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HTC harvests smartphone power to help solve world challenges

The "Power to Give" initiative aims to turn unused processing power from millions of smartphones into a supercomputer that can tackle issues like cancer, climate change, and space travel.

HTC's "Power to Give" initiative aims to help researchers find a cure for cancer. HTC

HTC is looking to harness the power of users' cell phones to engage in some altruistic pursuits, like finding a cure for cancer, researching climate change, and bringing food to the world's hungry.

Working to solve complex world issues often means crunching massive amounts of data. Analyzing this data takes supercomputers and time -- and this is where smartphone-maker HTC fits in with its "Power to Give" initiative.

The company has partnered with a host of scientists and research institutions to give them unused processing power from Android smartphones. This means scientific data can be crunched faster.

"With each research project comes an analysis of massive amounts of data that can only be processed by one of the handful of supercomputers that exist in the world," HTC wrote in a blog post. "With over 1 billion smartphones in use today, we have an opportunity to combine their processing power to help revolutionize scientific research and make a profound and lasting contribution to humanity, if we all work together."

In order to get the processing power to researchers, HTC is asking Android smartphone users to help out. The way it works is, when users download the Power to Give app, plug in their phone, and connect to Wi-Fi, their unused processing power gets transferred to a grid.

Users can select which research projects they want their power to go to. The app doesn't run down the phone's battery or use any of users' data. Also, the power transfer works while the smartphone is sleeping.

"HTC Power To Give acts as middleware to connect a smartphone to different research projects, enabling the applications from supported projects to run and communicate with their central servers," HTC wrote. "Projects that could otherwise take hundreds of years could be executed in a drastically shorter time."