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Vodafone asks customers to help fight COVID-19 in their sleep

In repurposing its DreamLab application, Vodafone is hoping the collective power of idle smartphones can assist virologists in combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

Working alongside scientists from Imperial College London, the Vodafone Foundation is repurposing the DreamLab app to speed-up research to find effective treatments for Covid-19. If successful, the Corona-AI project might reduce the time in which calculations are completed by 75%.

“We urgently need new treatments to tackle Covid-19. There are existing drugs out there that might work to treat it; and the great thing about repurposing existing drugs is that we already know they are safe and therefore could get them to patients quickly,” said Dr Kirill Veselkov from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London.

“However, we have to do difficult and complicated analyses using artificial intelligence and all of this takes a huge amount of computing power. DreamLab creates a supercomputer that enables us to do this important work in a relatively short timeframe.”

The concept is relatively simple. As the vast majority of smartphones sit idle during the hours the user is asleep, this is unused compute power. It might be a small amount of compute power, but thousands of devices in collaboration could add much needed horsepower. Elements of these complicated equations can be farmed out to each of the devices, using the power of the collective.

Vodafone has estimated that should 100,000 users power the app for 6 hours every night for three months they can complete vital research that would take Imperial’s supercomputers a year to process. The aim is to trawl through data and identify existing drugs and food molecules which could aid the pursuit of a vaccine.

The Corona-AI project is split into two phases:

  1. Identify existing drugs and food-based molecules with anti-viral properties that may benefit those with Covid-19
  2. Optimise combinations of these drugs and food molecules to provide potential drug treatments and nutritional advice for those with Covid-19

“We’re working hard to keep the UK connected during this challenging time. We ask everyone to come together and harness the collective power of their smartphones by connecting to DreamLab,” said Helen Lamprell, General Counsel and External Affairs Director at Vodafone UK.

“If everyone in the UK connects, we have the potential to really make a difference in the fight against Covid-19”

DreamLab can be downloaded from both Google Play and the App Store.

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3 comments

  1. Avatar Maz 08/04/2020 @ 2:49 pm

    This is awesome idea, like SETI.
    Questions is one of security of the mobile device and potential hooks that hackers can exploit. What level of app pen testing assurance Vodafone can provide?

    I’ve always give free CPU cycles to SETI so more then happy to provide the same for COVID.
    Also is there similar app that can be used on laptops and PCs?

    • Avatar Ryan 09/04/2020 @ 11:39 pm

      Max – do a search for Folding@Home covid 19. There’s a folding@home PC application that does similar, and when left set to “all” work units, it will download a covid19 work unit if one is available. If it’s not available, it’ll download something else and work on that until that small unit is finished.

  2. Avatar Stephen J Whitworth 12/04/2020 @ 3:43 am

    Yes a lot of us ( old enough!) remember SETI being introduced and the result was a total zero in anything of any significance. Are you now saying that the future of the world in fighting this virus can only be achieved by adding minimal computing power via mobile phones? Its a gimmick a publicity searching gimmick. The combined resources of drug companies are more effective in reviewing existing medication as well as Imperial get more than enough funding from many individuals towards cancer research as well as from private and other sources. Bad move Vodafone concentrate on why it took you MORE than 24 hours to even send out the Governments warnings on lock-down and then donate your next months subscriptions to the fight or make all calls free during the lock down. Do something you can control by effect and do not involve those that have to fight this issue for many years not just when it is in a blaze of publicity!

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