What is Wearable Technology?

Wearable technology refers to devices that can be worn by users, taking the form of an accessory such as jewelry, sunglasses, a backpack, or even actual items of clothing like shoes or a jacket. Often discreet, a person who comes into contact with someone wearing a device may not even realize that the article of clothing is a piece of technology. The benefit of wearable technology is that it can conveniently integrate tools, devices, power needs, and connectivity within a user’s everyday life and movements. Google's Project Glass features one of the most talked about current examples —the device resembles a pair of glasses but with a single lens. A user can literally see information about their surroundings displayed in front of them, such as the names of friends who are in close proximity, or nearby places to access data that would be relevant to a research project. Wearable technology is still very new, but one can easily imagine accessories such as gloves that enhance the user’s ability to feel or control something they are not directly touching. Wearable technology already in the market includes clothing that charges batteries via decorative solar cells, allows interactions with a user’s devices via sewn in controls or touch pads, or collects data on a person's exercise regimen from sensors embedded in the heels of their shoes.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to academic and research libraries?

  • The smart watch market as an extension of the smart phone could be ver interesting. Eg. could be a smart watch the library card, the guide to the book, a link to the electronic version of a book which can be added to my personal library - patrick.danowski patrick.danowski Apr 6, 2015
  • - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Apr 7, 2015Wearable technology might work well at several levels: as another way for library staff and library users to connect/interact in the delivery of library services; as a way of connecting library staff and library users to formal and informal learning opportunities (e.g., live-streaming of learning opps from library learning spaces via wearable technology); and as a resource made available on loan to library users (something that some academic libraries are already offering) - janice.welburn janice.welburn Apr 20, 2015
  • Seems valuable to have instant access to micro-credentials/competencies that "unlock" services or capabilities for certain users. We currently have actual locks on power tools in a library maker lab or certain limits on pro-level video equipment available for limited checkout. Badging systems could also provide demonstration of completed safety or proficiency training opening access. - dicksonk dicksonk Apr 9, 2015
  • Huge Fitbit fanatic here. Imagine the evolution of exercise/health trackers with things like the Apple Watch and what we connections we might be able to make when the devices come in to our buildings. I like the idea "unlocking" access... would badging fit here too? "I climbed all ten stories in the library..." - mstephens7 mstephens7 Apr 18, 2015~
  • Wearable technologies have the potential to generate data that students and researchers will need to analyze. It is possible to imagine a faculty member requiring students to record their day with a body cam and then analyze the data produced by the video. These new methods of student "research" and learning will likely be areas that libraries can (and maybe will need to) support. - janice.welburn janice.welburn Apr 20, 2015
  • Exciting technology, but the personal nature of wearables makes it difficult to see the relevance to academic libraries. Wearables like smartwatches connected to smartphones could be extended to work with library apps though. - erik.stattin erik.stattin Apr 26, 2015
  • I think there may be a role for libraries in managing the databases that will store wearable technology data and in developing the analytics that make sense of the data. - shines shines Apr 27, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • I think with the apple watch the smart watch market would be the most interested marked to watch in the next years (certainly also the success of the people) - patrick.danowski patrick.danowski Apr 6, 2015 - Sandy.hirsh Sandy.hirsh Apr 19, 2015
  • - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Apr 7, 2015The changing time frame for widespread use of wearable technology in libraries probably needs to be re-examined a bit. Until Google pulled back its Explorer edition of Glass earlier this year to continue working on it rather than pushing for more widespread use, it appeared that Glass was going to be a tool that soon be augmenting learning opportunities through libraries and other learning organizations; the continuing widespread attention given to wearable technology, and the levels of experimentation library staff and others are engaging in suggests that there still are going to be tremendously important and interesting applications--but adoption may take a bit longer than many of us were anticipating even six months ago. - dianeb dianeb Apr 9, 2015 I agree that I think the timeframe for more uses for wearable technology is longer. I was surprised to see that Google Glass didn't get the adoption that Google had hoped and then they pulled it. I think wearable technology has great potential but it's still probably 3-5 years off for really good integration into libraries.
  • One of the features of wearable technology is the owner of the technology has the data set ... where researchers wish to use the data set research ethics permissions would need to be sought and managed - particularly if the research data set is to be stored in the collection. There is also the possibility that students and researchers will use their own collected data to inform library management of the need for change (eg. distances traversed to reach commonly used collections and services; impact of wait times and conflicts over access to services on student well being (eg. bloodpressure etc.) - mylee.joseph mylee.joseph Apr 19, 2015

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on academic and research libraries?

  • - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Apr 7, 2015As mentioned in my response to the first item above, I (already) see it being used as a training-teaching-learning tool among our more adventurous colleagues and also see it as another way for library staff and library users to interact in the delivery of library services and in providing access to library resources. Scott Stein's in-depth Apple Watch review for CNET (http://www.cnet.com/products/apple-watch/) includes sections on "Siri on your wrist" and "Communicating: Talk, text, emote" that hint at what wearable technology might add to academic and research library toolkits: the "Siri on your wrist" aspect hints at the approach of the sort of virtual assistant (http://library.wiki.nmc.org/Virtual+Assistants) we've been tracking through the Horizon Project--a mobile/wearable tech tool that becomes another resource for library staff and users, and the Communicating section hints at another way for library staff and users to share resources. The Wearable Tech Watch site (http://wearabletechwatch.net/) is another great resource for those of us interested in tracking developments in this area and then drawing upon our own experiences and imaginations to seek applications useful to libraries.

  • Wearable technology is innovative yet accessible enough that in five years it may not be cost prohibitive to circulate these technologies as part of our collections. It is feasible that wearable technologies such as body cams, Google glasses, etc., will be incorporated into class assignments, requiring the library to provide instruction and support in using these technologies. - janice.welburn janice.welburn Apr 20, 2015
  • I think it makes plenty of good sense to outfit librarians with Google-glass type technology. That's definitely some new wine in an old bottle. - shines shines Apr 27, 2015

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Ayyoub Ajmi
Google Glass at the UMKC Law School Library
  • add your response here