Ethica enables people to convert their smartphone into a micro research lab, so they can join scientists in finding life-changing discoveries.
Smartphones and wearables are powerful tools which have revolutionized our way of life. Beyond the untethered connectivity and casual games, smartphones allow us to objectively measure our behaviour through apps such as exercise monitoring tools or food journals. While such information is can help guide us towards positive change, it can also be very valuable to scientists helping them accomplish ground-breaking discoveries. Information from smartphones can help researchers to better understand humans, and they can use this understanding for battle diseases such as the Zika virus or Ebola, to control smoking behaviour in teenagers, or to design better public transit services.
Ethica is the first platform that turns smartphones into micro research labs. It allows the use of almost all smartphone functionalities in research studies, from passive sensor monitoring to controlled tasks, and context-dependent surveys. Researchers can use Ethica to perform their observations more accurately and at larger scale, while putting less burden on participants. The ability to perform eligibility screening, informed consent, and enrolment all through the phone without requiring a physical meeting with participants means anyone from anywhere in the world can join the study, as long as they have a smartphone. This means more participants, and more meaningful data.
Most importantly, there is no programming expertise needed to use Ethica. The ability of Ethica app to adapt itself to any study design means anyone with any level of expertise in computer science can start using Ethica in minutes.
Ethica emerged from a research project at the University of Saskatchewan named iEpi. iEpi was originally designed to use sensors for tracking the spread of the H1N1 virus in central Canada during the winter of 2009. After the initial project, iEpi’s success motivated us to continue investigation. Collaborators became interested in using iEpi in areas as diverse as computer game design, measuring intervention effectiveness related to social health determinants, computational social science, automated tracking of infection spread during epidemics.
Our experience with the diverse applications of iEpi and seeing how it can benefit and accelerate research in different areas motivated us to make it available to other researchers as well. Ethica has enhanced iEpi creating a fully automated research system useable by anyone, anywhere in the world. Ethica has been successfully deployed in projects in North America, Europe, and Australia.