Tracking mood by mining text messages

By Brian Dolan
06:06 am
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At the Lunch and Launch event at the Health 2.0 meets Ix event in Boston last week, mHealth companies dominated. The audience voted in two of the mobile phone-powered health solutions as the most impressive--Living Profiles, a Project HealthDesign startup partially funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and FrontlineSMS:Medic.

According to Living Profiles' site, "The specific segment of the population that Living Profiles is looking at is teenage boys and girls who are living with chronic illnesses. 30 chronically ill California teenagers, from Orange County and the Bay Area are participating in the study. Through interviews and expressive activities we learn what motivates and inspires them towards healthy living."

The audience seemed particularly taken by Living Profiles' plan to mine teenagers' text messages for key words that are indicative of moods. The group tracks and categorizes words the teens use and then gives them updates that help the teens understand changes month-over-month.  

We have written about FrontlineSMS:Medic before: The startup is focused on emerging markets, particularly Africa, and aims help health workers there gather structured data from the field that can be integrated into electronic medical records (EMRs). FrontlineSMS:Medic's Lucky Gunasekara, a Stanford med student, gave an overview of the group's efforts, which include using the mobile phone as a remote diagnostics lab via SMS/MMS.

While it didn't come in the top two, Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG team was represented as they announced their new mobile app for the BlackBerry platform. The app is also on the iPhone and has had some 650,000 downloads since it launched for the iPhone last year. Both the BlackBerry and iPhone apps are $2.99.