Usability of a Personal Air Pollution Monitor: Design-Feedback Iterative Cycle Study

Background: There is considerable evidence that exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution is associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes. However, true exposure-outcome associations are hampered by measurement issues, including compliance and exposure misclassification.

Objective: This paper describes the use of the design-feedback iterative cycle to improve the design and usability of a new portable PM2.5 monitor for use in an epidemiologic study of personal air pollution measures.

Methods: In total, 10 adults carried on their person a prefabricated PM2.5 monitor for 1 week over 3 waves of the iterative cycle. At the end of each wave, they participated in a 30-minute moderated focus group and completed 2 validated questionnaires on usability and views on research. The topics addressed included positives and negatives of the monitor, charging and battery life, desired features, and changes to the monitor from each previous wave. They also completed a log to record device wear time each day. The log also provided space to record any issues that may have arisen with the device or for general comments during the week of collection.

Results: The major focus group topics included device size, noise, battery and charge time, and method for carrying the device. These topics formed the basis of iterative design changes; by the final cycle, the device was reasonably smaller, quieter, held a longer charge, and was more convenient to carry. System usability scores improved systematically across each wave (median scores of 50-66 on a 100-point scale), as did median daily wear time (approximately 749-789 minutes).

Conclusions: Both qualitative and quantitative measures showed an improvement in device usability over the 3 waves. This study demonstrates how the design-feedback iterative cycle can be used to improve the usability of devices manufactured for use in large epidemiologic studies on personal air pollution exposures.

Duncan GE, Seto E, Avery AR, Oie M, Carvlin G, Austin E, Shirai JH, He J, Ockerman B, Novosselov I. Usability of a Personal Air Pollution Monitor: Design-Feedback Iterative Cycle Study. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2018 Dec 21;6(12):e12023. PMC6320397.