Intel Marries ‘Volunteer Computing’ To Facebook

Intel Marries ‘Volunteer Computing’ To Facebook
Aaron Baar, Aug 05, 2009 05:00 AM
Intel Progress Thru ProcessorsIntel is looking to make “volunteer computing” — i.e., pooling the resources of idle microprocessors on home and laptop computers — popular via Facebook and a program through which people can register their computers to non-profit research projects.

“Volunteer computing has been around for some time, but marrying it with the social network power of Facebook really helps get the word out,” John Cooney, online programs manager for Intel, tells Marketing Daily. Cooney is also the project manager of Intel’s “Progress Thru Processors” program, which allows people, via a downloadable widget on Facebook, to donate their unused PC processor power to one (or more) of three research projects.

The program, which launched this week at progressthruprocessors, capitalizes on times when a PC is not using the full extent of its processor power to run complex calculations for one of the research projects and sends the information back to the project’s home servers. The program, developed in collaboration with the National Science Foundation-funding BOINC project at the University of California-Berkley, will only be active when the computer’s processor is not being fully utilized; when the computer needs the full processor performance, the program will sit idle.

“When you multiply that over hundreds of thousands of people, you can get research completed more quickly,” Cooney says.

The three research projects that are immediately available for the program are: Rosetta@home, which is searching for cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases;, which is looking to finding better predictive models for climate change; and Africa@home, a study that is searching for ways to combat malaria in Africa. All three require heavy computational analysis to achieve their goals, Cooney says.

“As part of our ‘Sponsors of Tomorrow’ [positioning], we’re looking at making the future better for everyone,” Cooney says. “These three projects really represented a good cross section of the projects we could support and could support our participation.”

Intel will promote the program mostly through Facebook’s user-friendly tools. People who download the widget will have the option of displaying it, along with the amount of processing power they have donated to the projects they have selected, through their news feed. The company will also take out some advertising on Facebook for the program, Cooney says.

“Our hope is that by combining this with the power of a social network, we’re going to get people who wouldn’t have normally known about it,” Cooney says.