Remotely monitoring autistic characteristics and co-occurring difficulties with RADAR-base in AIMS-2-TRIALS

Autism Innovative Medicine Studies-2-Trials (AIMS-2-TRIALS) is a large research program that aims to monitor and analyze symptoms of autism such as social communications difficulties, repetitive and restrictive behaviors and interests, and mental comorbidities such as sleep problems, anxiety, and depression. The Hyve and Kings' College London (KCL) are supporting the AIMS-2-TRIALS with the RADAR-base platform for passive patient monitoring with smart devices.

The challenge

Autism Innovative Medicine Studies-2-Trials (AIMS-2-TRIALS) is an extensive autism-focused research program whose core deliverables are monitoring and analyzing symptoms of autism such as social communications difficulties, repetitive and restrictive behaviors and interests, and mental comorbidities such as sleep problems, anxiety, and depression. They aim to develop objective measures of the disease and its symptoms so that they can eventually be used in clinical trials.

One of the study arms of AIMS-2-TRIALS is a remote monitoring study that aims to develop and evaluate remote monitoring measures for autism characteristics and co-occurring difficulties. This study arm is using RADAR-base as the data collection platform, supported by King's College London (KCL) and The Hyve for collecting passive and continuous data using the RADAR passive remote monitoring technology (pRMT) app.

The pRMT app collects detailed information on smartphone-based communication, such as SMS, call logs, application usage, etc. This feature was available previously on the standard public distribution of the RADAR-base pRMT app but was discontinued in the current version due to a change in the privacy policy of the Google Play Store, which restricts the collection of call and SMS logs for privacy reasons.

How we addressed it

As a workaround, KCL and The Hyve reinstated SMS and call log data collection in a bespoke version of the pRMT app that will be self-distributed, independent of any external digital distribution services like Google Play Store.

For this use case, we analyzed the requirements presented by KCL for the AIMS-2-TRIAL. The remote monitoring app that they needed would have to fulfill the following criteria:

  1. Passively collect call logs, SMS logs, and app usage data.
  2. Allow for automatic app updates without manually reinstalling it every time there is a new update to the pRMT app.

Telephony and SMS plugin

The researchers wanted to collect metadata about SMS and call logs (on their servers). The pRMT app is able to collect data from all smart devices connected to the phone. However, Google's Play Store policy no longer allows this for privacy reasons. The Hyve's software engineers, therefore, developed a telephony and SMS plugin that enables the pRMT app to collect information on phone calls, SMS, and the number of unread SMS data.

Enable auto-update through the pRMT app

The researchers wanted to ensure that the participants were using the latest version of the pRMT app. Usually, this would be done by updating the existing app in the Google Play Store, and an automatic notification or update would happen on the user’s smartphone. Since we would not be distributing the app/plugin via the Play Store, The Hyve’s team investigated alternative app distribution services that would support both auto-update of the pRMT app and allow for the collection of call logs and SMS metadata. Since no suitable solution was found, we decided to develop a standalone app that informs users about updates via notifications sent through the pRMT app. Alternatively, they can auto-update through the app itself instead of via the Play Store or distribution service.

Self-distributed pRMT app installation steps
Auto-update notifications and in-app update functionality of the self distributed pRMT app

The outcome

The Hyve developed this custom APK (Android Application Package) to collect call and SMS log data from study participants and to perform automatic updates. The solution allows researchers to access and use the custom-developed app and its features. Besides developing the app, we provided the researchers with detailed documentation and guidelines on how to use the app for their studies.

The bespoke version of the pRMT app is currently being used to collect data from AIMS-2-TRIAL study participants. This data collection is passive and continuous, which is extremely valuable for the success of this research project. The Hyve will maintain the app for the duration of the trial. The outcomes of the project are expected to be published after the data collection period.

We are proud of the solution we have developed for this project since it allows researchers to collect data and monitor social communications behavior which is a highly sought-after solution by many disciplines of remote monitoring studies. We believe this approach will be utilized in many more studies in the future for the continuous collection of customized data from study participants.

Testimonial

“We were extremely impressed by the efficient and well-organized manner with which The Hyve approached our project. This included very high responsiveness to communication of all types. From the outset, project managers at The Hyve took responsibility for scheduling meetings and assigning tasks on both sides. The use of developer time was transparently allocated. The developers were approachable and communicated clearly about their work on our project. We received quick responses to issues that arose during the testing phase, which made our tasks straightforward. The Hyve was also very patient throughout procurement procedures on our side.”

- Isabel Yorke, Postdoctoral Research Associate, King's College London

RADAR-base

RADAR-base is a modular solution for active and passive data collection, real-time streaming, harmonized data schemas, distributed storage and data exploration capabilities.

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Funding statement and Disclaimer

The RADAR-base platform was developed under projects IMI RADAR-CNS, IMI RADAR-AD, Bigdata@Heart, and IMI H2O, which received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement numbers 115902, 806999, 116074 and 945345 respectively. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program and EFPIA. See www.imi.europa.eu for more details.

Neither IMI nor the European Union nor EFPIA is liable for any use that may be made of the information contained on this website.