Participant Experience Using GPS Devices in a Food Environment and Nutrition Study

Julianne Williams, Nick Townsend, Glen Duncan, Adam Drewnowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have emerged as potentially useful tools for research on the spatial contexts of food purchases and consumption, but limited studies have assessed users’ experiences using GPS to track diet behaviors in free-living settings. This was a pilot study conducted in Seattle, Washington, in the fall of 2011. Ten university students (8 female, 2 male, mean age = 27.9, SD = 4.8) tracked their food purchases and consumption over 3 days using a Wintec WBT 202 GPS device and traditional paper-based methods. We compared the frequency of reports using these methods and assessed the participants’ experiences via interviews and product evaluation questionnaires. For most participants, the GPS method captured more records than the paper-based methods. Users appreciated the device’s compact size and the simplicity of its design but frequently complained about the device’s short battery life, problems carrying the device, difficulty maintaining satellite connections, and problems remembering to use the device. This study highlights the importance of investigating participant experiences with technologies before deploying them on a larger scale. A number of key characteristics should be considered in the development of such devices to optimize the user’s experience without sacrificing accuracy of the data collected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-427
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition
Issue number3
Early online date25 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2016


  • diet
  • food environment
  • food purchases
  • GPS
  • obesity
  • user experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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