mQoL Living Lab: Mobile Communications and Computing for Quality of Life

What is mQoL?

mQoL (established in March 2012) is a large-scale, participatory sensing lab for research on mobile communications and computing models, algorithms and frameworks conducted by the QoL group members at the Institute of Services Science, Center for Informatics of University of Geneva and now expanding to Copenhagen. mQoL is a living lab consisting of smartphone users testing diverse applications and services. The aim is to research innovate mobile communications and computing solutions that improve Quality of Service (QoS), Quality of Experience (QoE) and ultimately the Quality of Life of its users.

Since August 2013 mQoL is a Member of European Network of Living Labs ENoLL

Who are the Users?

So far we have tens of smartphones users involved in the mQoL; yet our goal is to have as many as possible participants involved from Geneva city and the surrounding French territory. Recently, we have also started to operate in Copenhagen. In mQoL, real users like you use their smartphones in real life environments. These smartphones operate Android OS and are either provided as new by our QoL lab or owned by the participants. Our research outcomes depend on the participation of people like you – willing to use their smartphones as they normally would and providing us with research data from whenever they are. Once you participate in mQoL, you will be asked to help us from time to time (usually twice a year) and to test some of the research applications and services that our lab develops and you will be asked to provide a critical feedback on those apps. We will carefully listen to your opinions, experiences and expectations to derive future research directions. You can also propose to us a project that is relevant for you. We will listen.

Why to join mQoL?

  • Help us to design next generation smartphones: We conduct research leveraging mQoL to understand how shall we improve the way the smartphones operate and what are new innovate applications and services that can improve your Quality of Life. For example, our QoSIS project tests the user experience in terms of network performance for WiFi, 2.5G, 3G or 4G networks. If you join mQoL, you will participate in evaluating new networking technologies, directly contributing to the next generation of smartphones.
  • Participating in mQoL involves community efforts and it is fun: mQoL is not just about participating in research. We have frequent seminars at QoL, for example under the umbrella of 'QuantifiedSelf Geneva' and 'QuantifiedSelf Copenhnagen'where you can meet other mQoL participants, and learn about the projects that are being implemented in the QoL lab.
  • You are mQoL: We have started mQoL in May 2012, and since then we continuously and actively seek your feedback on our projects, adding new features and fine-tuning our apps and services. Your feedback and your participation show us the future of mQoL. It is a truly living lab, being mobile and connected. Smartphones are our 'sensors' and 'actuators'.

How to Join mQoL?

Reserve your phone (if you do not have yet one)!

Filling out a short obligatory survey about your mobile phone use (15 minutes) and after done so – email us at study.qol@gmail.com and let us know that you are interested.

The Selection Process

If you are selected to participate in mQoL, you will be notified in some weeks from your email. There are many things being considered during the selection.

  • Firstly, the size of our living lab depends on your retention. We are looking for those who are in it for the long run, who will be participating for one or more years. The longer you stay in, the larger our living lab will get!
  • Secondly, we only have limited number of new phones (newest Google phones) to give away. You definitely can join us immediately if you have own, relatively new Android OS phone. We accept University of Geneva/Copenhagen students and faculty or, in general smartphone users living in Geneva/Copenhagen that are likely to be around University of Geneva/Copenhagen the longest. If you stay in Geneva/Copenhagen for a period shorter than one year, we would need to negotiate the participation agreement with you on an individual basis. Do not hesitate to contact us in any case! ()
  • Lastly, we require you have own SIM card (with any operator) with an Internet/data access (as explained below).

Meet us to Pick Up Your Phone!

Once selected, you can come get your smartphone. We will contact you with instructions on when and where to get your phone. You will be required to show your ID and sign consent for participation with us.

In case you use own phone, we still need to meet to sign a consent of participation and install the relevant app(s) on your phone.

We are located at the Battelle Campus of the University of Geneva and KUA-South Campus at the University of Copenhagen. See the exact address).

Internet/Data Access on Your Smartphone

Unfortunately, we cannot (yet) pay your Internet/data access on your smartphone. We do not cover any calls, text/SMS, data access or international roaming charges. We require that you have own Internet/Data access on your mobile (with any operator) for our studies and you let our app(s) use 100MB/month worth of traffic.

Getting free phones for mQoL participants is made possible by generous support from University of Geneva/Copenhagen. Meanwhile, we are also looking for sponsors for Internet/data access for mQoL participants.

Duration Of Participation

We are sure that participating in mQoL will be fun and we are providing a free smartphone plus innovative applications and services to be tested that cannot be matched. So, we would like you to stay in mQoL for as long as possible. When you receive a phone from us, our basic expectation will be for you to participate for one or more years. This is the reason why we are providing you a free phone, which are welcome to use and configure as own. However, if for some reason you decide to leave us, you have an option to do so anytime. You will have to return smartphone provided by the mQoL.

Research Participation

Firstly, we will just install an app on your smartphone. Data collected through this app will be helping us define and refine our projects. Later in time, we will invite you occasionally to our lab for different experiments and we expect that you cooperate in that. It is also important for you to note that, as we discuss more in the 'Data Collection' section (below), every human subject experiment you participate in is approved by the ethics committee and will require an approval from you.

Starting the Study

  • You will need to use your smartphone as your primary phone: This is the most basic level of participation we expect from you because our goal of living lab depends on this model of usage.
  • Your participation will be largely transparent: Most of the time at the beginning of your participation, you will just need to use your smartphone.
  • A few times a year, we will communicate with you through email for important updates related to our operation: Some of these updates might require you to respond and react accordingly (e.g., install a new application, reboot your phone or connect to WiFi for synchronization), but we will keep this to minimum.
  • We also ask for your feedback: Your opinions, experiences and expectations matter for our future research directions. We listen.
  • We will be pushing out software updates regularly to your smartphone: This is an automatic process, but will need your confirmation by asking you to touch a button `Agree` displayed on your phone (we will always provide detailed instructions for any update). If you confirm, then the phone will update the software automatically. The whole process will take around a minute of your time.
  • For rare occasions when your phone behaves erroneously: We will provide instructions on how to restart or reset your phone (by email). In the worst case, you may have to come to our lab so we can fix it. However, we are going to internally test our updates thoroughly, and we do not anticipate such problems to occur.

Experiments

There are three types of experiments we will conduct, which differ in the level of participation.

  • Background experiments: We will conduct research experiments that do not require any attention from you. This is why we call them background experiments. One example in this category is the network performance measurement study, where we collect performance information from your phone for WiFi, 3G, and 4G networks of your operator. As you can imagine, this information gathering does not require your attention, and your participation is transparent - just using your smartphone normally as your primary phone.
  • Interactive Experiments: We will also conduct research experiments that require you to actually use an application. This will involve downloading an app and using it regularly while the experiment is taking place. Your participation should involve: 1) Downloading an app (we will instruct you how) and installing it and following the instructions on how to participate in the experiment; 2) Or visiting the mQoL lab, where experiment and participation details will be explained to you; 3) Participating in the study while using the smartphone as usual; 4) Giving feedback to the QoL team via face to face interviews or email (depending on what is requested).

Some interactive apps might just ask you to participate in a survey or visit a website; other apps might ask you to perform some specific tasks. Since these interactive experiments require your time and attention, we will limit this type of participation to a few hours a month.

Participant Responsibilities and Expectations

Since the operation of mQoL is part of our research study, we would like to communicate with you clearly about what your responsibilities and our expectations are.

  • The above participation is required: If for some reason you do not participate, we will communicate with you to reach an agreement, which may result in temporarily stopping your study participation and getting your smartphone returned back to us.
  • The smartphone should be your primary phone: Please be aware that this is critical for our study because one of our goals is a realistic, living lab environment. If you plan to switch between multiple phones, then you are unfortunately not qualified for our research participation.
  • The phone should not be flashed with a custom 'ROM': This is also critical for our study as we need to keep the same platform for every smartphone. Although Android OS phones allow installing custom OSes called 'ROM's, it is not allowed on our smartphones. If you own a smartphone, with which you participate in the study and you have a custom 'ROM', please be let us know.
  • You are expected to participate for one or more years: The reason why we offer new smartphones for free is because we would like you to participate for a long period of time. As we explain above, you have an option to leave; however, our basic expectation is for you to stay as a participant for one or more years. It is going to be fun!

mQoL-log: Data Collection

Distributing smartphones to real people as part of our research involves collecting information from each phone, which sometimes involves information considered as private. Thus, it is critical for us to make sure that each participant understands what data is collected and how it is used. Here, we give an overview, and then explain what information we collect and why in more detail.

Data Collection Overview

  • Protecting participants is our priority: mQoL is a participatory testbed and a living lab; this means that without participants like you, mQoL cannot exist. Because of this reason, from the inception of mQoL, we have been considering participant protection as one of the priorities in our decision making process.
  • Our operation of mQoL will be transparent: This means that at any point of time, if a participant wants to know what information has been collected, how it is used, or even where it is stored, we will provide the answers to the participant.
  • Research studies require university ethics committee approval: Getting ethics approval is common in the fields of medicines and psychology, where research studies involve human subjects. The approval process requires each experiment to be reviewed by a group of experts to ensure that the experiment protects the rights of the participants and is safe. Each of the mQoL research experiments requires such an approval as part of our protection mechanism for participants. The studies conducted in Geneva/Copenhagen have been approved by the ethics committee, i.e., Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the Research Regulatory Compliance Office at Carnegie Mellon University (USA), as well as by the Administrative Panel on Human Subjects in Medical Research at Stanford University (USA), with which the QoL team collaborates.

Types of Information Collected in mQoL

We collect information from your phone via the mQoL-log for the following purposes, and the types of information we collect depend on each purpose.

  • Phone Status: We will periodically check if the phone is ON and operating properly since knowing the 'health' of each smartphone is obviously crucial for our operation. In case of erroneous operation we may email you with instructions to install an app, reboot your phone and/or connect to WiFi for synchronization.
  • Phone location: We will periodically record where the phone is based on its operator’s cellID and WiFi information. We will use this information strictly for our operational reasons, including the location of the smartphone when it is lost or stolen. We will not release this information to anybody outside of the QoL team.
  • Phone battery level: As mentioned above, each smartphone runs our applications (i.e., software). Thus, it is important to minimize any potentially disruption that our software might cause for your normal smartphone usage. For this purpose, we will monitor the battery level of your smartphone to avoid performing any task that can potential drain much battery. Actually, our applications and services are instructed to deactivate themselves (i.e., 'sleep') once your battery level reaches 20% or below. The applications and services become activate again once the phone charging begins.
  • Application logs: Each smartphone app usually generates information (called logs) for trouble shooting. As part of our effort to ensure that each smartphone operates properly, we will collect these logs and use them for trouble shooting.
  • Network performance: As part if our ongoing QoSIS project, in the mQoL study we test the performance of whichever network you are connected to: WiFi, 2.5G, 3G or 4G, i.e., we do not ask you to be connected to a given network at a given time.

Research Studies

The second purpose of collecting your smartphone information is to conduct research. Since mQoL is a living lab that researchers from QoL team can conduct their research with, we cannot foresee all information that future research will need to collect. Due to this reason, we will communicate with you regarding what information each experiment will collect and ask your explicit permission per each experiment. Before you agree to participate in an experiment, you will have an opportunity to review it and decline your participation if you are not comfortable with the information collected by the experiment. Below we present in a generic way two most common methods we use in our research.

Qualitative Data Collected in Our Research Studies

  • Daily Surveys: Experience Sampling Method (ESM): Usually our research questions relate to some phenomenon of your daily life activities. To gather your instantaneous opinions about that phenomenon, in a minimally obtrusive for you way, we employ the ESM method. In practice it means that you will have to answer a short survey automatically appearing on the screen of your smartphone along the day. The survey will appear at random, or at given times, depending on the phenomenon we study. The survey will have some questions specific to our research questions. The completion of survey will take maximum 30 seconds of your time. Our experiments constitute of no more than 8-12 surveys in total being requested per a day - in your waking hours (e.g., 8-22h, to be adjusted for your preferences). [Scientific reference for the ESM method: Hektner J., Schmidt J., Csikszentmihalyi M., Experience sampling method: Measuring the quality of everyday life. In Sage Pubs Inc., 2006.DOI]
  • Interviews: Day Reconstruction Method (DRM): You will be asked to meet us face-to-face on a regular basis, for example once a week for a 4-week research study. We will interview you for a ground truth about the phenomenon of your daily life activities, as an object of our studies. This information will be compared to the data automatically logged on the phone. You will particularly be asked to complete a diary of the previous 24-hour period wherein you will record the phenomenon of your daily life activities, as studies by us. It is called the Day Reconstruction Method and it breaks the day into episodes described by activities, locations and time intervals, and the smartphone usage during these times. During the interview, you will explain to us, in more detail, the factors influencing your ESM answers from the last 24 hours. This way, we can identify causalities and relations between your smartphone usage, your context and the phenomena we study. Additionally, we can identify any inconsistencies in the data logged automatically on the phone and ESMs. [Scientific reference for the DRM: Kahneman D., Krueger A., Schkade D., Schwarz N., and Stone A., A Survey Method for Characterizing Daily Life Experience: The Day Reconstruction Method, Science, 2006: 306(5702), pp. 1776-1780. DOI]

Broken/Lost/Stolen Phones

If you join mQoL, the phone we hand out to you is essentially yours. This means that it is your responsibility to manage and maintain your phone just as you would your own phone. You may get a personal liability insurance to cover this phone; in fact your insurance may already cover it – please contact your insurer to make sure if you have it. If your phone gets broken we may replace it depending on our availability of phones. If your phone gets lost or stolen, please provide us with the police report and make sure you get a replacement.

Human Subject Studies by the QoL team

QoL team has already acquired the clearance from the ethical board for the following human subject studies:

  • Evaluation of Sleep Using Consumer Wearables and Mobile Devices: Protocol 36071 by the Institutional Review Board, Administrative Panel on Human Subjects in Medical Research, Stanford University, US; Protocol Director: Prof. E. Mignot, 2016-2017.
  • SmartData: Smartphone-Based In-Vivo Data Collection, Intervention, and Experimentation: Protocol accepted on 28.4.2016 by the Department of Psychology Ethical Review Board, University of Geneva, Switzerland; Protocol Directors: Prof. T. Broch, Prof. B. Scheibehenne and Prof. K. Wac, 2016-2022.
  • Understanding Diverse Factors Influencing Individuals’ Sleep Quality And Smartphone Based Ubiquitous Assessment Of Individual Sleep Patterns: Protocol 2015-15-0117/519-0019/15-5000 by the Institutional Review Board, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Protocol Director: Prof. K. Wac, 2016-2017.
  • The Role of Online Communities in Supporting Patient Care: Protocol 31900 by the Institutional Review Board, Administrative Panel on Human Subjects in Medical Research, Stanford University, US; Protocol Director: Prof. H. Rivas, 2015-2017.
  • Studying the Subjective and Objective Experience of Wearable Technologies Used for Wellness in Different Contexts of Daily Life: Protocol 29414 by the Institutional Review Board, Administrative Panel on Human Subjects in Medical Research, Stanford University, US; Protocol Director: Prof. H. Rivas, 2013-2017.
  • Studying the Subjective and Objective Experience of Mobile Applications Used in Different Contexts of Daily Life: Protocol 28265 by the Institutional Review Board, Administrative Panel on Human Subjects in Medical Research, Stanford University, US; Protocol Director: Prof. H. Rivas, 2013-2017.
  • Studying the Subjective and Objective Experience of Wearable Technologies Used in the Operating Room to Improve Efficiencies and Safety: Protocol 29481 by the Institutional Review Board, Administrative Panel on Human Subjects in Medical Research, Stanford University, US; Protocol Director: Prof. H. Rivas, 2013-2017.
  • Studying the Intimacy Perception of Mobile Phone Users: Protocol HS12-463 by the Institutional Review Board, Research Regulatory Compliance Office, Carnegie Mellon University, US; Protocol Director: Prof. A. Dey, 2012-2014.
  • Studying the Experience of Mobile Applications Used in Different Contexts: Protocol HS11‐018 by the Institutional Review Board, Research Regulatory Compliance Office, Carnegie Mellon University, US; Protocol Director: Prof. A. Dey, 2011-2012.
  • Studying the Use of Mobile Phones in Different Contexts: Protocol HS10‐370 by the Institutional Review Board, Research Regulatory Compliance Office, Carnegie Mellon University, US; Protocol Director: Prof. A. Dey, 2010-2011.

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