New Article: ‘User acceptance of location-tracking technologies in health research: Implications for study design and data quality’

In the past several years I have been a participant in an exciting project to apply big data methods to the problem of neighborhood-scale health disparaties. In March, one of the methodological papers arising from this project was published, focused on our experiments using GPS devices to track the location of study participants. Here is the abstract:

Research regarding place and health has undergone a revolution due to the availability of consumer-focused location-tracking devices that reveal fine-grained details of human mobility. Such research requires that participants accept such devices enough to use them in their daily lives. There is a need for a theoretically grounded understanding of acceptance of different location-tracking technology options, and its research implications. Guided by an extended Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT), we conducted a 28-day field study comparing 21 chronically ill people’s acceptance of two leading, consumer-focused location-tracking technologies deployed for research purposes: (1) a location-enabled smartphone, and (2) a GPS watch/activity tracker. Participants used both, and completed two surveys and qualitative interviews. Findings revealed that all participants exerted effort to facilitate data capture, such as by incorporating devices into daily routines and developing workarounds to keep devices functioning. Nevertheless, the smartphone was perceived to be significantly easier and posed fewer usability challenges for participants than the watch. Older participants found the watch significantly more difficult to use. For both devices, effort expectancy was significantly associated with future willingness to participate in research although prosocial motivations overcame some concerns. Social influence, performance expectancy and use behavior were significantly associated with intentions to use the devices in participants’ personal lives. Data gathered via the smartphone was significantly more complete than data gathered via the watch, primarily due to usability challenges. To make longer-term participation in location tracking research a reality, and to achieve complete data capture, researchers must minimize the effort involved in participation; this requires usable devices. For long-term location-tracking studies using similar devices, findings indicate that only smartphone-based tracking is up to the challenge.

Read the full article here (non-university affiliates can get access via your local library if needed)

Author: Rob Goodspeed