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University of Vienna app uses your phone for research while you sleep

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February 14, 2014

Power Sleep is a new Android app that uses the processing power of mobile phones for resea...

Power Sleep is a new Android app that uses the processing power of mobile phones for research while users are asleep

Our mobile phones generally lie dormant while we're asleep, which means that millions of powerful processors are going unused for hours at a time. Samsung Austria and the University of Vienna's Faculty of Life Sciences have teamed up to try and tap the potential of all that unused processing power. Power Sleep is a new Android app that allows mobile phone users to donate the processing power of their devices to scientific research while they are asleep.

The Power Sleep app provides users with a simple alarm clock function. When the alarm is set and the user's phone is plugged in, fully charged and connected to a Wi-Fi network, the app begins to process data sent from the Similarity Matrix of Proteins (SIMAP) database. The research is focused on deciphering protein sequences in order to help with medical advancements in disciplines such as genetics and heredity, biochemistry, molecular biology and cancer research.

"In order to fight diseases like cancer and Alzheimers, we need to know how proteins are arranged," says Thomas Rattei, professor of bioinformatics at the University of Vienna. "This requires trials that need a tremendous amount of processing power. Power Sleep is a bridge between science and society. It promotes not only our research, but allows people in Austria to become part of the project and, at the same time, to do good in their sleep."

Power Sleep is connected to the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC), a network that links around 60,000 PCs worldwide and harnesses their processing power for computational-based research. The app extends the reach of BOINC to include mobile devices, which Martin Wallner, senior director of IT & Mobile at Samsung Electronics Austria, points out are not necessarily much less powerful than computers nowadays.

I found the app itself simple and straightforward to use. Users can set the alarm easily from the main screen, although the functionality to set multiple alarms is not available. A selection of alarm sounds is included as well as the option to set snooze duration, repeat the alarm daily and to allow the app to operate over 3G. Users can also swipe through an information section about the project and another section details the number of hours that users have contributed to the project, which is a nice touch.

Power Sleep is free to download and available now from the Play Store.

The video below provides more information about the project and the app.

Source: Power Sleep

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds.   All articles by Stu Robarts
7 Comments

I would use this if it could operate separate from my own, better, alarm software.

I would love to help science projects via BOINC, but not at the expense of my better alarm.

Anne Ominous
14th February, 2014 @ 01:53 pm PST

Indeed. This feature for BOINC would be awesome for them.

Marco Weigel
15th February, 2014 @ 02:21 am PST

BOINC launched this capability in July 2013. This application uses the BOINC projects' code and puts a UI layer on top and adds the alarm clock spin to starting and stopping the research.

TheAspens
15th February, 2014 @ 06:06 am PST

I presume that the cost of recharge or SIM card refill comes out of one's own pocket!

Unless they get a lot of app users, they might as well buy a lot of cheap - $10-$20 but still with good processors - phones and hook them up into their own network.

And they would have the bonus of all those phones available for quick calls as well!

The Skud
16th February, 2014 @ 06:25 pm PST

And then it will turn out they are using it to create Bit Coins :)

Robert Silagadze
16th February, 2014 @ 09:44 pm PST

There is already a generic BOINC app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=edu.berkeley.boinc) I don't see how this is better/different except it apparently forces you to use an alarm?

James McMahon
17th February, 2014 @ 02:10 pm PST

As long as the program has points that you can earn, it will work

**Reputation and points systems**

Reputation and points systems can affect motivation, and may be the only source of motivation for some people to do something charitable

**Combine competition with cooperation**

People by nature can be mostly status-conscious, self-interested, and competitive. Either we have a system that allows people to satisfy their ego by spending money on the purchasing of charity points, or we continue to let people flaunt their wealth through expensive cloths, cars, jewelry, etc

tl;dr: People will brag either way, so we might as well shift it to something more beneficial to everyone

**Google OAuth and Google Play Games**

Using World Community Grid as an example, I wish they would use OAuth so that I can just sign up instantly with my Google account

Here’s a good review of these kinds of apps that also suggests the use of a Google credential:

>“Right now, it is cumbersome since you have to register for each project individually. Can't we use our HTC or Google login credentials once when we start the app for the first time? I'd like to participate in all projects, but I've only registered for two so far. The UI is OK, but there's no way for users to track how much they have contributed to the different projects. It would be nice if there was a better visualization which showed progress rather than the standard progress bar. have you considered gamification or connection with Google Play games so handset owners can track how much they have contributed and compare to their friends. We all love competition and I'm sure there would be some people who would plug their phones in a work a bit more just to outscore their friends.”

**No registration required for Samsung, but would be nice to tie progress to well-recognized credentials**

I just installed the app on my Nexus 10, and it looks like I don’t have to register for anything. That’s great! The next step is to provide an option to post and track my progress on something like the Leaderboard and Global Score of Google Play Games.

A Samsung representative just said that BOINC is not known to many. I think a flaw is that not a lot of people know about Folding@home or World Community Grid profiles. Attaching points that are earned in these programs to a more well-known Google account might be more appealing for users.

The Google One Today charity app for Android and iOS is another application that tracks your contributions.

Jeff Kang
17th March, 2014 @ 02:50 pm PDT
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