Research Projects

Studying the long-term acceptance of personal health informatics tools

Start date: 


Funded by FCT (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology) under the Carnegie Mellon | Portugal Early Bird 2013 program (CMU|Pt EPB), this project seeks to understand and design for prolonged engagement with wearable activity trackers. 

Triggered by recent advances in sensor technology and ultra low power microcontrollers, the market of wearable activity trackers, such as Fitbit, Jawbone up, andNike+ Fuelband, has grossed over $230M in 2013 and is expected to continue its growth. With chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases accounting for nearly 40% of mortality cases and 75% of health care costs, and obesity alone accounting for an estimated 12 percent of the health spending growth in the U.S., wearable activity trackers promise a new health care model that stresses patient-driven prevention.

Figure 1. Fitbit, a wearable activity tracker that senses individuals' physical activity and encourages behavior change through self-monitoring (e.g., through a dashboard that provides summaries of the data collected such as steps taken a day, a month) as well conditioning (e.g., through a number of rewards, such as badges representing achievements, and competitions with one’s peers).

Yet, researchers have raised concerns over the plausible wear-off of any initial effects on users’ behaviors. A recent survey has found that over a third of owners of wearable activity trackers have discarded them within six months of use. It remains unclear whether this is because healthy routines became established or whether the trackers lost their appeal over time.

The goal of the project is to understand the factors that drive users’ long-term engagement with wearable activity trackers, and to design new solutions for prolonged engagement. 


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