Visualize our relationship with technology

Software Engineering

Imec, the world-leading R&D and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, is researching the relationship between the Flemish people and their smartphone. Every year the organisation publishes imec.digimeter, an extensive report on technology, media and ICT use and adoption trends in Flanders.

To gain even better insight into how often people pick up their smartphone and what they do with it, imec joined forces with In The Pocket and Bits of Love. Not only researchers want to see how the Flemish people deal with their smartphones, also those users themselves. More and more people struggle with 'digibesitas', an overdose of digital stimuli. By giving people insight into how they deal with their devices, imec hopes that they can take action when needed.

The result of the project is the MobileDNA application. When the app is installed, MobileDNA collects anonymized data about the smartphone use. Among other things, the app checks how often and when someone opens the smartphone, which applications are used and how many notifications are received.

'Thanks to our MobileDNA app, we now have data from around 8,000 smartphone users. We can learn a lot from this information: we can develop patterns and check which patterns work and which don't.'
Lieven De Marez, UGent

The application collects information in multiple ways. On the one hand, certain data is collected at regular intervals, such as your battery percentage and location. Other processes are triggered by specific events, such as your notifications and how you deal with them or when and how often you pick up your device. The most important information is the monitoring of the app usage, for which we use the Android Usage Stats Service. Because iOS doesn’t allow 3rd party apps to collect this information, the application is currently only available on Android.

All this data is stored in a database on the device. As soon as the device is connected to the internet, the data is sent to an online Elasticsearch database. The data visualiser Bits Of Love developed a portal that then deduces and visualizes general and individual usage patterns from that database. The user can open a link to his own individual dashboard via the app, where an analysis of his behavior is shown.

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