Memory-Aware Active Learning in Mobile Sensing Systems

Zhila Esna Ashari, Naomi S. Chaytor, Diane J. Cook, Hassan Ghasemzadeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We propose a novel active learning framework for activity recognition using wearable sensors. Our work is unique in that it takes limitations of the oracle into account when selecting sensor data for annotation by the oracle. Our approach is inspired by human-beings' limited capacity to respond to prompts on their mobile device. This capacity constraint is manifested not only in the number of queries that a person can respond to in a given time-frame but also in the time lag between the query issuance and the oracle response. We introduce the notion of mindful active learning and propose a computational framework, called EMMA, to maximize the active learning performance taking informativeness of sensor data, query budget, and human memory into account. We formulate this optimization problem, propose an approach to model memory retention, discuss the complexity of the problem, and propose a greedy heuristic to solve the optimization problem. Additionally, we design an approach to perform mindful active learning in batch where multiple sensor observations are selected simultaneously for querying the oracle. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach using three publicly available activity datasets and by simulating oracles with various memory strengths. We show that the activity recognition accuracy ranges from 21 to 97 percent depending on memory strength, query budget, and difficulty of the machine learning task. Our results also indicate that EMMA achieves an accuracy level that is, on average, 13.5 percent higher than the case when only informativeness of the sensor data is considered for active learning. Moreover, we show that the performance of our approach is at most 20 percent less than the experimental upper-bound and up to 80 percent higher than the experimental lower-bound. To evaluate the performance of EMMA for batch active learning, we design two instantiations of EMMA to perform active learning in batch mode. We show that these algorithms improve the algorithm training time at the cost of a reduced accuracy in performance. Another finding in our work is that integrating clustering into the process of selecting sensor observations for batch active learning improves the activity learning performance by 11.1 percent on average, mainly due to reducing the redundancy among the selected sensor observations. We observe that mindful active learning is most beneficial when the query budget is small and/or the oracle's memory is weak. This observation emphasizes advantages of utilizing mindful active learning strategies in mobile health settings that involve interaction with older adults and other populations with cognitive impairments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-195
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Active learning
  • activity recognition
  • cognitive factors
  • human-in-the-loop learning
  • machine learning
  • memory retention
  • wearable computing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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