While the common data source discussed before, such as location, physical activity, or contact pattern of the participants, provides sufficient data for most behavioural studies, it will not cover all use-case scenarios. There are specific types of data which are not available from all smartphones but provide essential contextual data which can be critical for some research studies.
Particularly with the growing popularity of wearable devices, each capable of recording a specific type of data such as blood-pressure, heartbeat, or stress-level, it's nearly impossible to include logic for recording all data types in Ethica app.
To make sure Ethica can be used to collect all data types required for a study, we are developing an API which allows extending Ethica for data collection from a custom data sources. As currently this API is under development and it can change, we will not include its details here. We provide three examples of custom data sources implemented using this API and explain how they can be used in a given study.
If you are interested in using Ethica for monitoring a custom source of data, please let us know and we can work together to develop the required plugin.
Due to technical restrictions, as of now, custom data sources are only available in Android platform.
The following are examples to demonstrate the possibilities of collecting data from different sources using Ethica Health. You can easily integrate any of these data sources into your study, or modify them to match your needs.
Supported in Android.
This data source records how often participants are using which app. When a study chooses to monitor app usage data source, all participants who use an Android device will be notified to download and install an extension app on their smartphone which provides this functionality. You can read more about participant's experience in App Usage Notification for Participants section.
Due to privacy reasons, the captured data only includes the name of the app and the aggregate amount of time it was used over a certain period. It does not include any content of the application.
Each app usage record includes the following:
The unique code name of the app used, for example, com.ethica.logger for Ethica Health or com.facebook.kanata for Facebook. Internally stored as
The beginning of the time period over which this report was collected. Note that this does NOT refer to the time the application was started. Internally stored as
The end of the time period over which this report was collected. Note that this does NOT refer to the time the application was closed. Internally stored as
Last time the application was used (the time the app was closed), in the time window specified by the
start_time and the
end_time. Internally stored as
Foreground Time (MS):
The amount of time, in milliseconds, that the application was in the foreground during the time window specified by the
start_time and the
end_time. An app is considered foreground if one of its screens is the currently active screen and the user is looking at it (i.e. the screen is on) or interacting with it. Internally stored as
As an example, if a record is shown as follow:
- app_name: com.google.android.youtube
- start_time: May 9th 2018, 09:30:45.537+0000
- end_time: May 10th 2018, 09:30:45.536+0000
- last_used: May 10th 2018, 09:03:54.098+0000
- foreground_time: 12,379,944
It means during the 24 hour period from May 9th 2018, 09:30:45.537+0000 to May 10th 2018, 09:30:45.536+0000, the participant was using YouTube (com.google.android.youtube) for approximately 206 minutes (12,379,944 milliseconds).
Configuration in Android
Monitoring app usage statistics is not part of the Ethica app by default. Instead, this functionality is offered through an extension app, Ethica App Usage Stream, which also can be downloaded from Google Play Store. This separation allows improving the data security and controls the risks associated with accessing such sensitive data.
If a given study chooses to monitor this data source, shortly after the registration Ethica detects the App Usage extension is not installed and notifies the participant to install the application. The details of the notification presented in such cases can be accessed here. Participants can wait for the notification to be shown in Ethica app and then click on it to download the application. Alternatively, they can be instructed to download and install Ethica App Usage Stream directly from Google Play, after installing Ethica app. This way they will not receive the above-mentioned notification anymore.
When Ethica App Usage Stream is installed, participants still have to explicitly instruct their Android device to allow Ethica App Usage Stream to access their app usage data. If this permission is not granted, participants will receive a notification through the Ethica app, as described here. This notification provides participants with an easy way to change the required settings and grant the permission.
Alternatively, participants can be instructed to follow the steps below to grant the permission via phone's settings, before they receive the notification from the Ethica app:
- 1. Open Android's Settings.
- 2. Click on Security
- 3. Scroll down to find and then select Apps with access to usage data
- 4. From the list of applications shown, select App Usage Statistics Stream.
- 5. Switch Allow usage tracking to On
This will provide the required permission for Ethica to access statistics on app usage.
Android Apps with 0 ms Usage
On Android phones, this data source captures any app that is running, even if the user does not directly interact with them. An example is Google Mobile Services which usually runs behind the scenes and perform support tasks. But as it's running, the collected data will include references to it (
com.google.android.gms), indicating that it's been used for 0 milliseconds. If you are focused on the apps the participant has directly interacted with them, you can exclude the results with 0 ms foreground time.
Supported in Android.
Browsing history data source is a custom data source, available as an extension to Ethica Health for Android. This data source is capable of records URLs visited by participants on their Android device. The details of how this data source function depends on the study using it. In other words, the behaviour of it is customized to match the study needs.
Empatica E4 Wrist Watch
Supported in Android.
This extension allows Ethica to record data through Epmathica E4 wristband and upload them to Ethica servers, or use them for context analysis to decide when a survey should be released.