Online Program

Using commercial physical activity sensors in health research: Products and recommendations

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 10:30 a.m. - 10:50 a.m.

Iana M. Simeonov, UCSF mLabs, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Consumer products aimed at measuring, tracking, collecting and analyzing data about physical activity, or lack thereof, are enjoying explosive popularity and show potential to transform and improve health behavior. These “wearables” are small, largely unobtrusive sensors with remarkable computing power and real-time, actionable data. Dominant products include the Fitbit, Nike Fuelband, Addidas miCoach, and Polar and Garmin sports watches.

These products have mobile apps or websites that interpret and visualize data in vivid detail for the individual user. Researchers are increasingly interested in employing these user-friendly devices in health-related interventions, however, the products are geared towards the individual user rather than the researcher seeking aggregate data. These trackers also vary in price, usability, and use different algorithms to determine activity, sleep and calories burned.

Collecting data for multiple subjects can be highly challenging and although some product manufactures offer an API (Application Programming Interface, a means to communicate with their software) interfaces can be difficult to use or require a software developer.

We tested and assessed the viability for research use of nearly every physical activity monitor currently available. Our goal is to provide an overview of activity sensors, share recommendations and best practices for software solutions in health research.

Using technology to track activity levels, habits and lifestyle is increasingly popular and shows great promise for positive behavior change. Harnessing the power of these “quantified self” gadgets has the potential to improve both research methods and outcomes.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the uses of wearable sensors in research Identify the optimum sensor for their intervention Discuss key factors related to integrating sensor products within interventions

Keyword(s): Technology, Physical Activity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Over 10 years of experience in research, program and development for underserved populations, multi-year APHA, NIH and CDC conference presenter, responsible for insights and innovation in mobile technology for research and practice at one of the top 5 medical schools in the U.S.Creator of bilingual text-messaging campaigns, online games, apps, digital and mobile tools for public health programs and projects nationwide.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.