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BACKGROUND: The Microsoft SenseCam, a small camera that is worn on the chest via a lanyard, increasingly is being deployed in health research. However, the SenseCam and other wearable cameras are not yet in widespread use because of a variety of factors. It is proposed that the ubiquitous smartphones can provide a more accessible alternative to SenseCam and similar devices. PURPOSE: To perform an initial evaluation of the potential of smartphones to become an alternative to a wearable camera such as the SenseCam. METHODS: In 2012, adults were supplied with a smartphone, which they wore on a lanyard, that ran life-logging software. Participants wore the smartphone for up to 1 day and the resulting life-log data were both manually annotated and automatically analyzed for the presence of visual concepts. The results were compared to prior work using the SenseCam. RESULTS: In total, 166,000 smartphone photos were gathered from 47 individuals, along with associated sensor readings. The average time spent wearing the device across all users was 5 hours 39 minutes (SD=4 hours 11 minutes). A subset of 36,698 photos was selected for manual annotation by five researchers. Software analysis of these photos supports the automatic identification of activities to a similar level of accuracy as for SenseCam images in a previous study. CONCLUSIONS: Many aspects of the functionality of a SenseCam largely can be replicated, and in some cases enhanced, by the ubiquitous smartphone platform. This makes smartphones good candidates for a new generation of wearable sensing devices in health research, because of their widespread use across many populations. It is envisioned that smartphones will provide a compelling alternative to the dedicated SenseCam hardware for a number of users and application areas. This will be achieved by integrating new types of sensor data, leveraging the smartphone's real-time connectivity and rich user interface, and providing support for a range of relatively sophisticated applications.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Prev Med

Publication Date





308 - 313


Cell Phone, Computers, Handheld, Health Behavior, Health Surveys, Humans, Life Style, Photography, Time Factors