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New Horizons in Sensor Development


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2012 - Volume 44 - Issue 1S - p S24–S31
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182399c7d
Original Articles

Background Accelerometry and other sensing technologies are important tools for physical activity measurement. Engineering advances have allowed developers to transform clunky, uncomfortable, and conspicuous monitors into relatively small, ergonomic, and convenient research tools. New devices can be used to collect data on overall physical activity and, in some cases, posture, physiological state, and location, for many days or weeks from subjects during their everyday lives. In this review article, we identify emerging trends in several types of monitoring technologies and gaps in the current state of knowledge.

Best Practices The only certainty about the future of activity-sensing technologies is that researchers must anticipate and plan for change. We propose a set of best practices that may accelerate adoption of new devices and increase the likelihood that data being collected and used today will be compatible with new data sets and methods likely to appear on the horizon.

Future Directions We describe several technology-driven trends, ranging from continued miniaturization of devices that provide gross summary information about activity levels and energy expenditure to new devices that provide highly detailed information about the specific type, amount, and location of physical activity. Some devices will take advantage of consumer technologies, such as mobile phones, to detect and respond to physical activity in real time, creating new opportunities in measurement, remote compliance monitoring, data-driven discovery, and intervention.

1College of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University, Boston, MA; 2University of Washington, Seattle, WA; and 3San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

Address for correspondence: Stephen S. Intille, Ph.D., College of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115; E-mail:

©2012The American College of Sports Medicine