Cluster computing — the concept of stringing together devices to act as a single processing unit — isn't a new idea. But your phone could soon be acting as a node in just such a device, helping to crack tough computational problems.
New Scientist reports that researchers from the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany have been stringing together low-powered Android phones via Wi-Fi. Each phone capable of just 5.8 million calculations per second individually, six together can form a network capable of performing 26.2 million calculations a second.
With the proof of concept completed, the researchers are now working out how to use the idea to create useful computational systems that could harness the power of anybody's phone. As New Scientist explains:
The system would be most useful when there are large groups of phones charging at the same time. Imagine boarding a train, for example, and plugging in your phone, along with hundreds of other passengers. Connecting everyone's phones via the on-board Wi-Fi could allow the train to calculate an extremely detailed local weather forecast using environmental sensor data from the destination, letting you know whether it will be raining when you arrive. Or hacking flash-mobs could team up to try to crack the encryption on a nearby Wi-Fi network.
Whether you want to give up your computing power for some greater good is naturally up for debate, but it's a pretty neat idea either way. Just remember to keep your charger with you. [New Scientist]