The Times They are a Changin’

Growing access to mobile technology around the world now enables an unprecedented monitoring of an individual’s current state of being. Mobile phones and tablet PCs can be directed to collect personal data, giving individuals deeper levels of insight into their habits and behaviors. Through a variety of platforms, people can actively collect and measure information about what they’re doing, their health, and even their mood. They can also share this information anonymously with a larger network so that it can be analyzed at a local or even national level—allowing organizations to monitor relative health of communities and respond to their changing needs.


• Citizens can understand their well-being through the collection and interpretation of personal data.

• Communities can leverage data and analysis to receive deep levels of insight about the collective habits and behaviors of peers.

• People can be incentivized to self-monitor through comparison, or benchmarking.

• Validated personal experience through exploration of shared community data.

• A deeper and more holistic understanding of communities enables a more fair allocation of resources and faster response times.

Supporting Examples for Personal Census

Intimate Details Provide Population Statistics

The online dating site OKCupid is no longer simply in the business of matching like-minded individuals. Based on hundreds of millions of user interactions, intimate details from over 3.5 million anonymous users are being converted into data to generate incredibly insightful statistics about interpersonal relationships spanning race, gender, and sexuality—uncovering social dynamics previously left only to speculation.

Personal Finance Site Shows Community Spending Habits

Personal finance site aggregates financial data from the US Government, Citi Bank and other third party providers to give users access to accurate, real-time spending comparisons. With this data, users can explore average transaction amounts and locations in categories such as shopping, food and drink, and transportation. This information is also mined in order to recommend restaurants based on the purchases of similar spenders and to estimate change in expense if moving to other cities.

Understanding Happiness Across The UK

Mappiness is a research project and mobile application developed by the London School of Economics with the goal of understanding how people’s happiness is affected by their local environment—air pollution, noise, green spaces, and so on. Participants are prompted one or more times a day to answer questions related to their emotional state, how they’re feeling, who they’re with, what they’re doing and where they are (users can even submit photos). This data is sent anonymously and securely to the group’s database, along with an approximate location from the phone’s GPS and a noise-level measure, where it can be aggregated and analyzed.

App Aggregates Web Behavior

Voyurl is a browser-based platform currently under development that will allow users to passively share their web surfing behaviors and view the browsing behaviors of others—in real-time. The idea of the service is to enable users to actually see the data they create online and help find ways to derive value from it. By aggregating data, this tool has the potential to provide insight about what online content is being used, as well as which topics are trending and where.

Cheap And Discrete Mobile Std Tests

Similar to pregnancy testing kits, new devices are in development that can diagnose if someone has an STD. Those who suspect that they have been infected will be able to place urine or saliva onto a computer chip and plug it into their smartphone to receive a diagnosis within minutes. By aggregating this personal data anonymously, health organizations will be better equipped to understand the sexual health and well-being of populations in a particular area. The developers of the chip plan on distributing the input devices through vending machines for as little as $1.

Online Tool Instantly Visualizes Personal Connections

Business and career networking platform LinkedIn has developed an experimental tool called InMaps that sifts through all of an individual’s connections, detects the relationships between them, and groups them into different network clusters so that anyone can see the depth of their connections in one interface. InMaps provides insight into who the major connections, bridges and influencers are in any network, by differentiating people who have more connections (and typically more sway) in specific clusters with larger fonts. By aggregating and exploring similar connections across other existing networks such as families and friends, there is the potential to use this technology for understanding group health or quickly connecting people during a crisis.

Watch the PSFK team present the report in New York in February on Feb 10 at Open UN – Engagement in the age of real-time and on Feb 18 at PSFK SALON at Soho House NY.

For your free download of this report please visit

The mobile STD tests are an interesting development; not sure how I feel about putting a computer chip with any bodily human fluid into my cell phone…

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