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Android Phone Can Be Used as a Supercomputer

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 33 comments

This supercomputer fits in your pocket.

When you hear 'supercomputer' and 'small' in the same sentence, you likely wonder how small a room are they talking about. However, when the folks at MIT and Texas Advanced Computing Center say small, they mean small as in pocket-sized.

A collaboration between MIT and the Texas Advanced Computing Center has led to an Android application that the two institutions claim can do honest-to-goodness supercomputing.

TACC explains that the team at MIT performed a series of expensive high-fidelity simulations on TACC's Ranger supercomputer and then generated a smaller, reduced model, which was used to create an Android application for a Nexus One.

"You don’t need to have a high-powered computer on hand," insists David Knezevic, a post-doctoral associate in mechanical engineering at MIT. "Once you've created the reduced model, you can do all the computations on a phone."

Though this kind of model reduction has been done before, TACC says the MIT system's real advantage is its rigorous error bounds, which tell the user the range of possible solutions, and provide a metric of whether an answer is accurate or not.

Knezevic goes on to say that using a reduced scale model also results in faster computations.

"The payoff for model reduction is larger when you can go from an expensive supercomputer solution to a calculation that takes a couple of seconds on a smart phone," he said. "That’s a speed up of orders of magnitude."

 Check out MIT for a video of the process in action, or TACC to learn more about how they did it.

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  • 25 Hide
    husker , August 21, 2010 5:40 AM
    It sounds to me like they had the supercomputer do all the hard calculations so that the phone could just take shortcuts by looking up the answer. Kind of like if I said "what's the (square root of 191) + 1?" Then all you would have to do is look up the square root of 191 in a table, and then add 1 to it. Wow! You're a human calculator!
  • 23 Hide
    cookoy , August 21, 2010 6:33 AM
    Baloney! Making a device (smartphone, laptop, desktop) run a reduced, scale-down model of an app that used to run on a supercomputer does not make the device a supercomputer. Taking journalism to the extreme.
  • 15 Hide
    andrewcutter , August 21, 2010 10:42 AM
    am i the only one who thinks that for the past few days toms is becoming my worse kind of journalists....
    "Sensational Journalism"
    Please stop giving such heading to future articles. Your readers are not dumb.:D  pls keep simple plain less eyecatchy to the point heading. like a memo subject heading.
    This is not the sun or playboy that you are reading....
    my 2 cents only.
    *opinions expressed are mine only. not meant to degrade or harm others.*
Other Comments
  • 25 Hide
    husker , August 21, 2010 5:40 AM
    It sounds to me like they had the supercomputer do all the hard calculations so that the phone could just take shortcuts by looking up the answer. Kind of like if I said "what's the (square root of 191) + 1?" Then all you would have to do is look up the square root of 191 in a table, and then add 1 to it. Wow! You're a human calculator!
  • 10 Hide
    JackFrost860 , August 21, 2010 5:51 AM
    Don't most users just want to make a phone call and maybe surf websites?
  • 14 Hide
    welshmousepk , August 21, 2010 6:22 AM
    Surely 'supercomputer' isn't an easily definable term?

    the average gamin computer has exponentially more power than the original 'Supercomputers' that were used to send man to space.

    by any solid definition, just about every advanced computer made today short of a netbook could be classed as a supercomputer.
  • 23 Hide
    cookoy , August 21, 2010 6:33 AM
    Baloney! Making a device (smartphone, laptop, desktop) run a reduced, scale-down model of an app that used to run on a supercomputer does not make the device a supercomputer. Taking journalism to the extreme.
  • 10 Hide
    annymmo , August 21, 2010 7:47 AM
    Stupid article name.
    Expected supercomputers, not dumbed down simulations that run on smartphones.

    Write more accurate names in the future, tom's hardware!
  • 7 Hide
    techguy378 , August 21, 2010 7:49 AM
    So can my calculator that I bought at the dollar store.
  • 2 Hide
    pasoleatis , August 21, 2010 10:08 AM
    It is called coarse graining. For example you do not need to know the positions of each atom when we study a fluid, we can consider a model in which we solve up to a piece of thousands or tens of thousands of atoms. This order of magnitude faster, but you first need to check the if the coarse grained model is valid and compare with less approximate models.
  • -5 Hide
    makaveli316 , August 21, 2010 10:37 AM
    Smartphones are all crap, i'm done with them. I used to had from iPhone to Nokia ecc. and they are all the same - big, heavy, fragile with buggy software, not to mention the ridiculous price nowadays.
    You just can't put a smartphone on the market which has the same price as a laptop or pc.
    A cellphone is made for calling and texting, that's it, everything else (apps ecc.) after a week of use or so, is becoming annoying and useless, unless you're a 14 years old kid who thinks he's cool having a smartphone.

  • 1 Hide
    joytech22 , August 21, 2010 10:38 AM
    tacoslave2+2=01010010101001001010ok hands me cash and toms right an article about this "super computer"


    WRONG!! In Binary, 2+2=100. You see, the (1) in said number = 4, while the second 0 would equal 2, and the last 0 would equal 0 or 1.

    Using that logic, your answer was wrong, so i deserve the cash more than you! :D  Oh and i pretty much based that off networking.
  • 15 Hide
    andrewcutter , August 21, 2010 10:42 AM
    am i the only one who thinks that for the past few days toms is becoming my worse kind of journalists....
    "Sensational Journalism"
    Please stop giving such heading to future articles. Your readers are not dumb.:D  pls keep simple plain less eyecatchy to the point heading. like a memo subject heading.
    This is not the sun or playboy that you are reading....
    my 2 cents only.
    *opinions expressed are mine only. not meant to degrade or harm others.*
  • -2 Hide
    squallypie , August 21, 2010 12:08 PM
    makaveli316...unless you're a 14 years old kid who thinks he's cool having a smartphone.


    you just discriminated me by age :$. i only want touchscreen smartphones coz of their browsing easiness and multimedia capabilities. why i want those is they are very handy when you are not going to be home for sometime, perhaps a road trip or waiting somewhere someplace.. whats more nice than just playing a movie and watching it until the end and then you suddenly realize you have passed that much time, which would otherwise be spent struggling with boredom.

    Agreed, there maybe those who think its real cool, but they just dont know the technical stuff within, and how badly their *supercomputer* smartphone would SUCK in a real race with a real gaming computer :) 
  • 1 Hide
    jossrik , August 21, 2010 1:19 PM
    Quote:
    you just discriminated me by age :$. i only want touchscreen smartphones coz of their browsing easiness and multimedia capabilities. why i want those is they are very handy when you are not going to be home for sometime, perhaps a road trip or waiting somewhere someplace.. whats more nice than just playing a movie and watching it until the end and then you suddenly realize you have passed that much time, which would otherwise be spent struggling with boredom.


    I have a friend who got an iPhone cause he might have to use it when he waits at the doctor once or twice a year, said he didn't want a netbook because what if he had to stand while he was waiting.

    Seems to me for the $ vs time you put in you could spend it wiser. Seems to me, a little planning +cheap cell phone + portable gaming unit +netbook is easier on the eyes and wallet than iPhone + monthly rent for it + off chance it'll be useful in any meaningful way that couldn't have been accomplished easier or better. I put it in the same category as a shoe-phone. All-in-One? Ya. Stupid idea to do two things poorly, ya.

    I know people love their smart phones, and I agree, they are neat, and probably the way phones are going to keep going, faster and better, but don't rationalize how awesome your phone is by telling me it's now a supercomputer, after telling me it's going to replace my desktop next week.

    One day, maybe it will, blue tooth keyboard and mouse and a fast enough GPU when hooked up to my incredibly larger than 3in monitor, I can understand if I can use it without paying rent on it every month maybe. Then again, I enjoy building hot rods and don't own a prius.
  • 4 Hide
    descendency , August 21, 2010 2:18 PM
    Someone should seriously write Folding@Home for Android OS.
  • -1 Hide
    Fetal , August 21, 2010 3:51 PM
    2+2=4 Sigh
  • 0 Hide
    jecastej , August 21, 2010 4:00 PM
    Tell me you could build a cluster with 1000 smartphone systems, that is viable both economically and technically.

    I will love when we'll have powerful desktop class CPUs/GPUs on systems the size of smartphones that could work on small clusters. Maybe in 20-30 years. They will need to be 50-100 times smaller and will consume what a smartphone system consumes today, or even less. For 95% of people a 2-4 Ghz quad-core arm cpu could be all they need "forever", so it makes sense the average computer system of tomorrow to be pocket size.

    A smartphone today is what a desktop was 12 years ago. In 12-20 years more could we have todays systems on this size and power?

    The other approach could be to have just a terminal and buy the power you need from your network cloud service provider.
  • -1 Hide
    Parsian , August 21, 2010 4:48 PM
    I thought, by the title, the article was about running the smart phones as a parallel computing network ...
  • -2 Hide
    KBentley57 , August 21, 2010 4:51 PM
    descendencySomeone should seriously write Folding@Home for Android OS.


    I hope you say this in regards to porting android to a machine more powerful than a smart phone. You might as well fold on a low power PIII otherwise. Not to mention the battery life reduction. Then there is also the fact that any other app you want to use on the phone will be reduced to a crawl.

    folding uses a cpu (or gpu's if you have them) to its maximum capability. Smart phones (I would estimate) are under about a 5% load on average.
  • -1 Hide
    mitchmeister03 , August 21, 2010 6:51 PM
    makaveli316Smartphones are all crap, i'm done with them. I used to had from iPhone to Nokia ecc. and they are all the same - big, heavy, fragile with buggy software, not to mention the ridiculous price nowadays.You just can't put a smartphone on the market which has the same price as a laptop or pc.A cellphone is made for calling and texting, that's it, everything else (apps ecc.) after a week of use or so, is becoming annoying and useless, unless you're a 14 years old kid who thinks he's cool having a smartphone.


    This comment is very ignorant. You are putting your opinion out there as fact, which is stupid. I personally use a lot of apps on a daily basis on my Blackberry which are quite useful to my daily life. GPS apps help me get to client locations quickly, weather apps let me know the conditions I'll be driving in, and receiving my email on my phone lets me stay in touch with various clients when I'm not in the office, and update my calendar to easily view my next appointments. I also read off the kindle app nearly every day during down time. I do agree that a lot of the various sound boxes and lightsaber apps do get old quickly, but there a ton of useful business orientated apps out there being used daily by a lot of people.

  • 2 Hide
    marraco , August 21, 2010 9:46 PM
    This looks like the old programing trick of pecomputing and save the results on tables.
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