Performance of GPS-devices for environmental exposure assessment

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Integration of individual time-location patterns with spatially resolved exposure maps enables a more accurate estimation of personal exposures to environmental pollutants than using estimates at fixed locations. Current global positioning system (GPS) devices can be used to track an individual's location. However, information on GPS-performance in environmental exposure assessment is largely missing. We therefore performed two studies. First, a commute-study, where the commute of 12 individuals was tracked twice, testing GPS-performance for five transport modes and two wearing modes. Second, an urbantracking study, where one individual was tracked repeatedly through different areas, focused on the effect of building obstruction on GPS-performance. The median error from the true path for walking was 3.7 m, biking 2.9 m, train 4.8 m, bus 4.9 m, and car 3.3 m. Errors were larger in a high-rise commercial area (median error = 7.1 m) compared with a low-rise residential area (median error = 2.2 m). Thus, GPS-performance largely depends on the transport mode and urban built-up. Although ˜ 85% of all errors were < 10 m, almost 1% of the errors were > 50 m. Modern GPS-devices are useful tools for environmental exposure assessment, but large GPS-errors might affect estimates of exposures with high spatial variability.

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