Smartphone-Based Travel Experience Sampling and Behavior Intervention among Young Adults (UbiActive Phase I) - FY11 TechPlan

Principal Investigator(s):

Yingling Fan, Associate Dean for Faculty, Humphrey School of Public Affairs


  • Frank Douma, Director, State & Local Policy, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  • Chen-Fu Liao, Former Researcher, Mechanical Engineering
  • Julian Marshall, Former Assistant Professor, Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering

Project summary:

People spend significant time every day traveling in cars, on foot, by bicycle, or using public transit. Travel behavior directly influences individual health: walking and bicycling contribute to moderate physical activity, and different travel behaviors often come with varying well-being experiences. This research project aimed to develop a data-collection application that enables real-time tracking and reporting of the health-related impacts of travel behavior. Using the computing, communication, and sensing capabilities of smartphones, an Android phone application named UbiActive was developed to collect real-time travel-related physical activity and psychological well-being data from phone users. The application was tested on multiple Android phones, among which Nexus S and HTC Magic were found to produce comparable physical activity outputs with the commercially available accelerometer. The application was further tested in a three-week field study for its viability for real-time data collection and behavior intervention against unhealthy travel behavior. Twenty-three young adults were recruited and randomized into intervention and control groups. Both groups were asked to install UbiActive on their phones and wear their phones on their right hip during all waking hours for three consecutive weeks. The intervention group was provided information on the impacts of their travel behavior on physical activity and psychological well-being. No information was provided to the control group. Seventeen of the 23 participants completed the three-week study, including 10 from the intervention group and 7 from the control group. After the field study, all participants were asked to complete a web-based exit survey made up of questions about their general participation experience and specific concerns about the study design, application, compliance requirements, and privacy issues. Findings from the field study show that UbiActive has high potential for collecting travel-related physical activity and psychological experience data, but limited effectiveness for behavior intervention. Findings from the exit survey show participants in general had a satisfying study experience, increased awareness of their travel behavior patterns and the associated health impacts, and difficulties in meeting some of the compliance requirements in the study, all of which provide useful insights into future improvement areas of the UbiActive application and the overall study design.


Project details: