There is nothing new in the idea of distributed computing systems. The idea has been implemented for a long time, plus there are many examples of such implementations, including SETI, Folding@Home and others. The idea is that special software uses unused resources of local systems – for example, laptops and PCs, directing them to perform useful tasks. Well, yes, it could be looking for extraterrestrial signals or different forms of protein.
But usually such systems are made up of laptops or desktop PCs. But what if you use the resources of smartphones or tablets? This idea is also not new, but now Russian scientists – specialists from MISiS – have taken up its implementation.
What’s an idea?
A team of the institute’s employees has developed a network prototype that makes it possible to combine thousands or even millions of mobile devices into a single system. The system scales without problems and makes it possible to direct the computing resources of such devices to useful needs. As a result, the combined system is not inferior in performance to supercomputers, and perhaps even surpasses many of them.
The work of scientists with all the details is published in the journal Communications in Computer and Information Science. In general, the essence of the idea is the same – the use of unused resources of different devices. According to experts’ forecasts, the number of smartphones in use worldwide will soon exceed 7 billion. This is a huge number, although low-powered, but still computing systems.
If at least part of the resources of a certain number of these smartphones are used to solve useful tasks that require computing power, humanity would receive an extremely powerful tool for solving many of its problems. And if earlier such an idea was not seriously considered, now it is, as smartphones become more and more powerful.
It may well be that in the near future supercomputers will be not only local, but also distributed. And our smartphones will become their components.
“Our work is dedicated to the use of mobile devices as providers of computing resources. The main idea of the project is to use the idle computing resources of mobile devices for various calculations, without prejudice to their direct purpose. This requires a series of different computational experiments to study the behavior of a grid system consisting of heterogeneous devices with different processor architectures and different operating systems, with subsequent tuning of various project parameters, — said the co-author of the workAssociate Professor of the Department of Engineering Cybernetics, National University of Science and Technology “MISiS” Ilya Kurochkin.
For the convenience of users, the system will not work with all connected smartphones 24/7. Instead, it is supposed to use gadgets in the background when they are charging or almost fully charged, while being connected via Wi-Fi. According to the project participants, if everything is done correctly, then the parameters of such a distributed system will not affect the battery level of connected devices too actively.
As for the prototype, it was deployed on the BOINC platform. In general, nothing prevents you from using other than smartphones – tablets, laptops and desktop PCs. But still, few companies have taken smartphones seriously so far. As for operating systems, the platform is compatible with all common operating systems for both mobile devices and laptops with desktops. Now, relatively high-performance chips are built into many household systems, including, for example, smart TVs. So their computing resources can also be used in such a network.
The developers, they said, conducted a series of computational experiments on a test mobile distributed system. The found configuration made it possible to reduce the time of computational experiments, as well as increase the percentage of device loading and reduce the percentage of overdue tasks.
Such a project can be used for various tasks that require a large amount of resources. This can be modeling the properties of materials, studying the properties of proteins, deep learning of neural networks, and much more.
Distributed computing is a very interesting topic, but we have other articles, check it out – we talk about:
→ Little “raspberries” in a large data center
→ Apple’s new SoCs – M1 Pro and M1 Max
→ Creating your own server enclosure
Nothing new under the sun
Yes, as mentioned above, and not just once, but a couple of times, the idea of creating a single platform for combining the computing resources of smartphones is not new. It was attempted on a large scale by NTS, which uploaded a program for Android smartphones to its application catalog, designed to connect thousands or even millions of devices.
This project was called Power to Give. The project page is still available on the American version of the HTC website, so it is quite possible that it exists and somehow still works. In any case, the application is still on Google Play, and the number of downloads has exceeded 1 million. Not bad.
Here is a video detailing the benefits of the platform.
All you had to do to get connected was download the app, connect to a Wi-Fi or mobile data network, and start charging your phone. The application evaluated the conditions, and if they were optimal, work began – the phone became part of a distributed network. Here are the characteristics of devices that could participate in the platform:
• Android 4.4 KitKat or higher.
• Processor 1.5 GHz dual-core, 1 GHz quad-core
• 1 GB RAM or higher.
In general, for 2014, average requirements are sufficient. Unfortunately, the domestic project has not yet reached the stage of direct implementation, so the criteria for connecting to the network developed by the institute are unknown.
I would like to hope that the domestic project will receive some kind of continuation, and will not be shelved. And then many millions of smartphone owners will have the opportunity to help scientific or medical projects.