Doing good while we sleep: Samsung Power Sleep supports research at the University of Vienna

Doing good while we sleep:
Samsung Power Sleep supports research at the University of Vienna.

The Power Sleep app turns smartphones all over the world into network computers for scientific research in the battle against diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer.

Samsung Austria and the University of Vienna fired the starting pistol for a major national initiative today (Feb. 13th 2014). Using the name “Power Sleep,” the two partners want to encourage smartphone and tablet users all over Austria to advance research efforts in the battle against diseases such as Alzheimer and cancer. They are seeking to achieve this via an Android app that they have developed themselves. The app allows users to donate the unused computing power of their mobile devices to scientific research – while they sleep.

At the heart of the national initiative, to be launched on 15 February, is the Power Sleep app, which was developed in-house. It owes its conception to what was chiefly lacking in Prof Rattei’s scientific research: computing power. “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,” summarised Dr Thomas Rattei, Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of Vienna.

Simple app – great effect
The Power Sleep app is very straight forward. It looks like a smartphone alarm clock, but offers considerable added value over the usual wake-up feature. While the user sleeps, the smartphone “works” for a good cause by making its unused processing power available to the research effort. What this means in concrete terms is that small packets of data, no more than 1 megabyte in size – smaller, in fact, than a conventional MP3 file – are sent out from the University of Vienna servers and returned again after the mobile devices have performed their calculations. The data then flows directly into Prof Rattei’s research database which collects the results of protein test series from all over the world and makes them available to the scientific community for further comparative research.

From a technological viewpoint, Power Sleep is based on the American University of Berkeley’s BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) services. This scientific network connects approximately 30,000 PCs worldwide and uses them for computing-intensive research purposes. Power Sleep expands this approach by integrating mobile devices into the network – especially as the computing power of today’s smartphone generation is virtually the same as that of PCs and notebooks, as Wallner pointed out.

Additional information is available at http://powersleep.samsung.at

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This is the video summary of the paper The Collaborative Image of The City: Mapping the Inequality of Urban Perception. Salesses P, Schechtner K, Hidalgo CA (2013) The Collaborative Image of The City: Mapping the Inequality of Urban Perception. PLoS ONE 8(7): e68400. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068400