Our smartphones don't do much when they're sitting there charging overnight, something Samsung and the University of Vienna want to take advantage of to cure diseases. A new app called Power Sleep uses your phone's downtime to crunch protein calculations. That data's used to research cures for diseases, similar to Folding@Home, which was popularized by the PlayStation 3. In this case, Power Sleep — which was backed by Samsung, and made by its former in-house marketing agency Cheil — doubles as an alarm clock designed to replace whatever alarm people were using before. Once set, the app begins grabbing packets of data to crunch, which are about 1MB in size, then sending them back when the process is complete.

Crunches data while you and your phone are sleeping

This isn't the first app to target unused computing cycles for scientific research. Last year UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory released BOINC, an app named after its Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing project that effectively does the same thing, minus the alarm clock feature. BOINC also lets people pick other distributed projects like identifying asteroids and monitoring earthquake activity. Power Sleep is actually based on BOINC, Cheil says, but focuses specifically on protein calculations.

Power Sleep is only for Android devices running 2.3 and above, and can be found on Samsung's App Store and Google Play. And for the curious, its creators say the only thing that's being collected are protein calculations, and not any personal data.