Field trials are commonly intended to validate products in a real-world environment where the product is being tested by the end-users in a real-life context rather than under artificial conditions, usually supplemented with a monitoring procedure from researchers. Even though it can seem a simple task, monitoring the performance of either the participants or the product itself can end up being a challenging task if there are essential tools missing (e.g. a clear visualization of the data) or considering that following up on them everyday is not a practical nor an efficient way on how to do it. The normal procedure of monitoring these field trials always involve: firstly, the collection of data related to each user which can be achieved through a vast number of ways from daily/weekly questionnaires to sensors. And secondly, the visualization and interpretation of the information stored and transformed. Assuming that the collection of data is already being done successfully, there is still the need of displaying it. As a result of this, and considering the Web as the target platform, mostly because it grants accessibility as well as the simplicity in use and developing, a new Web application would be demanded whenever a field trial starts.
To overcome this problem, a solution must involve an application able to represent and visualize data. Hence, the main goal of this work is to create an application with the endowed capacity of being adapted to a heterogeneity of projects and that, as an end result, can support researchers in the process of monitoring field trials in a faster time pace. The proposed solution follows a 3-tier architecture, including the definition of an intermediate component — the mediator, responsible for offering services through an API to the client while requesting data from the database provider. The mediator acknowledges information relative to the database such as the connection information, data structure and also, about the organization of the components as part of the user interfaces, through the definition of a configuration based on YAML (YAML Ain’t Markup Language).
The validation of the application is divided into two stages: the first aiming to validate the user interfaces and accomplished with the aid of a usability test comprising a total of five participants. The last, having in mind the validation of the whole application by applying it to two different case studies. From the analysis of the results, in terms of the designed interface, they were satisfactory although with a few minor design problems identified. On the other hand, considering the case studies and that they covered most of the features, we were able to prove with the work developed, that it is possible to building an application from a predefined configuration, having a mediator enabling the different components to work seamlessly.
Author: Pedro Lima
Type: MSc thesis
Partner: Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto