by Johanna Mischke

May 5, 2012

Wearables for identity management

Dr Sandra Wilson is a senior lecturer in Design & Craft (Jewellery & Metal) at the University of Dundee, UK. She is currently involved in a project called IMprints conducting research into public responses for the future identification of management practices and technologies. In the following account she gives an overview on the project and its links to Wearable Technologies:

“ ‘Identity Management’ is one of those concepts that we have all had direct experience of but probably aren’t familiar with the expression. Identity management is where you are asked to provide acceptable evidence that you are who you say you are in order to access certain rights and privileges whether that be joining web-based social networks, using ID cards for accessing buildings at work or withdrawing money from the bank.  Within this trend, however, there appear to be some paradoxes.  We love customer loyalty programmes, for instance, but we don’t want national ID cards.  Similarly, we are happy to share lots of personal details on Facebook but are concerned about the storage of personal medical records.  IMprints is a 3 year research project funded by the UK Research Council’s Global Uncertainties initiative to identify the various taboos and desires of the public about future identity management practices and technologies.  The project is led by Communications and Media at Loughborough University and involves Political Science at Essex, Psychology and Life Sciences at Northumbria and Art & Design at Dundee University.

The first stage of the project has been to map out the identity management scenarios in each of these fields. So in art & design we have found several Wearable Technologies that enable and support identity management. For example, the ‘Ping Garment’ has been designed to connect the user to a Facebook account wirelessly by performing simple and natural gestures such as lifting a hood, zipping up, buttoning up, bending or swinging the arms.

SmartLife, a UK-based Technology Company, works with E Textiles integrating flexible sensors into different smart garments to help identify people within different sectors such as Healthcare, Sport, Military and Hazardous Environments.  It includes a novel underwear product called the HealthVest garment engineered to create polarised functionality or a body sensory network for monitoring physiological signs.

Medical alert jewellery can now also be personal and unique to each individual wearer since embedded technology such as RFID tags contain general health-related information that can be accessed by a scanner and emergency personnel when necessary. See, for instance, the work carried out by Dougie Kinnear who is now employed as an IMprints research technician.

Key issues emerging from this initial scenario mapping stage have included the importance of open source and crown sourcing design ideas and processes, a greater adoption of smart materials and the potential for 3D printing to enhance the ways in which identity management can be personalised.

Over the next 12 months, the project will launch an international design competition and, as part of this process, will host a series of design jams where people from various disciplines will be invited to team up and address different identity management design challenges. We are hoping that this will appeal to computer programmers, technology experts, graphic designers, craft practitioners and interactive media designers as well as those interested in human computer interaction.”

Wearable Technologies invite readers to take part in the design competition and to submit their wearable ideas for identity management.