Press Release | 02 Nov 2022

Smartphone users to help research into tropical cyclones

New DreamLab project with Imperial scientists to create the world’s largest database for cyclone risk, as cyclones affect millions of people every year and are being accelerated by climate change.

  • Latest project from Vodafone Foundation’s DreamLab app looks to advance our understanding of, and prepare for the risk of, tropical cyclones.
  • Cyclones affect millions of people and cost billions of dollars in damage yearly, accelerated by climate change.
  • New DreamLab project with Imperial scientists uses everyday users’ smartphones to create the world’s largest database for cyclone risk.
  • Smartphone users called on to download free DreamLab app and help speed up climate research.

Smartphone users are being encouraged to download Vodafone Foundation’s award-winning DreamLab app, to help scientists at Imperial College, London speed up climate research and create the world’s largest public database of simulated tropical cyclones.

This ‘virtual supercomputer’ will help the scientists to model the impact of climate change on cyclones and extreme weather. DreamLab-powered research has already contributed to COVID-19 research with Imperial College London scientists and cancer research with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

DreamLab Tropical Cyclone research project graphic

Credits: Vodafone Foundation

As climate change intensifies, powerful cyclones are becoming more commonplace, impacting millions of people and causing billions of dollars in damage each year. However, there are insufficient observations of these rare yet devastating events.

So, using a limited historical record, Imperial College London scientists have embarked on a mission to model millions of virtual tropical cyclones. This data will help scientists and the public understand the risk of cyclones on communities, and how climate change is worsening their effect around the world.

The research is powered through DreamLab, a free award-winning crowdsourcing app by Vodafone Foundation that accelerates scientific research by harnessing the processing power of the app users’ smartphones.

With over two million downloads across 17 countries to date, the network of smartphones created by DreamLab is equivalent to a virtual supercomputer capable of processing billions of calculations, without collecting or disclosing any user data. Imperial College London scientists have already used the DreamLab app to accelerate research into COVID-19, long COVID and cancer.

Long Covid and cancer: How your smartphone is helping scientists

Researchers are heading to their labs to test treatments identified by DreamLab as ones that could help people suffering from Long Covid and cancer.

Andrew Dunnett, Director at Vodafone Foundation, said: “Climate change and extreme weather are one of the greatest challenges we face. By lending their power to create this massive public database, smartphone users across the world can play a key role in helping climate scientists speed up their much-needed research.

“I’m proud to continue this partnership with Imperial scientists to help solve some of the world’s greatest threats.”

Professor Ralf Toumi, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said: “A desktop computer running 24 hours a day would take decades to process the data, but a network of 100,000 smartphones could do the job in just a couple of months.

“By simulating extreme weather events to understand their effects on communities, we can help people to prepare better and adapt to some of the worst effects of climate change.”

The DreamLab app itself is available in 17 countries on iOS, Android and macOS, and the tropical cyclone project is coming soon to iOS.

Vodafone customers can activate DreamLab for free using either mobile data or WiFi. Customers in the Netherlands, or on other networks, will be asked how much data they would like to donate to power the app or can connect using WiFi.

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Notes for editors

About Vodafone Foundation

Vodafone Foundation (UK registered charity number 1193984) believes the power of connectivity can change lives and address some of the world’s most pressing problems. Founded in 1991 with a simple mission to invest in the communities in which Vodafone operates, today the charity connects people and ideas with technology and funding, to help those already doing good work to achieve results faster, more cost effectively and with a bigger social impact. Through a strategy of Connecting for Good, Vodafone Group PLC’s philanthropic arm works in partnership with other charitable organisations and NGOs to create solutions that bring about long-term sustainable change and improve 480 million lives by 2025.

About DreamLab

First launched by Vodafone Australia Foundation in 2015, DreamLab launched in the UK in May 2018 to power vitally important cancer research being carried out at Imperial College London. Using DreamLab to analyse the properties of more than 8,000 everyday foods, the research identified more than 110 anti-cancer molecules in everyday foods, including oranges, cabbages and grapes.

The second discovery was that two existing drugs designed for treating other conditions could potentially play a role in anti-cancer therapy. With these drugs already in therapeutic use, their approval for use in fighting cancer carries lower costs, fewer risks and is quicker than developing completely new drugs.

Research facilitated by DreamLab has been published as a scientific paper in Nature. Imperial College London researchers also published a Hyperfoods Cookbook, featuring 10 recipes that incorporate foods found by the research to have disease-fighting properties.

DreamLab Corona-AI: accelerating research into potential treatments for COVID-19

Vodafone Foundation and Imperial College London launched the DreamLab Corona-AI project in April 2020 to accelerate research into potential treatments for COVID-19 patients. DreamLab Corona-AI uses AI network machine learning to analyse virus-host interactome data and identify combinations of drugs and food molecules with anti-viral properties. To date, the DreamLab Corona-AI project has completed more than 300 million calculations and tested 450 billion molecular combinations – the equivalent of 11,664 years of high-spec desktop computing time.

The first phase of DreamLab Corona-AI was completed in six months and identified insights into existing medicines for cardiovascular and metabolic disorders and their potential to be ‘repurposed’ to target SARS-CoV-2. The project also pinpointed molecules with antiviral properties in everyday foods including berries, apples, oranges, lemons, cabbage, broccoli, onions, garlic, parsley, and beans.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. Vodafone is the largest provider of full fibre in the UK – our superfast broadband services are now available to nearly 12 million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

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