Ed. Note: This article was updated to clarify that Fitabase offers access to Fitbit-generated data from study participants who have specifically consented; it does not offer access to the entire dataset of all Fitbit users.
In the past, I’ve often wondered about the massive databases of information that activity trackers had access to from users. Such data might be an intriguing source for all sorts of studies, but for the most part has not been publically available, until now. Fitbit, one very popular wearable devices manufacturer, has recently announced a way for researchers to engage users of their popular fitness devices in medical research.
The Fitbit Research Library can be accessed on Fitabase, which is Fitbit’s research partner. If you’re looking for a prior research study that has incorporated the use of a Fitbit, you can find it on this online public resource. That could be particularly helpful to other researchers who are looking to incorporate these devices into their own studies, hopefully learning from the prior experiences of others. Additionally, and perhaps even more exciting, Fitbase is a portal for researchers to sign up for access to Fitbit-generated data from participants in their research studies. This kind of resource could really simplify integrated the range of Fitbit devices into clinical research studies.
Various studies such as the assessment of sleep quality estimates or the validation of Fitbit use during treadmill walking are a few examples. At least 150+ trials and studies are showcased on the Fitabase site, available to everyday users and even the curious individuals who are considering the benefits of an activity tracker to have a more coherent view point of what the Fitbit does – despite ongoing controversy regarding the accuracy of their device’s monitoring.
There are numerous unique studies that focus on topics, which vary from autism to activity tracking regarding pregnant women, and even forestry workers. There are also trials that are geared toward specific age groups and health conditions such as tracker monitoring of the elderly, and even patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Fitbit has also released their own study via Springbuk that monitored the activity of over 2,000 employees over the course of two years, and showed how in result the cost of healthcare had also decreased for those who had opted in to the Fitbit tracker program.
There is increasing evidence on the impact on the lives of individuals who sport activity trackers and the benefits it can possibly have in all walks of life. As we have covered recently, it’s still an area with some mixed data, and continues to be one with exciting possibilities.