Reuters reports that IBM has announced its World Community Grid (WCG) project, an effort to tap distributed computing networks to solve global health and environmental issues
. The first project will be in Human Proteome Folding, which looks to identify structures in proteins that cause disease.
The concept of the grid is that anyone with a computer can run a program that does little bits of work on a larger project when you're not using it. For example, when you walk away from your computer, it runs a screensaver that downloads data from the WCG and starts simulating protein structures and sending the processed information back to WCG. No matter how fast your computer is, when you put millions of computers to work, you can see how the is a powerful concept in data processing.
The first main player in this type of computing was the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
, which is an on-going project to analyze radio signals for responses from extraterretrial life.