Daily download – turn your phone into a Covid-fighting supercomputer


The latest news and insight on how the technology sector is reacting to Covid-19

Vodafone app turns your phone into a coronavirus-fighting supercomputer

You can harness the computing power in your smartphone to help fight the coronavirus outbreak thanks to a new analysis app created by Vodafone and Imperial College London. The DreamLab app crowdsources smartphones to analyse complex coronavirus research data. This data could help scientists identify existing drugs and food-based molecules that may help Covid-19 patients. It carries out these calculations while you sleep. Imperial College estimates that 100,000 people using the DreamLab app for six hours a night for three months will conduct crucial research that would take Imperial’s supercomputers a year to complete. Vodafone says that no personal data from people using the app will be “affected or used in any way”.

“We urgently need new treatments to tackle Covid-19. There are existing drugs out there that might work to treat it and the great thing about repurposing existing drugs is that we already know they are safe and therefore could get them to patients quickly,” said Dr Kirill Veselkov from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, who is leading the research. “However, we have to do difficult and complicated analyses using artificial intelligence and all of this takes a huge amount of computing power. DreamLab creates a supercomputer that enables us to do this important work in a relatively short timeframe.”

Simulations show reveal social distance advice not enough for exercise 

The current UK government advice is to keep a distance of 2 metres from other people. However, physics-based simulations by software company Ansys have shown that the coronavirus can still spread at this distance during exercise. Simulations using the company’s software, which is normally used by organisations such as NASA and Ferrari to model the performance of fluid in aircraft and race cars, has shown that the safe distance to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus is significantly higher for some forms of exercise. For running, where another runner is behind you, Ansys has found that the minimum safe distance is 3 metres. For cycling it is even higher, at 10 metres, although a 2metre gap is acceptable when overtaking.

Germany launches app to monitor coronavirus spread

In Germany a special app has been designed for smartphones, smartwatches or fitness trackers designed to follow data on how Covid-19 is spreading in the country. The Robert Koch Institute said that the personal data transmitted to the system contains information on a user's gender, age, weight and height, physical activity, heart rate, body temperature, and postal code. The app would also recognise symptoms of rapid heart rate and sleep-wake disorders. The institute added that the collected data would be used "exclusively for scientific purposes," and that the app could not replace a diagnostic test for Covid-19.

Results will be represented in an interactive online map that would make it possible - together with other data inputs - for the health authorities and the general public to assess the prevalence of infections down to postcode level. “If the sample is big enough to capture enough symptomatic patients, that would help us to draw conclusions on how infections are spreading and whether containment measures are working,” said Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, reports Reuters.

Facebook and NHS in talks to supply care homes with Portals

The NHS is in talks with Facebook to arrange for the distribution of thousands of the company’s Portal devices to care homes across the country in a bid to tackle loneliness for the residents, according to a report in Wired. The NHS is planning to deploy Portal, a device Facebook launched in 2018 to facilitate video chat via its Messenger and WhatsApp apps, to help residents stay in touch with their loved ones throughout the lockdown.


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