- Vodafone Foundation
DreamLab is a mobile app that uses the processing power of idle smartphones to help solve cancer and better understand COVID-19 while its users sleep.
When launched in 2015, it was heralded as Australia’s first ‘smartphone supercomputer’. Since then, it has helped crunch hundreds of millions of calculations and made several medical research breakthroughs.
With 100,000 users, researchers are able to crunch data approximately 3,000 times faster than the current rate. With five million users, that increases to 150 thousand times faster.
Quantitative research with Vodafone customers and qualitative research with employees was conducted in order to test attitudes towards the concept, app experience, storyboard design and promotional materials.
These insights were crucial for the subsequent app development. For example, both the app walkthrough and the promotional materials proactively addressed concerns that were identified through this research.
One of the main goals of the project was to create an experience where making a meaningful contribution to cancer research was as simple as possible. We also wanted to ensure that concerns of draining battery life by using the phone\’s CPU were addressed.
Last year, DreamLab helped Imperial College London identify hundreds of anti-cancer molecules in everyday foods including oranges, cabbages and grapes as well as identifying existing anti-diabetic and anti-microbial drugs that could potentially be re-purposed to target cancer.
This project named DRUGS (Drug Repurposing Using Grids of Smartphones) combined Artificial Intelligence, mobile supercomputing, and big data to analyse billions of combinations of existing drugs and food-based molecules to help identify cancer-beating properties.
Earlier this year, DreamLab completed Phase 1 of its research into potential treatments for COVID-19. Since the \’Corona-AI\’ project launched in April 2020, DreamLab users crunched nearly 100 million calculations. The speed and scale of this research was made possible by around 140,000 devices completing around 1.3 million calculations every night.
To begin with, DreamLab was an exercise in technical feasibility, which required an architecture that supported large volumes of data and spiked traffic while remaining cost effective. Then again, it also needed a minimalistic front-end with no barriers to participation, allowing as many users as possible to contribute to life-changing cancer research. Over the course of five years, Transpire has facilitated design transformation for DreamLab by improving the experience for users and helping Vodafone Foundation Australia meet its strategic goals. This has meant pivoting quickly for new features and greater innovation, ensuring relevance with constant updates and refinements, releasing new versions as regularly as every three weeks, and rotating team members for different ideas and new perspectives.
To try and encourage more active participation on a daily basis, DreamLab constantly receives aesthetic and functional updates. Everything from the interface to the branding, the onboarding experience to the general look and feel of the app, its all continually assessed and improved upon.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Vodafone Foundation wanted to refocus DreamLab in order to speed up the discovery of anti-viral properties in existing medicines and of anti-viral food molecules that could help fight COVID-19.
With a timeframe of just under three weeks, the team at Transpire worked tirelessly to tweak both the front and backend of DreamLab to not only ensure that brand new data could be processed correctly but also maintain the app’s seamless user experience.