PhoneLab is an open-access, large-scale, participatory smartphone testbed operated by the PhoneLab team (“we”) in
the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. It
consists of smartphones, participants that use the smartphones, and control software. It is designed to be open-access,
meaning that researchers inside and outside of UB will conduct research studies using PhoneLab. It provides realism
by having participants use the smartphones in real life, allow research experiments to be performed under realistic conditions. This document
contains terms and conditions that each and every participant("you") should be aware of and must agree to before participating in PhoneLab
Unlimited Plan from Sprint
The smartphone service plan we provide to you is an unlimited plan from Sprint. Our plan includes: unlimited texting,
unlimited Data, unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling, and a limited number of landline minutes shared by all PhoneLab participants.
Please note that we do not cover international roaming charges.
Duration of Participation
We do not require multi-year contracts but do ask for six-month commitments. You will have an option to leave after six-months or renew
for the next six months. Once you join, the price will not increase during same academic year. When you stop participating you must return your
PhoneLab participation consists of two parts: basic operational participation and research participation.
Operationally, we expect you to participate in the following ways:
- Use your PhoneLab phone as your primary smartphone. This is the most basic level of participation we expect.
Our goal of realism depends on participants using their PhoneLab phone as their primary mobile communication device.
- Periodically we will communicate with you through email for important updates related to PhoneLab operation. Some of these updates
might require you to respond and react accordingly. We will keep these to a minimum.
- We will ask that you use our PhoneLab app and our website to check up on new features and provide feedback on your experience.
- We will be distributing software updates regularly to your phone. This is an automatic process, but will need
your confirmation. Once you confirm your phone will reboot itself automatically and update its software. The whole process will take around one minute.
- If problems with your phone arise we will provide instructions on how to address the problem. In the worst case, you might have to come to our lab
so we can provide more direct assistance. All changes to PhoneLab software as well as experiments are tested by PhoneLab developers before distribution in order to
minimize such problems.
In addition to the operational participation, we expect you to participate in research experiments. Broadly speaking,
there will be two types of PhoneLab experiments:
Some interactive apps might just ask you to participate in a survey or visit a website, while others might ask you
to perform specific tasks. Since these interactive experiments require your time and attention, we will limit this type
of participation to a few hours a month.
- Background experiments: we will conduct research experiments that do not require any attention from you, such as
a network performance measurement study that collects performance information from your phone for WiFi, 3G, and 4G networks.
This information gathering does not require your attention, and your participation is
transparent—just use your phone normally.
- Interactive Experiments: we will also conduct experiments that require you to actually use an application.
This will involve:
- downloading an app from our website and installing it,
- following the instructions on how to participate in the experiment, and
- optionally giving feedback to the researchers via our website or the app itself.
Participant Responsibilities and Expectations
Because PhoneLab participants enjoy the benefits of discounted smartphone service, we want to be clear about the responsibilities that accompany
these benefits and our expectations for participants.
- Research participation is required. If for some reason you do not participate, we will communicate with you to
reach a resolution, which may result in temporarily stopping the service on your phone and recovering your PhoneLab phone.
- The phone should be your primary mobile phone. Please be aware that this is critical for our study because one of our
goals is realism. If you plan to switch between multiple phones, then you are not qualified to be a PhoneLab participant.
- The phone should not be flashed with a custom ROM. Although Android phones allow installing custom OSes called ROMs, it is not
allowed on our phones.
Distributing smartphones to real people as part of our research involves collecting information from your phone, which
sometimes involves information considered private. Thus, it is critical that you understand what data is collected and
how it is used.
Protecting you is one of our priorities. Without participants like you, PhoneLab cannot exist. For this reason, participant protection
has always been a PhoneLab priority. We utilize several mechanisms to make PhoneLab participation safe:
- The operation of PhoneLab will be transparent. This means that at any point of time, if you want to know what
information has been collected, how it is used, or even where it is stored, you will be able to review it.
- Research studies will require IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval. Getting IRB approval is common in
whenever research studies involve human subjects. The approval process
requires each experiment to be reviewed by a group of experts to ensure that the experiment protects the rights
of the participants and is safe. This process is per-institution-for example, UB has a website (http://www.
research.buffalo.edu/rsp/default.cfm) that explains UB's procedure. Each of the PhoneLab research
experiments will require the approval of the experimenter's IRB or equivalent as part of the PhoneLabs protection mechanism for participants.
Types of Information Collected
There are two types of information collected from your phone.
- operational data: the first purpose of collecting phone information is to operate PhoneLab.
The following information will be collected:
- Phone status: we will periodically check if the phone is operating properly to maintain the health of the PhoneLab testbed.
- Phone location: we will periodically record where the phone is based on its GPS and WiFi information.
This information will be used strictly for operational reasons-such as locating lost or broken phones. This will not be released to anybody
outside of the PhoneLab team.
- Phone battery level: it is important to minimize any potential disruption that PhoneLab software might
cause for normal phone usage. For this purpose, we will monitor the battery level of your phone to avoid
performing any task that can potentially drain much battery.
- Application logs: each smartphone apps usually generates information, called logs, as they run.
As part of the effort to ensure that your phone operates properly, we will collect these logs to use them for
- Research data: the second purpose of collecting phone information is to conduct research. Since PhoneLab
is an open-access testbed that researchers inside and outside of UB can use, it is impossible
to foresee all information that future researchers will be interested in collecting. For this reason we will communicate with
you regarding what information each experiment will collect and ask your permission for each experiment. Before
you agree to participate in an experiment, you will have an opportunity to review it and decline participation if
you are not comfortable with the information it collects. While we do expect you to participate in some PhoneLab experiments, you do
not have to participate in any particular PhoneLab experiment.
It is your responsibility to care for your PhoneLab phone just as you would your own. PhoneLab will work with Sprint to replace Nexus 5 smartphones
for a $200 fee. If your phone is broken, lost or stolen, you will be responsible for this replacement charges.