Make Your Android Phone A Part of Great Researches!

Your Android smartphone can become a part of a great research project during its idle hours! Here is an excellent opportunity for you. Yes, you can now give your Android smartphone for using its computing power to the scientists trying to find out a medicine for a disease or a new planet! By joining the network of thousands of cell phones and desktop/notebook computers of a project named BOINC, you can be a part of a great research project!

David Anderson founded the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) in 2002 funded by the National Science Foundation, with an aim to offer researchers low-cost computing resources comparable in power with supercomputers. And BOINC does this by distributing computing tasks to run on “volunteer” computers.

And now, BOINC has added support for devices operating on Android 2.3 or later. About 20,000 smartphones have joined the 500,000 desktop and notebook PCs of the network already.

How Can You Include Your Android Phone In the Network?

You can download the BOINC software by visiting their website. Once you install the software the idle time of the computer will be used for the projects supported by BOINC. (BOINC versions are available for Windows, Linux, Macintosh, and now Android too.)

Anderson, who himself is a computer scientist at U.C. Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory said that the project has a got a little complicated server side. For tracking all the computers and the jobs that are going on, the project uses MySQL relational database and then distributes the work among multiple servers. According to Anderson, most of these projects process a massive number of jobs, some even go through a million jobs in a day. It is actually challenging in terms of performance to have a server able to send out that many jobs and process that many finished jobs.

Anderson further told the importance of scalability and said that their lots of efforts have resulted in making the server software scalable. It is possible to run the entire thing on one computer if you wish; however at some point of time you surely will run out of power. Therefore, they have set things up so as to bunch up separate programs which can be run on different computers, to create the server software. And as the volunteers increase, the capacity of server can be expanded.

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Difference between Desktop/Notebook Computers and Cell Phone

However, there is a difference in using BOINC with a volunteer mobile phone than with a desktop/notebook computer. Identifying this, the software was designed to start working only when the phone is plugged in to power source and it runs on a Wi-Fi network. So, you can rest assured that BOINC won’t use the available minutes of your phone.

Security of Volunteers

Anderson has provided a keen attention to the volunteers’ safety. A code-signing system has been created for that purpose. The applications to be distributed by the project need to be signed with the key and the project maintains that key on a separate safe code-signing computer. So, even though hackers break into the server, they cannot produce valid signatures for their malware and so, the client will decline them.

At present, 50 scientists are being benefited by BOINC project, of which one is working on climate simulations, many working on astronomical projects and some are doing biomedical projects.

Hurdles

There are two major hurdles, Anderson told. First is lack of publicity. Thousands of scientists in the world are in need of a lot of computing service and most of them don’t have even heard of BOINC.

Second is lack of computer knowledge. Many scientists are not enough computer-savvy to work on projects through BOINC.

Though the software has been made easy to set up on the server side, the scientists most of the times, though use computer for a living, may not actually be very good at using computers. They can run programs, but cannot develop software, cannot do system administration and are not aware of setting up a database server. The best solution, as Anderson sees, is to promote a model where the projects will be run by IT people.

So, would you like to help scientists in their research when your phone is not in use? Go ahead and join the network of BOINC.