Future Mobile Research. Mining Reality Through the Mobile Phone

Social media made online social behaviour measurable.

Now smartphones are doing the same with face-to-face interaction – thanks to ‘machine sensing’. Machine sensing is basically data collection through sensor-equipped machines, where a sensor is a converter that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a signal which can be read by an observer or by an instrument.

Traditionally mobile market research has mimicked what can be done on the web, with poorer interfaces and engagement. But with smartphones enabling mobile sensing, the opportunity got much bigger and much more interesting.

Mobile sensing is the passive recording of a person’s online and offline daily life in a quantitative way. Sensors in the mobile handset can be used to capture communication, proximity, location, and activity data alongside the more established prompted inputs: a 360-degree approach becoming known as Reality Mining.

Longitudinal collection of this data produces a depth of information on behaviours, interactions and states that can reveal patterns and insights that would be impossible to spot on an exclusively qualitative basis.

Back in July 2012 I ran a pilot project on a sample of one (me) to assess the potential of mobile sensing within the industry. How could market research use ‘reality mining’ to develop a better understanding of consumer behaviors and attitudes? And how useful would it be?

The presentation below gives an overview of the Reality Mining project. A more in-depth paper will be published over the next few weeks discussing the details of the set up, the research methodology and the outputs of the project.

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