J Biomed Inform 2019 May 23;93:103153. Epub 2019 Mar 23.
School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA. Electronic address:
Wearable activity trackers (WAT) are electronic monitoring devices that enable users to track and monitor their health-related physical fitness metrics including steps taken, level of activity, walking distance, heart rate, and sleep patterns. Despite the proliferation of these devices in various contexts of use and rising research interests, there is limited understanding of the broad research landscape. The purpose of this systematic review is therefore to synthesize the existing wealth of research on WAT, and to provide a comprehensive summary based on common themes and approaches. This article includes academic work published between 2013 and 2017 in PubMed, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, ACM Digital Library, and Google Scholar. A final list of 463 articles was analyzed for this review. Topic modeling methods were used to identify six key themes (topics) of WAT research, namely: (1) Technology Focus, (2) Patient Treatment and Medical Settings, (3) Behavior Change, (4) Acceptance and Adoption (Abandonment), (5) Self-monitoring Data Centered, and (6) Privacy. We take an interdisciplinary approach to wearable activity trackers to propose several new research questions. The most important research gap we identify is to attempt to understand the rich human-information interaction that is enabled by WAT adoption.