Transpire brought Vodafone Foundation’s vision to life of building DreamLab – Australia’s first supercomputer using the collective processing capacity of smartphones to fast track cancer research. Thanks to Transpire, the DreamLab app has halved the time to complete important research to find more personalised treatments for cancer.
– Alyssa Jones, Vodafone Foundation

The Challenge

In Australia, 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. It’s a leading cause of death and costs the health system more than $4.5B annually.

With cancer a disease of the DNA, understanding the human genome is crucial to finding better, more effective, ‘personalised’ treatments.

However, the sequencing of just one genome generates tens of gigabytes of data. Analysing this information requires the vast processing power of costly supercomputers, which aren’t always available to medical researchers.

As a result, the pace of cancer research suffers, along with the ability to make discovers that benefit patients.

To solve this problem and help improve the health of Australians through mobile technology, Vodafone Foundation formed a partnership with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research to build DreamLab – a way for people to donate the processing power of their smartphones and create Australia’s first ‘smartphone supercomputer’.

Developing such an ambitious project required a team with the perfect mix of human-centered design, technical expertise, and health industry knowledge. Transpire was chosen to design, architect, and develop DreamLab with the cloud server supported by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Solution – Design and Development

The idea of using networked smartphones as a distributed supercomputer to process medical research data was a first in Australia.

It required a sophisticated and scalable solution that enabled the distribution of medical research problems to user devices, and for the processed data to be sent back to Garvan via the cloud.

Thanks to our high-level technical capability alongside a track record of creating user-friendly, well-design applications, we were able to develop both the complex back-end and minimalistic front-end with no barriers to participation.

DreamLab called upon the experience and expertise of approximately 20 people at Transpire, who worked in close collaboration with Vodafone for two years to design, develop, test, and launch the application.

The nature of the project, which was built using cutting-edge pre-release AWS technology, required an architecture that supported large volumes of data and spiked traffic while remaining cost effective.

One of the guiding principles of DreamLab was to create an experience where making a meaningful contribution to cancer research was as simple as possible. For this reason, quantitative research with Vodafone customers, as well as qualitative research with Vodafone employees and Garvan scientists, was conducted to test attitudes towards the concept, app experience, storyboard design, and promotional materials.

Solution – How It Works

First of all, the Garvan Institute uploads its large research problems to the cloud. Once the user has downloaded DreamLab and started charging their device, it will start processing the data, made possible by a novel algorithm built by Garvan researchers.

The algorithm compares the functional similarities and differences in mutated genes from different patients to create a library of cancers grouped by their genetic profile. The result is then sent back from user smartphones to the Garvan team for analysis.

The purpose of DreamLab was to provide Garvan researchers with not only free access to crucial computing resources – saving the institute money and freeing up other compute resources for more research – but, most importantly, to help speed up the pace of cancer research.

There are many important research questions we’d like to ask, but some need so much computing power that it would cost too much, or take us years and years. DreamLab gives us free access to a dedicated virtual supercomputer to accelerate our cancer research, giving more hope to patients and their families.
– Dr Warren Kaplan, Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

Impact

100,000,000
calculations

DreamLab has crunched over 100 million calculations thanks to hundreds of thousands of global users spanning Australia, New Zealand, UK, and elsewhere.

$100,000
saved

Garvan Institute estimates DreamLab saves the organisation approximately $100,000 each year by providing researchers free access to a dedicated virtual supercomputer.

48%
of data processed in half time

DreamLab’s community has helped to collectively process 48% of Garvan’s data in half the time it would have taken its in-house computer, significantly accelerating the pace of research.

THE BEST DEVELOPERS. You guys are amazing! Every idea I’ve posted in a review has been added, and I have no clue what could make this app any better. You are the best app developers I have come across and I am glad to have this app on my phone… Just download and help support cancer research!
– Brandon Mc-Wilhte
DreamLab user review