Smartwatches are being increasingly used in research to monitor heart rate (HR). However, it is debatable whether the data from smartwatches are of high enough quality to be applied in assessing the health impacts of air pollutants. The objective of this study was to assess whether smartwatches are useful complements to certified medical devices for assessing PM2.5 health impacts. Smartwatches and medical devices were used to measure HR for 7 and 2 days consecutively, respectively, for 49 subjects in 2020 in Taiwan. Their associations with PM2.5 from low-cost sensing devices were assessed. Good correlations in HR were found between smartwatches and certified medical devices (rs > 0.6, except for exercise, commuting, and worshipping). The health damage coefficients obtained from smartwatches (0.282% increase per 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5) showed the same direction, with a difference of only 8.74% in magnitude compared to those obtained from certified medical devices. Additionally, with large sample sizes, the health impacts during high-intensity activities were assessed. Our work demonstrates that smartwatches are useful complements to certified medical devices in PM2.5 health assessment, which can be replicated in developing countries.
Keywords: particles and health; personal heart rate monitoring; photoplethysmography; portable PM sensing devices; smartwatches; wearable smart devices; wearables.