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How technology can enhance understanding of user behaviour and influence user research

We believe it is possible to uncover hidden insights using emerging technologies including social media, wearable technology and leveraging the connected world we live in. 

Social Media

Social Intelligence

Social media records people’s lives and their affinity with others. 1.5 billion pieces of content are produced every hour. This provides a huge source of personalised information and unprovoked opinions about the medical devices they use and their thoughts about their conditions. Social intelligence (SI), using key words from comments, can build a rich picture of people networks such as their gender, location, age, association, hobbies and much more.

Applications and PA case studies:

  • We’ve used SI to find patient and doctor sentiments on different medical procedures
  • We are using SI to uncover feelings about a pharmaceutical company and this could easily be applied to products, medicines and devices
  • We’ve predicted shopping trends and behaviours
  • We’ve uncovered what people really think about new technologies
  • We’ve identified clinical study participants.

Wearable technology

Wearable Technology

In the last few years there has been a huge explosion of consumer based products and apps that measure many aspects of human performance e.g. how well we sleep, our activity levels, heart rate levels, other objects we interact with, concentration levels and even our emotional state. Sensor technology is low cost, easy to incorporate and offers a huge opportunity in user research to measure and quantify performance or mine insights that were previously unavailable.

Applications and PA case studies:

  • Monitoring control of use, e.g. through accelerometer-based devices
  • Monitoring whether people are really doing what they say they are doing via activity sensors or programmable smart chips
  • Identifying pinch points in procedures using ECG and heart rate
  • Testing concentration during IFU studies
  • Seeing people’s non-verbal responses to products, e.g. delight, stress etc
  • Ensuring a simulated situation is representative, e.g. testing products for anaphylactic shock

Connected World

Connected World

Mobile communication offers a huge opportunity to connect with study participants remotely. We can interact with them via virtual world such as augmented reality or specifically tailored apps and games to mine new insights from hard to reach subjects. The advent of smart glasses such as Google Glass also offers a socially acceptable way of directly seeing what a user sees and even direct and ask questions discretely to them in the field.

Applications and PA case studies:

  • Gamification diary study app to engage children and get unbiased feedback
  • Smart glasses combined with wearable bio-monitoring to view surgical procedures and see what the surgeon sees (and feels)
  • Remote global ethnography
  • Discussion with difficult to reach patients, e.g. patients suffering from Cystic Fibrosis.

Adding richness to studies

Smart use of technology in usability studies and user research is not new and the ability to measure human performance, physiology or even emotional state and crunch large amounts of data has been around for many years. However, with recent advances in mobile communication technology and consumer appetite for social media, advanced forms of technologies and apps are far more readily available for consumer use. This has created a great opportunity for the way we can collect new forms of data to add richness to the studies and research we run at PA and to enhance our usability research.

Generating richer insights

Breakout opportunities in market research through the application of new technologies have clear benefits and enable richer insights to be gathered around product use and patient behaviour.

PA is uniquely placed by drawing upon its combination of in-house technology and design. PA’s human factor team have gathered consumer and patient insights over many years from multi-sector work. Our human factors philosophy is integral with the way we work whether designing consumer products, medical devices, IFUs or packaging. Enhanced usability delivers great consumer experience and improves user compliance.

Our human factors services cover ethnography, VOC insight gathering, consumer research, ergonomic studies and usability studies through to regulatory submission.

Data from:,

To find out more about our work in developing and utilising new technologies, please contact us now.

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