2020 – A standardized validity assessment protocol for physiological signals from wearable technology

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Title: A standardized validity assessment protocol for physiological signals from wearable technology: Methodological underpinnings and an application to the E4 biosensor
Authors: H. G. van Lier, M. E. Pieterse, A. Garde, M. G. Postel, H. A. de Haan, M. M. R. Vollenbroek-Hutten, J. M. Schraagen & M. L. Noordzij
Published: Behavior Research Methods volume 52, pages607–629(2020)
Link: https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-019-01263-9


Wearable physiological measurement devices for ambulatory research with novel sensing technology are introduced with ever increasing frequency, requiring fast, standardized, and rigorous validation of the physiological signals measured by these devices and their derived parameters. At present, there is a lack of consensus on a standardized protocol or framework with which to test the validity of this new technology, leading to the use of various (often unfit) methods. This study introduces a comprehensive validity assessment protocol for physiological signals (electrodermal activity and cardiovascular activity) and investigates the validity of the E4 wearable (an example of such a new device) on the three levels proposed by the protocol: (1) the signal level, with a cross-correlation; (2) the parameter level, with Bland–Altman plots; and (3) the event level, with the detection of physiological changes due to external stressor levels via event difference plots. The results of the protocol show that the E4 wearable is valid for heart rate, RMSSD, and SD at the parameter and event levels, and for the total amplitude of skin conductance responses at the event level when studying strong sustained stressors. These findings are in line with the prior literature and demonstrate the applicability of the protocol. The validity assessment protocol proposed in this study provides a comprehensive, standardized, and feasible method for assessment of the quality of physiological data coming from new wearable (sensor) technology aimed at ambulatory research.

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