Six months into the HomeSense project, Prof. Nigel Gilbert outlined the “interesting ethics issues” that required attention before the field trial could responsibly get underway in volunteer households.
In his presentation, “The Ethics of Sensors” at the 2016 ESRC Research Methods Festival in Bath, Nigel explained the ambition of HomeSense to enable social researchers to use digital sensors alongside self-reported methods and observations. The project is also assessing the extent to which householders might accept sensors in their homes for research, and the final output will be a set of guidelines for use in such studies.
The paper now published in the conference proceedings, covers data analysis from the early stages of the HomeSense field trial. It reports on applying machine learning methods to interpret sensor-generated data, and discusses a method for identifying features of various types of activity and evaluating the agreement between sensor-generated data and self-reported data from time-use diaries.
Since one of the implications of using sensors for social research is that, in due course, activities could be recognised automatically, this study also proposes a method for modelling a range of activities recorded by sensors.
The same approach has been continued by the team in an extended version of the study with data from more households, but the publication of the conference paper in the Proceedings of ICFNDS’17 provided an opportunity for some of its authors – Jie Jiang, Riccardo Pozza, Kristrún Gunnarsdóttir – to sit down and discuss the implications of this work, and where it sits within the project as a whole.