Power of the people: UMSI researchers seek volunteers

UMSI researchers are currently recruiting owners of Android mobile devices (phones or tablets) to test an app that tracks the energy use involved in maintaining the users’ social networks.

They are looking for 500 people with Android 4.1 and higher devices to participate in a study that uses a randomly generated ID to track who they contact, how frequently the contacts are made, and the amount of battery their devices consume in the process.

“We're interested in how people use mobile devices and how their communication’s power consumption has changed over time, compared to their use of other methods of communication,” says Jonathan Brier, a researcher assistant on the project GreenSC. “We're running a rolling admission study where participants join for two weeks to better understand their power consumption while maintaining their social network.”

Android users who download the app will help to create a valuable dataset by donating their phone data. Participants who successfully complete their two weeks will receive a cash incentive and can earn additional cash by referring others who complete the study successfully.

The information will be kept as anonymous as possible, say the researchers. The app will not collect what users say, type or read, and no identifiable information will be sent to the study’s servers. Instead, the app will collect such information as battery energy level, when and how the phone charges, when the devices make or receive a call or text, location, and activities conducted in social apps such as Twitter and Facebook. This study has passed the Institutional Review Board.

The study is part of an EAGER grant funded by the National Science Foundation, “GreenSC: Characterizing and Modeling Energy Use in Social Computing.” Principal investigators are Thomas Finholt, professor and senior associate dean of the School of Information and Erik Hofer, chief information officer and clinical assistant professor of information, School of Information; co-investigators are Christopher Brooks and Jonathan Brier.