Download This Android App to Help Beat Cancer

I’m off topic today, but I wanted to let you know about an Android app called DreamLab. You can download this free to your Android smartphone or tablet, to add its computing power to a massive cancer research project.

DreamLab was developed by Vodafone Australia and the Garvan Insitute of Medical Research. While your smartphone is charging (typically overnight), the app automatically downloads genetic sequencing profiles provided by the Garvan Institute. This information is then processed using your smartphone’s CPU and sent back to the Institute to be used in cancer research.

You can even choose which type of cancer research to support — breast, ovarian, prostate or pancreatic — and can also select how much mobile data (if any) the app uses every month. Personally I use DreamLab on a tablet that doesn’t have a data connection, so I only use it with my wifi.

The app keeps track of how many hours of computing time you have donated to the project and the number of sequencing problems your device has solved. You can also see what proportion of the overall project has been completed. In the case of prostate cancer – which I am supporting – the figure is currently 17 percent, so there is still quite a long way to go!

DreamLab is a distributed computing project, which relies on volunteers donating spare processing capacity on their computers and mobile devices to a specific cause. One of the best-known such projects is SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), which uses this method to search for extra-terrestrial life by analyzing radio waves emanating from space. You can read more about this and other distributed computing projects (including DreamLab) on this Wikipedia page.

Unfortunately DreamLab isn’t currently available to Windows or iPhone users (though I gather an app for the latter is in development). If you have an Android device, however, I do hope you will consider signing up to this very worthwhile project. All you have to do is install the app and remember to start it when you put your phone/tablet on to charge. Here’s a link to the download page in Google Play.

If you have any comments or questions, as ever, please do post them below.

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