Aug. 29, 2018

UCalgary launches program specializing in wearable technology

New graduate program expected to help with shortage of qualified professionals

Wearable sensor technology is one of the fastest growing fields in the world. Devices that were once used to track fitness are now being applied in many ways from navigating the land to monitoring blood pressure. To meet a growing demand for qualified professionals, the University of Calgary is launching a new program this September called Wearable Technology Research and Collaboration (We-TRAC) Training Program. The program is unique to Canada as it incorporates many disciplines to train students.

It’s estimated that for every wearable job posting there are only 16 qualified professionals. This compares to an average of 59 applicants for any other technology-related job posting.

Dr. Reed Ferber, PhD, (above) from the faculties of kinesiology and nursing, is leading the program with funds from a NSERC CREATE grant.

“We are in the perfect position to train future leaders in wearable sensor technology,” says Ferber. “Modern wearable sensor systems are complex and knowledge spanning many disciplines is required. We will be providing hands-on training across engineering, data science and kinesiology, in combination with entrepreneurial training.”

While various programs at universities across Canada offer critical concepts, no Canadian program currently provides hands-on, multi-disciplinary training like this. “We are getting great support from wearable technology companies. They need to have highly qualified staff to expand the industry,” says Ferber.

Collaboration to benefit students

Students will benefit from extensive collaborations within and outside of the university. Professors from the faculties of kinesiology, science, nursing, Schulich School of Engineering and Haskayne School of Business will provide the training. Wearable technology companies will provide one- to four-month job placements. And students can visit a partnering university that specializes in an aspect of wearable technology. Partnerships are being formalized with Stanford University, the University of Auckland Biomedical Engineering Institute, the Federal University of ABC, Brazil, and the University of British Columbia.

Students will collect data from Olympic, varsity and intramural athletes using smart devices.   

Ferber’s students are already tracking data from long distance runners. They use sensors to monitor performance and predict injuries. Erin Scott, an advisor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, has been a part of wearable technology research for the past year. She wears a device on her back during each run that provides her, and the researchers, with feedback.

“With the device, I learned that my running rhythm needs improvement, and it suggested I do high knee exercises. It’s helpful to see what I’m doing right and what I can do to improve. The researchers also share a report with me, so I can see my progress over time, which is helpful,” says Scott.

Scott plans to take part in the research project again this year.

The University of Calgary is launching a new program this September called Wearable Technology Research and Collaboration (We-TRAC) Training Program.

The University of Calgary is launching a new program this September dedicated to wearable technology

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Details for We-TRAC training program

The goal is to train upwards of 80 master's and PhD students from multiple faculties over the next six years, though a few undergraduates will also be admitted each year. Students will receive training in the biomechanics of human motion, data science, data visualization, knowledge translation, and entrepreneurship. Canadian and international students are welcome to apply.  

Upcoming event: Smart devices for healthy living

On Sept. 9, Ferber will give the inside scoop on the benefits of using wearable technology to support healthy living. The event is during Alumni Weekend and is open to all, including families. Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod of Body Break and Amazing Race Canada fame will also there to provide tips for creating healthy habits. The cost is $5 for adults, and free for 17 and under and for UCalgary students. Brunch is included. To register, visit Creating Healthy Habits with Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod.

Interested in learning more about data powered health solutions? Read more:

The We-TRAC program is within the Faculty of Kinesiology and involves Schulich School of Engineering departments of electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and materials engineering and biomedical engineering; Haskayne School of Business; Faculty of Science’s Department of Computer Science; and the Faculty of Nursing. For more information about specializing in wearable technology, contact cajmacau@ucalgary.ca.

The University of Calgary’s multidisciplinary Engineering Solutions for Health: Biomedical Engineering research strategy drives solutions to our most pressing health challenges in disease and injury prevention, diagnosis and treatments. Our biomedical engineering researchers make a significant impact in our communities by extending lives, improving quality of life, promoting independence, and continuously improving the health system.

Using smart devices, students will collect data from Olympic, varsity and intramural athletes.

Using smart devices, students will collect data from Olympic, varsity and intramural athletes.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary