Activity trackers: a critical review

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2014:205:558-62.


The wearable consumer health devices can be mainly divided into activity trackers, sleep trackers, and stress management devices. These devices are widely advertised to provide positive effects on the user's daily behaviours and overall heath. However, objective evidence supporting these claims appears to be missing. The goal of this study was to review available evidence pertaining to performance of activity trackers. A comprehensive review of available information has been conducted for seven representative devices and the validity of marketing claims was assessed. The device assessment was based on availability of verified output metrics, theoretical frameworks, systematic evaluation, and FDA clearance. The review identified critical absence of supporting evidence of advertised functions and benefits for the majority of the devices. Six out of seven devices did not provide any information on sensor accuracy and output validity at all. Possible underestimation or overestimation of specific health indicators reported to consumers was not clearly disclosed to the public. Furthermore, significant limitations of these devices which can be categorized into user restrictions, user responsibilities and company disclaimers could not be easily found or comprehended by unsophisticated users and may represent a serious health hazard.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actigraphy / instrumentation*
  • Actigraphy / methods
  • Artifacts*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Humans
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / instrumentation*
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity