Digital Innovation at Goldsmiths, University of London

CAST conducts Wearable Technology research with Rackspace

Saturday 1st June, 2013

The Human Cloud Research Project on wearable technology and computing was conducted by CAST in collaboration with cloud computing provider Rackspace in May, 2013. The project successfully followed and named current trends and patterns in the world of wearable technology.  From haute couture and art installations worn on the body through to the everyday always on tracking devices, the project explored and uncovered the trends and current issues for wearable technology. 


Using our radial research method, we deployed digital trend analysis, scraping techniques, interviews and participant online journaling.  We started the process by conducting a digitised trend analysis based on the term ‘wearable technology’ and ‘wearable computing’.  While the direct theme of the report, wearable technology is a broad term encompassing a range of terms so we added different concepts for comparison including contextual and ubiquitous computing, big data and open data. We wanted to focus in on the most prevalent uses of the term and the scrape comprised over 30,000 twitter conversations and 20,000 documents discussed in these conversations sourced daily between 29 April and 8 May (see figure 1 for word cloud of the aggregated data).  


From the trend analysis we found several themes: contrasting paranoia and surveillance with ambition, productivity and aspiration.  Through detailed interviews and extensive online journaling, we amassed a useful compendium of case studies and participant reflections as they experimented with various tracking devices. We found that we are at the early stages of wearable technology devices. Small business endeavours need to focus on service provision rather than product design.  Design does matter – we do wear these devices on our bodies – but what they offer as a service makes them more palatable to the everyday user.  The ‘always on’ aspect of these devices, from e-textiles to worn cameras, through to behaviour tracking has significant everyday impact on people’s sense of themselves and how they move through the world.  In some cases the focus on quantifying the self improves productivity in various aspects of people’s lives however this is not a straightforward connection.  Different case studies use the technology differently but for all of the users, the next step will be to make the hardware design, accompanying software, and storage/revisiting of data, as integrated as possible.

CAST is an interdisiplinary research and enterprise centre based in the Institute of Management Studies (IMS) and the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. For more information on the CAST research into wearable technologies please contact project lead researcher Dr Jennifer Barth or CAST co-Director Dr Chris Brauer. For media enquiries please contact the Goldsmiths Press Office.