September 2012 Archives

Physical activity tracking technologies have recently become more affordable, fashionable (or discrete), and widely available, while their accuracy has improved. This consumer-friendly shift makes use of these devices in personal health research seem promising. But most of the technical and user experience documentation describing these devices is created for a consumer audience.

Researchers are interested in additional criteria, such as:

  • Do they comply with standard development technologies employed in research systems (such as web-based programming languages and data acquisition protocols)?
  • Are they "usable" by study participants who will rely on them to capture activity data in a range of scenarios?
The UbiComp 2012 Workshop  Evaluating Off-the-Shelf Technologies for Personal Health Monitoring was a great opportunity to meet talented researchers using personal health monitoring technologies in their studies.

The morning session included presentations on wearable physical activity and sleep trackers  (Fitbit, Garmin Forerunner, Zeo, BodyMedia Armband & Actigraph, Droid Activity Tracking Applications). The afternoon session covered location tracking, Kinect-based drink monitoring, and mobile applications for medication tracking and stress reduction.

I presented a comparison of the FitBit and Garmin Forerunner activity monitors (recording and displaying distance, pace and/or cadence information, and physiological information such as current and average heart rate and calories burned). 

Workshop Study Proposal

During this productive workshop, we shared insights into how well each of these technologies can be integrated into research systems and studies and we formed a preliminary taxonomy of metrics and methods for measuring them.