THE EARS RESEARCH PLATFORM
A comprehensive solution for mobile sensing and Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) research
Measuring human behavior in the context of people's real lives by using mobile and wearable computing and Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) is a cutting edge area of research that is driving new discoveries and enabling the development of a new wave of personalized, just-in-time interventions. The EARS platform consists of multiple components that enable researchers to implement these strategies, including 1) data collection smartphone applications for the iOS and Android operating systems, 2) a HIPAA compliant cloud-based data upload and storage system, 3) cloud-based HIPAA compliant control of communication with participants (i.e., EMA questions and notifications), 4) a web-accessible (desktop and mobile) real-time data quality monitoring dashboard for research staff, and 5) services to support data processing (feature extraction) and data analysis.
To learn more about the EARS platform and discuss whether its the right solution for your studies contact us now.
THE EARS SMARTPHONE APPLICATIONS
Participants can download the EARS applications from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store to their personal smartphone device. Study enrollment and consent can either be completed during a meeting with research staff or remotely. EARS then continuously collects data on a range of behavioral variables (i.e., accelerometer, gyroscope, geographic location via GPS, all text entered into the keyboard, music listening, facial expressions in "selfie" photos, screen-time/app usage, and battery state). EARS can also collect language, voice and non-verbal behavior through prompted video and audio diaries, and can deliver customized questions and notifications to participants that are based on either a researcher determined schedule or triggered by participant behavior.
CLOUD STORAGE AND COMMUNICATION
Data collected by the EARS applications are securely uploaded to our HIPAA compliant Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers, where they are encrypted. The Firebase service from Google Cloud is used to trigger notifications and questions, which can be pushed to participants' phones according to a predetermined schedule or based on participant behavior (e.g., a question can be pushed to a participant every time they leave home). Participant responses can be analyzed in real-time to alert research staff of important events.
RESEARCHER QUALITY CONTROL DASHBOARD
The EARS Research Dashboard allows study staff to monitor data uploads and data quality in real-time so that any problems can be addressed and resolved quickly. The web-based dashboard, which can be accessed via desktop/laptop computers or mobile devices, quickly provides a simple graphical indication of which participants' data is uploading as expected, and which data streams have potential issues. These can then be used to "drill-down" to individual participants and individual data streams in order to understand the exact nature of any problems with data quality or uploads.
DATA PROCESSING AND ANALYTICS
The raw data produced by phone sensors requires extensive processing in order to reveal objective patterns of behavior relevant to mental health and functioning (e.g., mood, sleep, language, social communication, environmental exposure, circadian patterns). Few research groups have the expertise to extract these features from the wide variety of raw mobile sensing and EMA data streams collected by EARS. We provide customized research services for the extraction and delivery of a curated set of features to your research group so they are ready for data analysis.