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Mobile Health (mHealth): From Smart Phone Apps and Sensor Streams to Behavioral Biomarkers

CTED and Africa House proudly co-hosted the event “Mobile Health (mHealth): From Smart Phone Apps and Sensor Streams to Behavioral Biomarkers” with Deborah Estrin, Professor of Computer Science, Cornell NYC Tech.

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm, followed by a reception from 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Location: 19 Washington Square North, New York, NY (between 5th Ave. and Washington Square West)


The most significant health and wellness challenges increasingly involve multiple chronic conditions, from diabetes, hypertension, and asthma to depression, chronic pain, sleep and neurological disorders. The promise of mobile health (mHealth) is that we can leverage the power and ubiquity of mobile and cloud technologies to monitor and understand symptoms, side effects, and treatment outside the clinical setting, thereby closing the feedback loops of self-care, clinical-care, and personal-evidence-creation. However, to realize this promise, we must develop new data capture, processing and modeling techniques to convert the ‘digital exhaust’ emitted by mobile phone use into behavioral biomarkers. This calls for the sort of modular layered processing framework used in speech and vision in which low-level state classifications of raw data (e.g., estimated activity states such as sitting, walking, driving from continuous accelerometer and location traces), are used to derive mid-level semantic features (e.g., total number of ambulatory minutes, number of hours spent out of house), that can then be mapped to particular behavioral biomarkers for specific diseases (e.g., chronic pain, GI dysfunction, MS, fatigue, depression, etc). This talk presented our experiences to date with mHealth pilots and prototypes including areas most in need of further exploration: analysis and visualization (sense-making) across diverse data streams, standardizing measures and methods, an open modular architecture to promote innovation, and privacy mechanisms.

Speaker’s Biography:

Deborah Estrin is a Professor of Computer Science at the new Cornell Tech campus in New York City and a Professor of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is a co-founder of the non-profit startup Open mHealth ( She was previously on faculty at UCLA and Founding Director of the NSF Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS). Estrin is a pioneer in networked sensing, which uses mobile and wireless systems to collect and analyze real-time data about the physical world and the people who occupy it. Estrin’s current focus is on mobile health (mhealth), leveraging the programmability, proximity, and pervasiveness of mobile devices and the cloud for health management. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. She was selected as the first ACM-W Athena Lecturer in 2006, was awarded the Anita Borg Institute’s Women of Vision Award for Innovation in 2007, inducted into the WITI hall of fame in 2008, and awarded Doctor Honoris Causa from EPFL in 2008 and Uppsala University in 2011.