Using smartphones to get closer to the moments that matter

In this latest series we speak to tech leaders who offer solutions within the research, data, and insights space. To shine a spotlight on disruptive technologies and better understand the value they offer.

At Day One Strategy we combine technology with human intelligence and pioneer innovative AI led solutions. In this instalment Day One Founding Partner, Abigail Stuart, spoke with Dave Kaye, Co-Founder of Field Notes – a app the lets you capture and manage quality self-shot video content from people around the world.

To begin, please tell me a little about your background and what inspired you to create Field Notes

I used to work for a research agency, conducting extensive ethnography, which involved immersing myself in the field with people and traveling a great deal. While I loved the work, the constant travel was taking over my life. When smartphones became mainstream, I realised they offered a new way of getting close to people without leaving the office. We went on to build one of the first apps specifically designed for research and insights. While I was excited about using new technology to connect with people, I also wanted to be more present for family and friends.

From the beginning, Field Notes was developed with input from researchers across various markets, giving it an international perspective. This ensured that the tool was not only built specifically for researchers, but also accounted for cultural nuances across different regions.

How have you made the app culturally suitable for different markets?

From a technical standpoint, language and server location are crucial because you don’t want to send video content across the world. For example, in emerging markets like Africa, where access to Wi-Fi or 5G may be limited, the app allows users to reduce video sizes for easier sharing. In China, we’ve made several adaptations, such as creating a separate website for app downloads (since Google Play is inaccessible), using a different system for push notifications, and implementing custom security settings.

From a researcher’s perspective, we can always advise on best practices for each market. Brazilians, for example, are great at uploading numerous videos and images, but might provide less audio or text.

I know you do a lot of work in healthcare. What has been your experience working with patients?

Most patients we speak with live with chronic health conditions and may not have anyone to discuss their experiences with. Giving people the opportunity to express themselves through their phones can be incredibly empowering, leading to candid and insightful responses. We offer patients the flexibility to communicate in the format they prefer, whether it’s video, audio, text, or images. For instance, if a patient wakes up in pain at 3 a.m., they might not want to record a video, but an audio capture can be both rich and non-intrusive.

Building rapport with patients is crucial. By following up, engaging them, and providing feedback, we can elicit better content. Even when discussing difficult subjects, knowing they are being heard makes a significant difference.

Clients often question the feasibility of mobile ethnography with elderly patients. How easy is it to obtain quality content from older participants?

We’ve worked with numerous older participants, including patients, and it’s important not to underestimate their capabilities. While they may need extra time to become comfortable with the process, they often have someone nearby to assist with filming. Older patients’ responses may be more deliberate and less spontaneous, but they become more at ease over time.

Doctors can pose challenges in projects because they frequently neglect to read instructions. However, with feedback and guidance, the quality of their contributions can improve dramatically.

For those new to mobile ethnography, what research objectives are best suited to this method?

From a healthcare perspective, mobile ethnography can provide a rich understanding of what it’s truly like to live with a chronic illness. As most people frequently use their smartphones, they become a lifeline for individuals living with chronic conditions. This method is powerful in capturing the burden of illness and delving deeply into patients’ experiences.

Mobile ethnography is particularly effective for longitudinal research and engaging with healthcare professionals who may have limited time. We recently worked with a pharmaceutical client to monitor the impact of a brand launch among prescribers. They shared their experiences through their smartphones, giving us real-time updates on the product launch.

During the pandemic, we assisted clients in generating content for conferences by remotely interviewing key opinion leaders and patient support groups, as camera crews were unavailable. High-quality videos captured on smartphones could be shared at conferences.

For many pharmaceutical clients, getting as close as possible to the prescription moment is crucial. We’ve had doctors film themselves immediately after prescribing to report on decision drivers and patient profile influences, providing a powerful insight into that key moment.

So, what’s next for Field Notes?

It’s no surprise that we’ve been exploring AI to enhance our product. In the next few weeks, we’ll launch our integration with Whisper, an application for transcription services based on the OpenAI GPT model. Currently, our videos are automatically machine-transcribed, but Whisper’s quality is truly impressive, raising concerns about the future of the transcription industry.

With high-quality transcripts, translation becomes more affordable. Human translators will now primarily sense-check machine translations, significantly reducing costs. These features will deliver immense value to our clients.

We’re also experimenting with voice analysis innovations, examining AI tools to discern whether participants speak in a happy or sad manner. Facial recognition advancements through AI open up other intriguing possibilities.

Speaking more generally, which technological innovations do you believe will be most important to the market research industry over the next five years?

Staying updated on technological innovations is a full-time job in itself. At one point in my career, I was Head of Digital for a large research group, responsible for understanding various digital platforms that could assist researchers. This would be an even more significant task today, given the developments in AI. As I mentioned earlier, AI-generated transcription, due to its impressive quality, has the potential to revolutionise the industry.

If you feel the same and would love to leverage the combined power of tech and human intelligence for smarter, faster insight get in touch: