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Participatory Sensing – Center for Embedded Networked Sensing Studies Gathering Information with Cell Phones Relative to U

Posted Jul 19 2010 5:56pm

I am glad at least someone is looking at how this will work without being too disruptive and second of all the security as they note the security of cell phone data is not that secure, yet.  Now when I say this I am not talking about a closed hospital system that has all their security in place, this is image more or less data collected from web based software and you have to add in social networks here too.  Everyone has their own special interest with mobile devices and the information and analytics they want to gather and they all need to work together or we will have a society of people driven nuts without this. 

We already complain about just phone calls and some of the resultant rudeness that occurs, so wait until we add on some additional software and data functions.  I have seen this already at a retail store when the employee was completely oblivious to me standing there as a customer and was so wrapped up with his device responses that he stood in front of me for over 3 minutes with the priority on the the device and not serving a customer.  Remember the US Airline pilots, same stuff if you will, disruption and distraction is at the forefront.  

The smart phones will be loaded with software that prompts subjects to regularly describe what happened in an interaction and their perceptions of their general, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health, as well as whether specific interaction made them feel angry, happy, sad, etc., and whether they perceived the others involved as cold or friendly, dominant or submissive.  BD 

Deborah Estrin is a computer science professor interested in the low-tech. To her, everyday technology -- as opposed to supercomputers and expensive gadgets -- are brilliant tools for data collection. The world's 5 billion cell phones -- and the cameras and GPS that are increasingly common components -- represent tremendous opportunities. Using "smart" mobile phones, researchers, community groups and journalists can design ways to capture information about people whose stories and health status are otherwise hard to capture.

Unlike developers of commercial applications for mobile phones, Estrin also is interested in finding ways to involve ordinary community members in research.

"I try to do things that you can't make money doing," Estrin joked to the National Health Journalism Fellows. She is the founding director of the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Research that uses mobile phones to capture data for personal or social projects is called "participatory sensing" and it allows people whose habits and health profile were previously unknown to share and participate in the process of gathering information. The approach could also be applied to journalism, providing interactive ways to involve the community in describing their own circumstances.

There are some ethical questions that linger. Cell phone data is hard to anonymize and can be subpoenaed in the courts so how can or should people who create applications shield their participants? How should journalists and civic leaders use this kind of data, considering its shortfalls in sampling?

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