· Vodafone and Imperial College London scientists deploy DreamLab app to speed up coronavirus research
· DreamLab uses the processing power of smartphones to help analyse complex data while their owners sleep
· Data will help Imperial College London scientists identify existing drugs and food-based molecules with anti-viral properties, ultimately enabling tailored treatments for patients with coronavirus
Smartphone users the world over are being encouraged to harness the collective processing power of their mobile phones to help speed up research into treatments for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Through a partnership between Vodafone, The Vodafone Foundation and scientists at the highly-respected Imperial College London the free DreamLab app is used to crunch calculations for important COVID-19 research while users sleep.
DreamLab is a specialist app, developed by Vodafone Foundation Australia as an easy way for anyone to support cancer research while their phone is on charge overnight. Today, a new Corona-AI project has launched on the app, which will use the same technology to help in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. It is free and available to download now in New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Spain, Romania and the UK, with other countries to follow in the coming weeks.*
Vodafone NZ CEO Jason Paris said this is an exciting opportunity for Kiwis to be part of the solution.
“Throughout the lockdown there are a lot of people in Aotearoa who, like me, may be wondering what they can do to help,” he said. “Using our smartphones to power research that can directly impact the spread of COVID-19 is a brilliantly simple way for us to do our part.
“Vodafone Foundation’s award-winning DreamLab app has already supported many fantastic research projects in cancer research thanks to the participation of so many people and now we have a chance to use it to battle this pandemic.”
The project combines artificial intelligence and the processing power of idle smartphones to speed up the discovery of novel anti-viral components in existing medicines and help the hunt for anti-viral molecules in foods. The app works by creating a network of smartphones to power a virtual supercomputer, capable of processing billions of calculations, without collecting or disclosing users’ location data. No personal data is downloaded to or processed from the user’s device.
Researchers believe that in the long run this work could speed up access to effective drugs and enable tailored treatments against this infectious disease.
The project is split into two phases:
1. To identify uses of the existing drugs and food-based molecules with anti-viral properties
2. To optimise combinations of these drugs and food molecules with antiviral properties for improved efficiency against coronavirus infections
While traditional experimental research and standard research methods could take years to develop, the mobile cloud-based processing approach of DreamLab can drastically reduce the time taken to analyse the huge amount of data that exists. A desktop computer running 24-hours a day would take decades to process the data, but a network of 100,000 smartphones running overnight could do the job in just a couple of months.
Dr Kirill Veselkov from the Imperial College London, who is leading the research, said: “We urgently need new treatments to tackle COVID-19. There are existing drugs out there that might work to treat it, but we need to do complex analyses using artificial intelligence to find out which molecule or combinations of molecules might be able to disrupt the virus when it’s inside the body. All of this takes a huge amount of computing power and DreamLab enables us to do this important work in a much shorter timeframe.”
DreamLab is free to download and free to use for Vodafone customers, meaning it does not eat into monthly data allowances. The app can also be used across other networks, with users choosing how much data they wish to donate, or connecting via Wi-Fi.
*DreamLab will be launching from 27th April in Portugal, Ghana, South Africa, Lesotho, Germany; and launching in Ireland, Greece, Turkey and Albania from 1st June
About Vodafone NZ
Vodafone NZ is one of New Zealand’s leading digital services and connectivity companies, and we believe every New Zealander will thrive with access to the world’s best digital services. We offer more than 3 million connections to Consumer and Business customers, and our existing mobile network covers 98.5% of where Kiwis live, work and play. Vodafone New Zealand is owned by Infratil and Brookfield Asset Management. We are now a partner market in the Vodafone Group, one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies. For more information, please visit www.vodafone.co.nz
About The Vodafone New Zealand Foundation:
The Vodafone New Zealand Foundation is dedicated to creating a thriving and prosperous Aotearoa New Zealand, where all young people have access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive. Our goal is to halve the number of excluded and disadvantaged young people in Aotearoa by 2027. The Vodafone NZ Foundation, with the support of Vodafone, has invested more than $32 million in New Zealand communities. For more information please visit: https://foundation.vodafone.co.nz/.
About Imperial College London
Imperial College London is one of the world's leading universities. The College's 17,000 students and 8,000 staff are expanding the frontiers of knowledge in science, medicine, engineering and business, and translating their discoveries into benefits for our society.
Imperial is the UK's most international university, according to Times Higher Education, with academic ties to more than 150 countries. Reuters named the College as the UK's most innovative university because of its exceptional entrepreneurial culture and ties to industry.