Improving Health with Smartphones: Apps between Trauma and Tinnitus

Ulm University

Smartphones have a questionable reputation with health professionals causes of stress and addiction. But smartphones can also be used to improve health, already today they are being used globally to collect data for medical purposes. Researchers at Ulm University have been working successfully for years on developing software technologies, including customized "Crowdsensing" Apps, that allow collecting data for medical and psychological studies in a practical and simple way.

The possible applications for such apps are manifold, ranging all the way from measuring stress levels in pregnant women and gaging trauma experienced by child soldiers in Africa to a less serious but common health issue: tinnitus. The researchers from Ulm University cooperated with the Tinnitus Research Initiative (TRI) to create the "TrackYourTinnitus" app. The app allows users to track their individual tinnitus experiences, such as perceived volume and other negative effects caused by the tinnitus, such as stress. The collected data related studies have been published in multiple journals.

The challenge for the researchers from Ulm University lies within making these apps highly configurable for domain-experts, without requiring changes to the actual program code. This allows the same app to be utilized in multiple studies with different goals without having to reprogram parts of it.

As such technological innovation can help lower health costs in the long run, the next projects, such as "Track your Diabetes" and "Mindful Walking" are already in development. The tinnitus research alone has already been supported by the EU with over 500.000€ in research funding.

[Translate to english:] Mit Hilfe der Tinnitus-App liefert das Smartphone wertvolle Daten über Faktoren, die die Tinnitus-Stärke beeinflussen (Foto: Elvira Eberhardt)
[Translate to english:] Beispiele für Eingabefelder der "Track your Tinnitus"-App;
[Translate to english:] Prof. Manfred Reichert und Dr. Rüdiger Pryss forschen am Institut für Datenbanken und Informationssysteme zu „Crowdsensing“-Apps (Foto: Elvira Eberhardt / Uni Ulm)