Researchers Aim to Build Mobile Sensor Technology to Enhance Job Performance

Two Researchers from the University of Minnesota are working on mobile sensors to enhance workplace productivity.

Credit: University of Minnesota

Deniz Ones, Professor of Psychology at the University’s College of Liberal Arts and Mustafa al'Absi, Professor of Behavioral Medicine at the University’s Medical School, join a six-university team which will use the $13.8 million project to create and test mPerf, a system of mobile sensors and software that can be applied to objectively evaluate daily job performance. The project was funded by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity’s (IARPA) Multimodal Objective Sensing to Assess Individuals with Context (MOSAIC) program.

Al’Absi will guide the team’s stress assessments.

Stress affects everything in our life from heart disease to obesity and addiction, but it also affects how we perform or not perform. It is our goal to forge ahead in discovering new ways toward understanding how our performance and decision making skills are affected in stressful situations.

Dr. al'Absi, Director of the Behavioral Medicine Laboratories and an Expert in Stress Research

Ones will lead the team’s field research in measuring and forecasting job performance.

Existing workforce evaluation tools, such as cognitive assessments, interviews and questionnaires, do not always measure how an individual performs on an everyday basis. It is anticipated that the sensors will more accurately capture the behavior of people in different situations and provide insights that eventually enhance work performance and productivity.

To develop and assess its models, the mPerf team will gather data from hundreds of employees from many organizations in the U.S. and abroad. mPerf Researchers will create innovative sensor-based markers and will then apply data analytics to develop a library of sensor-based indicators to calculate employee characteristics such as ability and personality, and work performance.

The six-university team will be headed by Santosh Kumar, Professor at the University of Memphis and director of the NIH-funded Center of Excellence for Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge. The team comprises of some of the country’s top Researchers in work performance (Professor Ones), interpersonal communications (Eugene Buder, Memphis), sensor design and signal processing (Emre Ertin, Ohio State), stress (Dr. al’Absi), mobile computing (Deepak Ganesan, UMass Amherst and Mani Srivastava, UCLA), mobile sensing (Tanzeem Choudhury, Cornell), and machine learning (Benjamin Marlin, UMass Amherst).

“Through this project, we hope to develop new approaches to assessing employee talent as well as important workplace behaviors and outcomes, including performance, satisfaction and stress,” said Ones. “The innovative potential this study holds for the world of work is akin to moving from horse buggy to self-driving vehicles.”

A project like this is exciting because we can bring this data to the people in the best way possible because we are all affected by work performance.

Dr. al'Absi, Director of the Behavioral Medicine Laboratories and an Expert in Stress Research

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