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Smartphone users to help research into tropical cyclones

02 Nov 2022Vodafone Foundation news
5 minute read
  • Latest project from Vodafone Foundation’s DreamLab app looks to advance our understanding and prepare for the risk of tropical cyclones
  • Cyclones affect millions of people and cost billions of dollars in damage yearly, accelerated by climate change
  • New DreamLab project with Imperial scientists uses everyday users’ smartphones to create the world’s largest data base for cyclone risk
  • Smartphone users called on to download free DreamLab app and help speed up climate research

2 November 2022 – Smartphone users are being encouraged to download Vodafone Foundation’s award-winning DreamLab app, to help scientists at Imperial College London to help 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 devasting, but rare events.

So, using a limited historical record, Imperial College London scientists have embarked on a mission to artificially create millions of synthetic tropical cyclones. This data will help scientists and the public to understand the risk of cyclones on communities, and how climate change is worsening their effect around the world.

The research is powered through DreamLab, an award-winning, free 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 better prepare and adapt to some of the worst effects of climate change.”

DreamLab now available in 17 countries on iOS and Android

This DreamLab project is available to download worldwide in the Play Store for Android and coming soon to the the App Store for iOS. Vodafone customers can activate DreamLab for free using either mobile data or Wi-Fi. 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 via Wi-Fi.

Find out more about our DreamLab app here.

Notes for Editors

About Vodafone Foundation:

Vodafone Foundation (UK registered charity number 1193984) believes the power of connectivity can change lives and address some of the world’s most pressing problems. Founded in 1991 with a simple mission to invest in the communities in which Vodafone operates, today the charity connects people and ideas with technology and funding, to help those already doing good work to achieve results faster, more cost effectively and with a bigger social impact. Through a strategy of Connecting for Good, Vodafone Group PLC’s philanthropic arm works in partnership with other charitable organisations and NGOs to create solutions that bring about long-term sustainable change and improve 480m lives by 2025. Learn more at  

About DreamLab:

First launched by Vodafone Australia Foundation in 2015, DreamLab launched in the UK in May 2018 to power vitally important cancer research being carried out at Imperial College London. Using DreamLab to analyse the properties of more than 8,000 everyday foods, the research identified more than 110 anti-cancer molecules existed in everyday foods including oranges, cabbages and grapes. The second discovery was that two existing drugs designed for treated other conditions could potentially play a role in anti-cancer therapy. With these drugs already in therapeutic use, their approval for use in fighting cancer carries lower costs, fewer risks and is quicker than developing completely new drugs.

Research facilitated by DreamLab has been reported in a scientific paper published by Nature. Imperial College London researchers also published a Hyperfoods Cookbook, featuring ten recipes that incorporate foods found by the research to have disease fighting properties.

DreamLab Corona-AI: accelerating research into potential treatments for COVID-19

Vodafone Foundation and Imperial College London launched the DreamLab Corona-AI project in April 2020 to accelerate research into potential treatments for COVID-19 patients. DreamLab Corona-AI uses AI network machine learning to analyse virus-host interactome data and identify combinations of drugs and food molecules with anti-viral properties. To date, the DreamLab Corona-AI project has completed more than 300 million calculations and tested 450 billion molecular combinations – the equivalent of 11,664 years of high-spec desktop computing time.

The first phase of DreamLab Corona-AI was completed in six months and identified insights into existing medicines for cardiovascular and metabolic disorders and their potential to be ‘repurposed’ to target SARS-CoV-2. The project also pin-pointed molecules with antiviral properties in everyday foods including berries, apples, oranges, lemons, cabbage, broccoli, onions, garlic, parsley and beans.

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