Smartphone app makes collecting travel and activity data easier than ever

Charlie Plain | June 18, 2019

A new smartphone app co-developed by a School of Public Health researcher is making it easier than ever to collect study data on human activity and travel habits. Daynamica was co-developed by Associate Professor Julian Wolfson and captures detailed activity and travel information when people are driving, walking, biking, or using mass transit, such as riding a bus.

Julian Wolfson smiling
Associate Professor Julian Wolfson

“I was drawn to the project because I saw tremendous potential to improve the way that human activity and travel behavior was measured and understood,” says Wolfson.

Daynamica automatically detects, identifies, and summarizes the daily activities of people using the app and then allows them to view entries and add details, including where they were going and the purpose of their trip.

The app is a significant improvement on traditional methods for logging daily activity data, which are inconvenient, time-consuming, and often inaccurate because they rely on people’s memories. Daynamica also improves on modern GPS sensing tools that can collect travel modes, position, and routes, but are unable to obtain key details, including a trip’s purpose, the travel experience, and who was with the individual on their journey. Daynamica gives users the best of both worlds: It captures many more dimensions of travel behavior data than either travel surveys or GPS sensing can alone.

“Daynamica grew out of a collaboration with Dr. Yingling Fan from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She needed an algorithm for predicting what activities people would be doing at certain times of the day to help improve how study participants were surveyed about their current emotional state,” says Wolfson.

From there, the developers expanded to the broader idea of building an app that could automatically detect and predict human activity patterns using smartphone sensor data.

The research that led to the creation of Daynamica started in 2013 and was initially supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation for a study to understand how people make travel choices.

Today, Daynamica is being used in several health-related studies, including:

  • Promoting more sustainable and healthier transportation choices for University of Minnesota car commuters.
  • Understanding physical activity patterns in individuals participating in cardiovascular rehabilitation programs.

Fan and Wolfson continue to refine Daynamica and recently founded a University of Minnesota-supported startup company, Daynamica Inc., that aims to provide data collection, storage, and analysis services to researchers and organizations wanting to better understand human activity and behavior.

© 2015 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement