Passive Mobile Data Collection with LifeMetrix

Following is the transcript of a webinar announcing the launch of a passive data collection product, LifeMetrix from Survey Analytics. The slides from the webinar are presented at the end of the post.

Dana Stanley: Today we’re going to be talking to you about a new product called LifeMetrix, which helps you measure consumers’ mobile lives.

Before that, we’ll be giving a little bit of context as to why we have this new capability, what passive mobile data collection is. And then we’ll be walking you through the product. In addition to myself in the middle, we also have Andrew Jeavons, President of Survey Analytics, as well as John Johnson, who’s the Director of Mobile for Survey Analytics.

So I wanted to start out with this recent New Yorker cover. I don’t know how many of you subscribe to The New Yorker or read it. But I find that they often have their finger on the pulse of cultural trends. And I thought this cover was great.

You can see it’s a family, presumably on vacation. And they all have their own mobile devices. Someone’s taking their picture with an iPhone it looks like from the shadow. And they all are, they’re next to each other. But they’re connected via their mobile phones.

So I think this is probably a scene that looks familiar to most of you. And I think it’s really indicative of the way our society is going. In terms of putting some numbers behind that, you can see that according to the latest stats from the Pew Internet and American Life Center, 88% percent of US adults have a cell phone now.

So that’s even faster than the penetration of internet came. I remember in the early days of online research, there were a lot of naysayers. But 88%, that’s pretty darn high. And more than half of the cell owners use their phone to go online.

But I think you really don’t need statistics to know that mobile devices are with consumers wherever they go. This picture, it’s sort of humorous, if it weren’t dangerous. But I think people are doing everything with their phones, with their mobile devices.

Now what I’m going to do is I’m going to turn it over to Andrew Jeavons. He’s going to take us through, he’s going to set the context a little bit for LifeMetrix by talking a little bit about mobile surveys. Andrew?

Andrew Jeavons: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining. I have a background in psychology and computing, all this kind of stuff. And one of the things that struck me recently– and this is brought up by an article I read, which I’ll just mention a bit later– is that there’s a secret researchers either know and don’t disclose or have to face up to. That there’s a huge assumption in most market research. And this is being challenged, as I said recently, by an article, and also by a long history of research in psychology. The assumption is that market research can live in the past of the respondents.

What I’m talking there is that market research tends to assume the consumers can really recall a lot about their behavior, and also about their feelings towards products or services or what they did in the store. But a lot of recent research has shown how memory works, shown that this is not really the case.

There was an article in the March, I believe, yes edition of a magazine called Wired. And if you don’t read this magazine called Wired, you really should. Because again, this will keep you up to date with all sorts of technological trends.

And this was by the writer Jonah Lehrer, he makes an interesting statement that our memories are formed by the act of recalling them. And there’s a lot of stuff in there that’s quite technical. But we can’t really look at consumers’ minds as a sort of filing cabinet, where we can go back in and conveniently find the correct information all neatly filed away any time we want to. When you ask somebody to recall something, it actually can change what they recall.

And the second thing is, we have to be careful. Because in order for everybody to function in life, you have to forget get most of what you’re doing during the day.

We can’t remember everything. We have to forget most of what we do. The minutiae of our consumer experience just isn’t worth the effort of remembering.

We’re going to remember our kids’ grades, rather than what the decision process based on a 10-point scale when we bought our last box of cereal was. I don’t remember. We’ll remember the email we need to send or the bill we need to pay, rather than the cleanliness of the aisle last time we were in the supermarket. We just don’t have room for all this stuff. And this assumption that we remember lots and lots of stuff just isn’t true.

So it’s important that we capture information about the consumer closest to the event of purchasing, or consumption of a service, or what they’re doing that we need to know of. Asking questions about it a week later, three days later, even sometimes a day later is not really going to give us the best form of information. And we might be prompting the consumer to invent memories.

And there’s other research that’s shown in other contexts that people are very susceptible– eyewitness testimony, for instance– to making things up that simply didn’t exist. And somehow market research seems to think it’s exempt from all this kind of thing. But it just isn’t.

Now mobile devices, smart phones, as we call them now, have a traditional role at the moment. We can use them for surveys and diaries.

We can trigger surveys when people are in the right place in the store. We can ask them to take pictures of things that are going on, so-called mobile ethnography. And this can help us get to the heart of consumer behavior.

The newest form of data that smart phones can provide us is called passive data. We’re going to talk about this a bit more, and show a demo of the kind of data that you can get from our products, SurveySwipe, a little bit later in the talk.

So what is passive data collection? Now we’ve got this fairly disreputable looking character lying around on the sofa. Passive data collection isn’t passive in that form. What we’re really talking about is data that the respondent doesn’t have to initiate.

Smart phones are very complicated machines. Using the word, phone, in the context of these devices really doesn’t give the right impression of what these devices are capable of.

I, in a talk, recently compared my current smartphone, which is an iPhone 4S, with the first computer that I actually used seriously, which as I’m older than dirt, was something called the PDP-11/10. And this thing had 16,000 bytes of memory, 16K of memory. And now my smartphone has 16 gigabytes of memory.

And the fact is that smart phones are getting more and more powerful as time goes by. And they’re really very complex computers. And they can do quite a lot of things. And one of the things they can do is gather a huge array of information about what’s going on inside the smartphone and, increasingly, information about the external environment.

So these are the most obvious forms of passive data that we can obtain from smart phones. We can obtain information about where the phone is. Geolocational-triggered studies are fairly common now. We can also ask the smartphone to record data about where they are, periodically.

We can get all sorts of information about what apps people have been using. And this can be used when you want to audit and find out what’s going on. We can obtain information about battery and memory, which will give us some indication of how intensively people either use their smartphone or how good they are at recharging them. And while that may seem a relatively trivial thing, this gives us a way of segmenting consumers.

We can particularly look at how people use 3 and 4G data networks and Wi-Fi usage, which gives us some information, obviously, about how intensively they are using the web from their smartphone. And we can obtain the IP address. That doesn’t give us that much information. But it can be helpful sometimes, when we’re looking at trying to discern which carriers people are using.

Now in addition to this, there’s also a lot of information that we can get from things, like the compass of the smartphone. You could find out the physical orientation of the smartphone. You could find out stuff from things called accelerometers, which show how much the smartphone is moved.

And there are some very cool apps that are using this. There’s one that’s being used to map potholes in roads. They track, they can work out when the smartphone actually goes over a bump. And they can track where potholes are.

There’s another one where you can put the smartphone on the mattress of your bed. And it will track how active your sleep is, and try and make some judgments about how well you sleep. And these kinds of data collection modes increasing.

I saw that there’s an application called on iGeiger, which came out of the Japanese disaster at the nuclear power stations. And you plug this thing into your smartphone, and it’ll allow you to measure radiation. There’s another one, much more sophisticated, that will allow you to use a smartphone as a thermometer. And there’s, yes, another one that will allow you to use the smartphone to measure people’s blood pressure.

So this kind of stuff is increasing. And as smart phones get more complex, they’re going to have more and more embedded census. And we’re going to get more and more information about the environments of all the respondents.

Now– if you’ve even been lectured to by a small child, you’ll remember this. It’s very important to remember one thing. Passive data are qualitatively different from survey data. It’s data that’s given as a new form of information about the respondents.

And it’s really in its infancy. But already there are a lot of things that we can use it for to give more insight into how respondents behave. It’s a new source of data.

It’s not a replacement for survey data. Sometimes it can be a powerful addition to survey data. Or sometimes if it’s done right, it can be data that you want to analyze all alone.

And now, I think I’m handing over to John.

John Johnson: So LifeMetrix– and Andrew’s done a great job of getting us to this point. With Survey Analytics, it’s our passive data collection product, right? It’s integrated with Survey Analytics, which is the enterprise platform, which is going to give you the surveys and the reporting and the analytics part, and is going to give you the ability to create an online community as we like to call it, a panel. And then we can take it a step further using SurveySwipe, which is our smartphone application, and gives us the ability to create this mobile community and start things such as passive data collection and diaries.

So how LifeMetrix works is fairly simple. You enable LifeMetrix with SurveySwipe with a simple check box, which we’ll look into here shortly. You decide the frequency of measurements in the settings.

Respondents opt-in to sharing their mobile device data, right? Privacy, of course. And, of course, what’s important to you is the downloading of this information in an Excel file to start to do some analysis.

So use cases for this – and I think Andrew gave some great scenarios there. These different metric points can definitely can be used in pharmaceutical for the sleep aids. Panelists can use this while they sleep places, their device in their beds. And we can analyze their sleep patterns, their periods of restlessness through the evening.

In retail, App Census and App Usage are going to be great metric points. Everyone is coming out with their shopping applications these days. And not only if you want to see how users are using your shopping application but as well as your competitors’ that they may already have installed on their device.

The gaming industry – they’re going to have a different set of variables that may be important to them such as battery, memory, and connection. Collecting this data of consumers’ usage of these abilities on their phone, such as the battery and memory come usually into play during game play.

And GPS, right? Location, location, location. We want to know how people are moving, where they are in the store, what’s their next step from picking up one product. And then the tourism and travel industry, of course. While abroad, we may want to know the patterns of our consumers while they’re out on vacation.

So what variables are available, right? Well, we have mentioned quite a few– GPS, App Usage, Battery Connection, Compass. Really the variables are endless. And as devices become more sophisticated, right, as we start to put more abilities into our devices, more things, it means more things to track, more activities that can be measured, and more analytics or more connections that can start to be made.

And that’s really the beauty of this. So you’re seeing here just a few of the variables that we’re currently able to collect today, as well as there are more. And those metric points will continue to grow.

Dana Stanley: OK, John. Thank you. And thank you, Andrew.

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About Dana Stanley

Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Research Access.

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