Feds Developed App That Predicts ‘Psychological Status’ of Americans

$8.9 million NIH study led to mobile system for ‘real time behavior monitoring’

September 25, 2015

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have developed a system that can predict the "psychological status" of users with smartphones and hope to private companies to bring the invention to the market.

The technology appeared on a list of NIH inventions published in the Federal Register that are now available to be licensed by private companies. The government allows companies to license inventions resulting from federal research in order to expedite their arrival on the marketplace.

The system uses smartphones to ask people how they are doing mentally during the day and based on the results can "deliver an automated intervention" if necessary.

"The NIH inventors have developed a mobile health technology to monitor and predict a user's psychological status and to deliver an automated intervention when needed," according to the notice published Wednesday. "The technology uses smartphones to monitor the user's location and ask questions about psychological status throughout the day."

"Continuously collected ambulatory psychological data are fused with data on location and responses to questions," the NIH said. "The mobile data are combined with geospatial risk maps to quantify exposure to risk and predict a future psychological state. The future predictions are used to warn the user when he or she is at especially high risk of experiencing a negative event that might lead to an unwanted outcome (e.g., lapse to drug use in a recovering addict)."

The NIH said the technology has potential commercial applications for "real-time behavior monitoring" and "therapeutic delivery of an intervention via a mobile device."

Researchers developed the system from a project that tracked the mood and cravings of drug users in Baltimore. The $8.9 million federal study sought to develop algorithms that could "automatically detect behavioral events (such as episodes of drug use or stress) without requiring self-report."

The NIH said the app is currently being used for drug addiction interventions, but that the "inventors are also seeking to test the technology for other health applications."

Request for comment from the NIH was not returned by press time.