IBM Takes Volunteer Computing to the Next level

You can now use your android phone or tablet to contribute to charity and help solve the world’s greatest challenges. The initiative, through a volunteer computing software developed at the University of California, Berkeley, called BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure Network Computing) will enable owners of android phones running android 2.3 or higher to participate in citizen science efforts.


IBM announced that for the first time ever, android smartphone and tablet owners can now donate their surplus computing power to science. With this additional processing power, researchers from the IBM World Community Grid and [email protected] project will accelerate their search for unknown pulsars and medical cures.

The scientists will count on tapping into a pool of donated computing capabilities to conduct their data analysis and simulations. Considered that volunteer computing has always previously used traditional computers such as desktops and laptops, this is the first program of its kind for mobile users.

Today, there are over 900 million android devices, and their collective power greatly exceeds that of the largest conventional supercomputers.

Major Projects

[email protected], led by the Max Planck Institute of Gravitational Physics in Hannover, Germany, is one of the first projects to be enabled for android-based volunteer computing. Users will power an application that performs data analysis from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico (the world’s largest radio telescope). The application tries to search for radio pulsars by detecting pulsed electromagnetic wave emissions. Basically, the application helps explore research beds for Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and helps scientists understand how stars and the universe evolve.

Fight [email protected] is another project possible for android users. The project involves a search for more effective AIDS treatment hosted on IBM’s World Community Grid. The Scripps Research Institute is currently using computational approaches to identify new candidate drugs that have the ideal shape and chemical characteristics to block the three enzymes that the deadly AIDs virus needs to spread and function.

So, Will This Choke my Android Phone?

To participate in this project and ‘donate’ the extra computing power on your device, you will have to download the BOINC app from the Google Play store, and then choose a project you want to contribute in.

The BOINC project optimally choreographs the technical aspects of all participating devices. The project, which received support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), had its android version developed with funding from Max Planck Institute of Gravitational Physics , NSF and the IBM World Community Grid, among other organizations. To preserve your battery life and avoid the use of mobile data plans, smartphones and tablets running the BOINC app will only perform computations when they are being charged, when the battery life exceeds 90%, and when they’re connected to Wi-Fi.

However, users can adjust these default settings to allow for more computation.

According to IBM, more than 2.3 million computers in use by over 600, 000 users and institutions have so far contributed to the projects at the World Community Grid. The result is one of the fastest expanding virtual supercomputers on the globe, advancing scientific works and providing research scientists with more than 750, 000 years of computing at no costs to them.

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One Comment

  1. Volunteer computing is very interesting field of informatics that has a potential to make a big impact to the community.

    Comcute is quite interesting volunteer computing project that make computations using only your browser. No additional software is needed, it’s all processed in JavaScript. And it’s not based on BOINC.

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