Research IT

Citizen Sensors in Brazil

Imagine if you could gather data from thousands of mobile data points reacting to the environment around them? That's what our Research Software Engineers have been helping to do and in more than one language thanks to an international collaboration!

Brazil Breathing is a mobile app which collects data submitted by 'citizen sensors' to monitor respiratory problems and allergies. The ultimate goal is to discover more about respiratory problems and seasonal allergies such as hay fever or asthma.

It's based on Britain Breathing, a successful app designed by one of our research software engineers (RSE) in 2017 and used in the UK as part of a study into how air quality affects allergies and respiratory problems.

Joshua Woodcock, an RSE in Research IT, has localised Britain Breathing for the Brazilian market, with assistance from RSE Alan Davies and Admir Creso Targino and Patricia Krecl, Associate Professors at the Federal University of Technology in Parana in Brazil.

Admir and Patricia were interested in tracking similar data points in Brazil as tracked in the Britain Breathing app. Admir and Patricia are working alongside University of Manchester researchers, Dr David Topping, School of Earth and Environment Sciences, and Dr Caroline Jay, School of Computer Science.

The most obvious aspect of localisation is translating each page of the application into Portuguese, from registration through to recording and sending the effects of the user's allergies. However, as highlighted by Admir and Patricia, who will be deploying and collecting the data in Brazil, there were other changes needed to be made to make sure the application was suited to Brazilian users.

Brazil is a much larger country than the UK, and the internet connection can be patchy and unstable in rural areas. To allow users to send data when there isn't an internet connection, Joshua developed a method that allows the data to be stored locally until a connection is present.

The registration process was also refined, allowing increased flexibility for users to specify their gender and current medical issues, such as sinusitis and allergies like hay fever, as air quality could affect these differently.

Once a user completes registration, they will send data detailing how the air quality effects their respiratory issues and allergies. The icons representing answers to the question, "How are you Feeling today?" were changed from the emoji style icons used in the British version of the app, to a more pared back style. As a final touch, the logo was also changed to reflect the national colours of Brazil!

If you are interested in having a research software engineer contribute to your research project please get in touch or see the Research IT website for more information.