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Smartphone users to help research into tropical cyclones

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 synthetic 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.

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 synthetic, 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.

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.”

DreamLab now available in 17 countries on iOS, Android and macOS.
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.

CT Bureau

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