Internet-of-Things Skills Among the General Population: Task-Based Performance Test Using Activity Trackers

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Background: The health internet-of-things (IoT) can potentially provide insights into the present health condition, potential pitfalls, and support of a healthier lifestyle. However, to enjoy these benefits, people need skills to use the IoT. These IoT skills are expected to differ across the general population, thereby causing a new digital divide.

Objective: This study aims to assess whether a sample of the general Dutch population can use health IoT by focusing on data and strategic IoT skills. Furthermore, we determine the role of gender, age, and education, and traditional internet skills.

Methods: From April 1, 2019, to December 12, 2019, 100 individuals participated in this study. Participants were recruited via digital flyers and door-to-door canvassing. A selective quota sample was divided into equal subsamples of gender, age, and education. Additional inclusion criteria were smartphone possession and no previous experience of using activity trackers. This study was conducted in 3 waves over a period of 2 weeks. In wave 1, a questionnaire was administered to measure the operational, mobile, and information internet skills of the participants, and the participants were introduced to the activity tracker. After 1 week of getting acquainted with the activity tracker, a task-based performance test was conducted in wave 2 to measure the levels of data IoT skills and the strategic IoT skill component—action plan construction. A week after the participants were asked to use the activity tracker more deliberately, a performance test was then conducted in wave 3 to measure the level of the strategic IoT skill component—action plan execution.

Results: The participants successfully completed 54% (13.5/25) of the data IoT skill tasks. Regarding strategic IoT tasks, the completion rates were 56% (10.1/18) for action plan construction and 43% (3.9/9) for action plan execution. None of the participants were able to complete all the data IoT skill tasks, and none of the participants were able to complete all the strategic IoT skill tasks regarding action plan construction or its execution. Age and education were important determinants of the IoT skill levels of the participants, except for the ability to execute an action plan strategically. Furthermore, the level of information internet skills of the participants contributed to their level of data IoT skills.

Conclusions: This study found that data and strategic IoT skills of Dutch citizens are underdeveloped with regard to health purposes. In particular, those who could benefit the most from health IoT were those who had the most trouble using it, that is, the older and lower-educated individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22532
Pages (from-to)e22532
JournalJMIR human factors
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2020


  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Activity tracker
  • Mobile phone
  • skills
  • Digital divide
  • Performance test


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