Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

To churn through all the data the Intel sensors collect, the researchers designed software to process it in stages, explains Choudhury. “You can do some simple processing on the mobile device,” she says, such as averaging similar data points over time and throwing out data from a sensor that’s below a threshold. Most mobile phones have the processing capabilities to do this and extract actions such as walking and sitting.

In the next stage of processing, researchers plug these actions into machine-learning models that infer more-complex behaviors. For instance, making a meal will require short walking bursts, standing, and picking things up. The Intel researchers developed models that look for certain actions occurring in succession. These models can also adjust to the basic quirks of the user, accounting for variation in cooking behavior; some meals may require more walking than others, and some people may sit more during meal preparation than others. This sort of information could be useful, Choudhury says, in determining if an elderly person is eating regularly. She notes that currently, some of the modeling is too computationally intensive to do entirely on a cell phone, and some of the data must be uploaded to a computer or a server. However, she says, the algorithms are becoming more efficient, and the processing power in phones continues to increase.

At this point, says MIT’s Eagle, it wouldn’t be too difficult to write consumer software that could infer a person’s basic activities. These activities could then be used to update the status listed in an instant-messenger program or on a blog. Eagle notes, however, that manufacturers might be hesitant because it’s likely that all the required data processing could cut battery life.

Apple has made no announcements about whether it might include such software in future versions of the iPhone. And it’s unlikely that outside developers will be able to take advantage of the sensors at this point: Apple is limiting third-party development to applications that run within the Web browser–essentially, specialized Web pages. But as more phones become equipped with sensors, and phones’ processing power continues to increase, Eagle suspects that sensor-based applications will become more popular.

11 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credit: Apple

Tagged: Computing, Apple, iPhone, social networks, Intel, sensor, GPS, infared, accelerometers

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me