Fight Cancer in Your Sleep



Our smartphones don’t do much when they’re sitting there charging overnight, something Samsung and the University of Vienna want to take advantage of to cure diseases. A new app called Power Sleep uses your phone’s downtime to crunch protein calculations.

That data’s used to research cures for diseases, similar to Folding@Home, which was popularized by the PlayStation 3. In this case, Power Sleep — which was backed by Samsung, and made by its former in-house marketing agency Cheil — doubles as an alarm clock designed to replace whatever alarm people were using before. Once set, the app begins grabbing packets of data to crunch, which are about 1MB in size, then sending them back when the process is complete.


unnamedThis isn’t the first app to target unused computing cycles for scientific research. Last year UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory released BOINC, an app named after its Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing project that effectively does the same thing, minus the alarm clock feature. BOINC also lets people pick other distributed projects like identifying asteroids and monitoring earthquake activity. Power Sleep is actually based on BOINC, Cheil says, but focuses specifically on protein calculations.

It works by sending out small packets of data, no more than 1 megabyte in size, from the University of Vienna servers and returning them again after the mobile devices have performed their calculations. The data then flows directly into a research database which collects the results of protein test series from all over the world and makes them available to the scientific community.

In a statement, Dr Thomas Rattei, Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of Vienna, said: “In order to fight diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer, we need to know how proteins are created. This requires series of tests that need immense computing power and this is where Power Sleep bridges the gap between science and society. Not only does it drive our research forward, but also allows everyone in Austria to be part of the project and to do good while they sleep. The more people who participate, the greater the effect.”

Watch the video by Samsung:

Power Sleep is only for Android devices running 2.3 and above, and can be found on Samsung’s App Store and Google Play. And for the curious, its creators say the only thing that’s being collected are protein calculations, and not any personal data.