Wearable devices are increasingly bought to track and measure health and sports performance: from the number of steps walked each day to a person’s metabolic efficiency, from the quality of brain function to the quantity of oxygen inhaled while asleep. But the truth is we know very little about how well these sensors and machines work — let alone whether they deliver useful information.
“Despite the fact that we live in an era of ‘big data,’ we know surprisingly little about the suitability or effectiveness of these devices,” says lead author Dr Jonathan Peake from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia. “Only five percent of these devices have been formally validated.”
The authors reviewed information on devices used both by everyday people desiring to keep track of their physical and psychological health and by athletes training to achieve certain performance levels. The devices — ranging from so-called wrist trackers to smart garments and body sensors designed to track our body’s vital signs and responses to stress and environmental influences — fall into six categories: