Smartphone's spare computing power may help fight cancer

Every smartphone's spare computing power could be utilised by IBM's Android app for cancer research purposes.

IBM World Community Grid IBM

Now your smartphone can help scientists in their fight against childhood cancers. Under a wider citizen science project set up by IBM, scientists are calling for Android users to donate the spare computing power of their phone and computer. This spare processing power can then be utilized to work out which compounds can best fight cancer cells.

In order to help, users just need to download an app named World Community Grid.

Juan Hindo, program manager of IBM Corporate Citizenship, explains that in order to understand cancer and find the best possible cure, researchers need to run simulation tools to predict how a compound would perform to prevent disease.

"You need a lot of computer power to do this and researchers may only be able to access a supercomputer at certain times and, to test each one, they need to run millions of simulations," said Ms Hindo.

Conducting researches of this stature in a laboratory is nearly impossible due the amount of money and time it would consume. Every Android device has some spare computing power and this app requests users to donate that power for the research purposes, but if the person is doing anything else on the phone, such as watching a video, the calculation pauses and when it's done the app sends back the spare power to the community grid, explained Hindo.

"For researchers, it gives them access to a virtual super-computer which allows them to think big, and for volunteers it invites the general public to play a role in scientific discovery."

app ibm

"The app only runs when you have 90% charge and it waits until you are connected to wi-fi so it does not use up data. It has been designed to stay out of the way and be non-intrusive," said Juan Hindo.

The World Community Grid was created by IBM in 2004 and since then more than 700,000 volunteers have helped researchers process complex computations, which include the processes of better understanding diseases like Ebola, Zika, tuberculosis and HIV AIDS.

Initially it was only able to use the spare processing power of computers, but a couple of years ago IBM introduced an app.

Currently, this system works in sync with Smash Childhood Cancer project to help find cures for six types of childhood cancers, including brain tumours, cancer of the liver and bone cancer.

This system has previously been used to determine the compounds that cause neuroblastoma, one of the most prevalent childhood cancers. Nearly 200,000 volunteers took part in the mission through the World Community Grid, reported BBC.

This noble app is currently not available on iOS, due to some developer rules that govern how apps run on the Apple platform.

Scientists can get this app for free with only one condition – the result of the research has to be made available publicly for other researchers to access and use it further.