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Date: Jun 25, 2020

Innovation Award for Startup of the University of Bonn "Murmuras" develops software for behavioral research. Successful in the "Digital Innovation" competition

The start-up "Murmuras" of the University of Bonn has won a prize for its software solution in the "Digital Innovation" competition of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy. The new app and platform solution offers psychologists, sociologists and other human scientists new possibilities for conducting smartphones-based studies. The startup is an outcome of the Menthal Project of the University of Bonn, in which the mobile phone usage data of more than 700,000 participants have been examined for scientific purposes since 2014. The founding team of Ionut Andone, Konrad Blaszkiewicz, Qais Kasem and Alexander Markowetz will receive a prize money of 7,000 euros as well as coaching and webinar offers.

Until recently, the team was also supported by an EXIST start-up grant. Murmuras' software enables researchers to independently record the smartphone behavior of study participants in detail via app and to analyze the data on the platform. On the basis of this data, context-related questions can also be asked as push messages - for example, in the case of increased WhatsApp usage: "What is your emotional state?” Possible areas of application for the technology include research into mental illness, including depression, mobility behavior, private consumption or the use of social media. The start-up is already cooperating with several universities, including those in Tübingen, Salzburg, Witten/Herdecke and Vechta. Murmuras has also been working with Prof. Dr. Ute Nöthlings from the Institute of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Bonn for a long time.

Alexander Markowetz, former junior professor for computer science at the University of Bonn, says: "Many academic institutions, students and researchers lack the technical know-how and financial power to conduct such smartphone-based studies on their own ". The company name derives from "murmuration", the complex swarming behavior of starlings. "In a similar way, Murmuras investigates the dynamics of human behavior of large cohorts," adds Konrad Blaszkiewicz, doctoral student in computer science at the University of Bonn.

The starting point of the start-up is the Menthal App, a free software developed in 2014 by scientists at the University of Bonn to give smartphone users feedback on their mobile phone habits. How much time do users spend on the phone every day? Which applications do they use most often? More than 700,000 mobile phone users took part in the project. "There were numerous inquiries from researchers who wanted to use the same technology - this was ultimately the impetus for the spin-off," reports Ionut Andone, also a doctoral student in computer science at the University of Bonn. The Menthal Project also provides one of the largest data sets on human behavior for academic research.

The team at the “Transfer Center enaCom” of the University of Bonn supported the start-up from the very beginning. "In the age of digital epidemiology, the Murmuras software offers a broad basis for the most diverse applications," says Rüdiger Wolf. "The potential in this field is enormous."


Qais Kasem
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