Vodafone wants Irish customers to use new app to boost Covid-19 research

23 Sep 2020

Image: © Leonid/Stock.adobe.com

Vodafone Ireland has launched a new app that aims to use AI and phone computing power to speed up Covid-19 research.

A new Covid-19 app is available, but this one is not for contact tracing. Vodafone Ireland announced that the app, called DreamLab, was developed as part of a partnership between the Vodafone Foundation and scientists at Imperial College London.

Originally developed in Australia, the app aims to copy efforts used in other areas of medical research by creating a network of smartphones to power a virtual supercomputer, capable of processing billions of calculations while a device is left charging overnight. People who download the app will contribute the processing power of their smartphone while it is idle.

This will be combined with a new AI project called Corona, which is looking to speed up the discovery of novel anti-viral components in existing medicines and help in the hunt for anti-viral molecules in foods. The foundation said that while a desktop computer could take up to a decade to parse through this data, a network of 100,000 smartphones running the app overnight could do it in a couple of months.

Attempting to ease fears over the potential for far-reaching privacy issues, Vodafone said the app does not collect or disclose a user’s location data and no personal data is downloaded or processed from the user’s device.

The DreamLab app has already been launched in 14 other Vodafone markets. It will only be available to customers in Ireland on iOS and Android. Those looking to download it must ensure the language setting is set to English (Ireland) to download the Irish version of the app.

“As this outbreak continues to endanger human health at a global scale, efficient research into medical and nutritional interventions is crucial,” said Liam O’Brien, director of strategy and external affairs at Vodafone Ireland.

“DreamLab has already supported four world-first discoveries in cancer research with the help of Vodafone customers and is now using its technology in the current global fight.”

Dr Kirill Veselkov of the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London added that the app is part of an urgent need for new treatments for Covid-19.

“There are existing drugs out there that might work to treat it, but we need to do complex analyses using AI to find out which molecule or combinations of molecules might be able to disrupt the virus when it’s inside the body,” he said.

Another US state adopts NearForm app

Meanwhile, developers of the Covid Tracker Ireland app, NearForm, announced that the US state of Pennsylvania is the latest state to launch a contact-tracing app built on the company’s source code.

It follows Delaware’s decision to launch an app using NearForm tech earlier this month, while Jersey also confirmed plans to deploy an app built on the source code in October.

Cian Ó Maidín, CEO of NearForm, is set to speak about the tech at the upcoming Future Human 2020 event.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic