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Uses and Examples of Crowd Computing

Crowd computing, while only recently making waves in the business world, has been used in different fields of science and technology for quite some time. On the surface, the concept can seem somewhat difficult to understand. Is it cloud computing, or is it crowd sourcing? The easy answer is both. These examples will showcase some of crowd computing’s real-life applications and advantages.

Crowd computing at Goldcorp, Inc.

One of the earliest examples of crowd computing occurred at the gold mining company Goldcorp, Inc. in Northern Ontario, Canada. The company, unable to find new gold deposits for quite some time, was desperate for a lead. After searching for potential solutions, they ultimately decided to utilize the power of the crowd to help.

Goldcorp’s CEO posted all relevant geological data about their mines online, and held a contest open to anyone in the world. Using their unique software and algorithms, a small firm in Australia was able to crack the code and locate a massive new gold deposit at the Moribund Red Lake Mine. As a result, the company discovered eight million ounces of gold at once. The only price they had to pay was the small amount of prize money.

Crowd computing and archaeology

In the late 1800s, a team of British archeologists in Egypt stumbled upon a half million pieces of 2000-year-old papyrus, each with remarkably well-preserved text requiring translation. The pieces were shipped from the desert to Oxford University, where generations of scholars have been working to decipher their writings ever since. After over a hundred years, only about 15 percent of the collection had been completed. These manuscripts contain remarkably significant pieces of history, including the controversial Gospel of Thomas and the lost comedies of Athenian playwright Menander.

In 2011, however, the scholars decided to speed up the process by leveraging the crowd. They launched a website, Ancient Lives, with a game that tasks members to translate small bits of the text from home. As of November of 2011, users had already provided 4 million transcriptions, helping to identify Thucydides, Aristophanes, Plutarch’s “On the Cleverness of Animals” and much more.

Crowd computing today

In its simplest form, crowd computing is already being widely used in the form of Wikis, blogs, social media and any other medium that allows users from around the world to work together on a project online. As evidenced, however, it holds great potenital in a myriad of different fields and industries.

The science industry is benefitting from its use in different areas of research. Recently, the University of Washington created an online game called FoldIt with the intention of discovering protein folding patters. Users are given an image of a protein molecule and virtual tools with which to "fold it." In September 2011, the scientists announced that a team of its players had discovered the folding of a protein crucial to AIDS research.

Today, crowd computing presents itself as a solution for businesses of all kinds to quickly and efficiently complete tasks. A combination of cloud computing and crowd sourcing, this technique allows time-consuming projects to be broken down into small, manageable online tasks and outsourced for completion. It is being used for everything from computer processing work to product categorization and content creation.