin of asteroids;
  • Einstein@Home, which searches for spinning neutron stars;
  • Yoyo@home, which supports several existing volunteer computing projects, including ECM, Muon, Evolution@home, and distributed.net; and
  • World Community Grid, which supports nonprofit research on HIV-AIDS, cancer, tropical and neglected diseases, solar energy, clean water, and more.

BOINC users can select which projects to support with their idle smartphone computing power.

“There are about a billion Android devices right now, and their total computing power exceeds that of the largest conventional supercomputers,” said David Anderson, a BOINC creator and research scientist at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, in a prepared statement. “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 BOINC project for volunteer computing and grid computing began in 2002 and has been available for OS X, Windows, and Linux computers for years. It was originally developed to support the SETI@home project, which searches for extraterrestrial intelligence.

The BOINC Android app was funded by the Max Planck Institute, which runs Einstein@Home; Google; and the National Science Foundation, which has supported BOINC since 2002. IBM helped design the Android app's user interface and conducted beta testing.

The BOINC Android app is available now through the Google Play store. It is not currently available for iOS.

Further information can be found on the BOINC site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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