What is volunteer computing?
Scientists doing research in many areas (such as biomedicine, physics, and astronomy) need huge amounts of computing power. "Volunteer computing" lets people donate some of their computer's time to supply computing power to these researchers. Research problems are broken down into many small tasks, each of which is calculated on a volunteer’s machine during its spare time. This process is managed by a software program called BOINC, which lets you participate in multiple research projects. To participate, you install BOINC on your computer, and then select the science projects you want to help.
Originally volunteer computing used desktop and notebook computers. Recently we've developed a version of BOINC for Android, so that you can participate using your cell phone, tablet, or Kindle.
Why do volunteer computing on Android devices?
Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are small, but they have serious computing power - as much as 25% of an average desktop computer. In addition, there are huge numbers of Android devices: 900 million as of May 2013, and growing rapidly. Mobile devices can therefore supply a huge amount of energy-efficient computing power to science, and can play an important role in the future of scientific computing.
How do I participate?
On your Android device, go to the Google Play Store, search for BOINC, and install it. When BOINC starts, it will ask you to select the research projects that you want to support. That's it!
Owners of the Amazon Kindle Fire (which is based on Android) can also participate - download BOINC from the Amazon Appstore.
There are also two Android apps that are re-packaged versions of BOINC:
- HTC Power to Give
- Samsung Power Sleep (lets you participate in only one project, SIMAP; provides a simple alarm-clock interface).
Will it reduce my battery life?
BOINC only computes when your device is plugged into a power source (AC or USB) and your battery is charged 90% or more. So it won't significantly reduce your battery life or your recharge time.
Will it use up my cell-phone data plan?
No. BOINC transfers data only when your device is connected to a WiFi network.
Is it secure?
Yes. BOINC and the programs it runs can access only their own files, not any of the other files on your Android device. More information is here.
What versions of Android are supported?
Android OS 2.3 and later.
What processor types are supported?
Currently only ARM. Versions for Intel and MIPS processors may be released at some point.
What science projects can I support?
See the list of BOINC projects, and look for ones with the Android logo. Currently there are 14 supported projects.
What's in it for me?
People volunteer for different reasons. Most people want to help advance science. Some want to engage with scientists and learn more about their research. Others enjoy the involvement in an online community (each project has message boards and other social features). Some like to compare the performance of their computers with other hobbyists.
Where can I get help?
First, try the BOINC Help page.
For some problems we may ask you to send the contents of BOINC's "event log" on your device. To do this:
- Enable "advanced preferences and controls" in the preferences
- Click the menu button and select "EventLog"
- When you see the log, Click the menu button again and select "Email to"
- Add your device name and model to the email
- Send it to the BOINC development team: email@example.com.
Does BOINC run on devices without batteries?
Not currently. It will soon.
What are HTC Power to Give and Samsung Power Sleep?
They're versions of BOINC, customized by HTC and Samsung.
HTC Power to Give (PTG) is a full-featured BOINC app. If both PTG and the standard BOINC app are installed on a device, only PTG will run.
Samsung Power Sleep is a simplified and limited BOINC app. It's hard-wired to compute only for one project (SIMAP) and under one account. Currently, if it and the standard BOINC app are installed on a device, they'll both run. This can cause problems, and should be avoided.
Can I run BOINC on my iPhone?
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.
Who developed BOINC for Android?
Several people and organizations have contributed:
- BOINC itself is developed by a group based at the University of California, Berkeley. The group is led by Dr. David P. Anderson and is funded by the National Science Foundation.
- Pavel Michalec developed a BOINC GUI called AndroBOINC; much of his code is used in BOINC for Android.
- Mateusz Szpakowski developed NativeBOINC, an alternative BOINC client for Android. BOINC for Android was inspired by NativeBOINC, although it doesn't use its code.
- Joachim Fritzsch developed the first version of BOINC for Android, funded by Google as part of their Summer of Code program in 2012. He has continued working on the project with funding from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover.
- IBM helped in the design the user interface, in testing, and in reviewing code security.
- Over 100 volunteers tested early versions of the software. If you're interested in testing future versions, join the BOINC Android Testing Google group.