Since the launch of SETI@Home, donating spare processing power to scientific efforts has been commonplace. Now researchers are hoping to get people to share a bit of their Android smartphones' and tablets' computing grunt too.
The University of California, Berkeley's BOINC programme (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) has been managing use of donated desktop computing power for scientific projects since 2002, and has now developed an app for Android users who want to put some of their devices' data-crunching capability at researchers' disposal.
The BOINC app lets users volunteer their spare processing power for one of six programmes, including Einstein@Home and FightAIDS@Home.
The Einstein@Home project will use the contributed processing power to analyse data from the world's largest radio telescope, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, in the hunt for radio pulsars. FightAIDS@Home, hosted by IBM's World Community Grid, will help in anti-AIDS drug discovery as well as the study of multi-drug resistance in the HIV virus.
The BOINC app is available through the Google Play store for Android devices running version 2.3 of the OS or later, while owners of Kindle Fire tablets can get the app through the Amazon Appstore.
Once the app's been downloaded, users can specify which BOINC project they want to donate their device's capacity to.
They can also stipulate when their smartphone or tablet will be used for BOINC — for example, only working on BOINC problems when battery life is over a certain level (the default setting is more than 90 percent). Devices will also need to be connected to a power source and connected to wi-fi to pitch in with the citizen science effort.
While there's no iPhone BOINC app at present, it's not been ruled out entirely. "There are currently some technical and legal barriers to doing volunteer computing on iPhones. It's possible that in the future these issues can be overcome," the BOINC FAQ page says.