University of Calgary has launched a new program to train graduate students on wearable technology – a market that has exploded into a multi-billion-dollar industry. The university has received funding from the federal government in the form of a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) CREATE grant to train 80 graduate students over the next six years, according to Reed Ferber from the University of Calgary’s faculties of kinesiology and nursing.
As the director of the University of Calgary’s Running Injury Clinic, Reed Ferber noticed something way back in 2009, reports CBC.
“Runners were using wearable technology — the Nike chip was the first type of wearable technology. They were not going on their runs if they forgot their device at home,” Ferber said.
“So [I realized] these devices are changing behavior of these athletes.”
As wearables are becoming widely used, many companies – big and small – are jumping on the bandwagon.
“We’re talking about Fitbit, and Garmin and Apple Watch – and countless companies that are popping up almost on a daily basis,” Ferber said.
“They need well-trained graduates who understand data science, understand the technology, understand the entrepreneurial side of wearable technology — and that’s what the [U of C’s] training program is all about: combining those three programs together: data science, kinesiology and entrepreneurship in order to develop our next generation of wearable technology experts.”
According to the CBC report, Ferber will lead a team of 10 other researchers from engineering, to the faculty of science and nursing to help train students.
Ferber sees wearable technology moving beyond counting calories or 10,000 steps in the coming years.
He sees great prospects for wearable technology in the area of health care and injury rehabilitation and prevention. “How can we use a simple device to help somebody prevent an injury or rehabilitate from surgery or from an injury? That’s really where the field is going to turn to in the next four to five years,” he said.
The first batch of students will be from various places across the globe including New Zealand, Iran and Canada.
Teague Foreman, a kinesiology major in biomechanics, is among the students.
Foreman said one of the best features of wearable technology is that it changes the game when it comes to gathering data.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to collect a lot of data, in real-world settings, not just in the laboratory,” she said.
“Working with wearables is going to round me out as a potential employee incredibly well. I have a lot experience in lab settings … but since wearables are the future, it will give me a good stepping stone to be hired by industry.”