What if the hundreds of millions of Android devices in the world were pooled together to create a single supercomputer to solve the world’s problems? That is exactly the goal that HTC is trying to achieve with its new Power To Give project that it calls the world’s largest volunteer computing initiative.

Harnessing computing power from around the world for a directed goal isn’t entirely new. Back in 2000, a distributed computing project called [email protected] was launched to donate processing power towards disease research. Just a bit older is BOINC, an open source software platform created exactly for this purpose, in order to further scientific research.

But while these past endeavors utilized the power of desktop computers and laptops, HTC’s ambitions are slightly loftier. Power To Give wants to tap into the unused processing power of each and every Android device in the world. In its estimates, the one million HTC One smartphones deployed in the world is enough to generate a processing power of one Peta FLOP (for Floating point operations), equivalent to one of the world’s supercomputers. Imagine, then, the staggering power when multiplied by hundreds of millions of other devices from other manufacturers. This processing power can then be directed for data processing that would normally take years to finish. Such data are used for research in fighting diseases such as cancer, AIDS, and others. Even something as distant as searching for other life in outer space can also benefit from it.

HTC will be working together with Dr. David Anderson, the creator of the BOINC software. At launch, one of the beneficiaries will be the IBM World Community Grid that uses collective computing power for humanitarian research. HTC Power To Give will have an app that can be downloaded from Google Play Store. Users will be able to select the program they want to donate to and then the app will run in the background only when the device is charging and connected to a WiFi network. The app will initially be compatible only with the HTC One family of devices as well as the Butterfly (DROID DNA), and the Butterfly S, but other Android devices will follow within a six month period.