Visualization: POrtable Diary Data Collector

Activity diaries are a powerful data source for studying the time use of individuals and entire populations and for creating awareness of individuals’ daily activity patterns. This project is concerned with the development and testing of a portable activity diary data collection tool, the PODD, implemented on a modern smart phone. The tool will simplify diary data collection and make it possible to directly relate individuals’ performed activities with additional information, such as energy consumption of appliances or transportation means used, through appropriate visualizations as the data is entered. The approach will be applicable across a wide range of industrial, governmental, sociological and medical domains.

The aim of the project is twofold. First, it aims to provide an effective, user-friendly and easily accessible data registration platform that will enable the collection of much needed diary data sets. Second, it aims to create awareness of how surrounding factors are associated with each individual’s activity patterns. This can help individuals make adjustments in their daily routines and improve their quality of life, and can also benefit interested stakeholders, such as energy policy makers, medical doctors and other care takers, to make more informed decisions. For example, a primary goal is to use the collected information for understanding and optimizing the energy use of individuals within their home and working lives and in transportation, helping to bring attention to the environmental impact which each individual can have and helping to reduce energy consumption. Other applications of the tools developed will be in the fields of patient care and occupational therapy, helping to understand how treatment episodes affect patients and how disabilities can affect sufferers’ lives and hence how such difficulties can be alleviated.

Until now activity diaries have, almost invariably, been collected in handwritten form and then re-encoded for analysis. Handwritten diaries are, however, problematic as individuals often fill them in at the end of the day, instead of continuously throughout the day as they are expected to, leading to inaccuracies, both in terms of time and duration of each activity as well as in the description of the activity itself. Using, instead, a user-friendly portable device, such as a smart phone, is more likely to provoke the continuous and accurate recording of activities. Furthermore, the modern mobile phone provides a powerful computational platform combining 2D and 3D computer graphics capabilities, powerful interaction potential through touch screen and voice/text recognition, inter-device communication through both wireless and cabled protocols, and exceptional battery life for a portable electronic device. It is also a device which most people already carry, and so gives no additional burden to the subject when required to carry it at all times. Moreover, modern mobile phones also have the ability to use cell information to determine their position and movement with high accuracy, particularly in urban environments, without the excessive power consumption of GPS-based devices. This opens the possibility for tracking the location of the subject, with their permission, as they record each activity. Finally, the wireless protocols available within the mobile phone, such as Bluetooth, could also be used to interact with sensor devices in the environment and store additional information concurrently with the data recording. These properties make a modern smart phone an ideal device on which to create a recording system for complex diary information which the subject can use quickly, efficiently, and relatively unobtrusively while going about their everyday life.