Using smartphones to collect time-activity data for long-term personal-level air pollution exposure assessment

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Because of the spatiotemporal variability of people and air pollutants within cities, it is important to account for a person's movements over time when estimating personal air pollution exposure. This study aimed to examine the feasibility of using smartphones to collect personal-level time-activity data. Using Skyhook Wireless's hybrid geolocation module, we developed “Apolux” (Air, Pollution, Exposure), an AndroidTM smartphone application designed to track participants’ location in 5-min intervals for 3 months. From 42 participants, we compared Apolux data with contemporaneous data from two self-reported, 24-h time-activity diaries. About three-fourths of measurements were collected within 5 min of each other (mean = 74.14%), and 79% of participants reporting constantly powered-on smartphones (n = 38) had a daily average data collection frequency of <10 min. Apolux's degree of temporal resolution varied across manufacturers, mobile networks, and the time of day that data collection occurred. The discrepancy between diary points and corresponding Apolux data was 342.3 m (Euclidian distance) and varied across mobile networks. This study's high compliance and feasibility for data collection demonstrates the potential for integrating smartphone-based time-activity data into long-term and large-scale air pollution exposure studies.

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