HTC says if 1 million of its smartphones owners donated their unused processing power, it would be equal to one of the world’s top supercomputers.

HTC unveiled a new mid-range phone at Mobile World Congress called the Desire 816.
HTC unveiled a new mid-range phone at Mobile World Congress called the Desire 816.

The HTC Power to Give initiative was announced today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to let smartphone owners hand over their phone’s unspent processing power to assist in fighting a range global concerns — cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer’s; clean water initiatives and more far-flung ideas, like the search for extra-terrestrial life.

It works a little bit like Amazon’s cloud computing technology, but instead of these causes having to pay for the infrastructure, they can tap into your phone’s processing power when you aren’t using it. The idea is to shorten the amount of time it takes these organizations to conduct research.

While an interesting concept, this goes to show how little HTC had to say at its press conference — no new tablets, flagship devices or trendy wearables. However, the company did unveil the HTC Desire 816, a mid-range phone that looks a lot like the company’s flagship HTC One phone, and the company’s CEO Peter Chou also promised more exciting things at a New York event on March 25.

So, while we wait another month, here’s more information on HTC’s Power to Give campaign: To participate, users can download the app from the Google Play store. The beta version will initially be compatible with the HTC One family, HTC Butterfly and HTC Butterfly S, but the company plans to make it more widely available to other Android smartphones over the next year.

Once downloaded, the owner can select the research program he or she is interested in, and then the app will run in the background while the phone is charging and connected to a Wi-Fi network. In theory, this means it won’t eat up your data plan, and will likely run while you are sleeping, so as not to sap up resources while the phone’s in use.

Donating a PC’s computing power has been around for a long time, but it has only started to move to the smartphone. HTC worked with Dr. David Anderson, Inventor of the Shared Computing Initiative BOINC at University of California, Berkeley. The BOINC app has been available to Android phones for awhile, but undoubtedly, with HTC’s help, it should gain more publicity. The Berkeley program says it currently has hundreds of thousands of volunteers across phones and computers.

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