Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Citizen Science You Can Wear

This week we are proud to be joined by guest blogger “Best in Latest”. With the recent popular interest in wearable technologies the potential for a dancing citizen science grows. So today she looks at many of these exciting possibilities for us.

Wearables for Citizen Science - What Does it Mean to Us?

The rise in the demand for more portable assistive technologies means that wearable devices are currently in high demand, especially in the world of citizen science.

Photo Courtesy: Janitors via Compfight

How can wearables change and revolutionize our industry?

Wearables can be a digital health tool, particularly with smartwatches and fitness bands. They come with the ability to track and measure heart rate, stress levels, speed and distance among other things. The next wave of wearable releases are said to focus on assisting patients with particular health needs such as the Google smart contact lens for people with astigmatism while the Embrace band will assist those that suffer from seizures.

In terms of acquiring data, a study revealed that smartphones are more accurate in getting health data than wearables. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that health apps for smartphones are More accurate in counting the steps of users than the built-in pedometers on wearables. This is also one of the reasons why people still prefer using their handsets rather than investing in new devices that still require the need to be paired with smartphone.

Today’s premium smartphones are now built with health sensors similar to smartwatches and fitness bands. Even without the Apple Watch, O2 said that the iPhone 6 Plus can track the speed, distance, and elevation level of its user through its built-in M8 motion coprocessor and barometer respectively. Other premium smartphones today are also incorporating the same features to give people more variations in tracking their health.

But, convenience appears to be the main factor why people purchase technologies. Demands for wearables continued to rise this year, with 50% now considering purchasing smartwatches as they offer the consumer the same features as smartphones but with more convenience. 

In citizen science, volunteers will be able to gather the real-time health data of patients. Virtual health assistance is now the new trend in citizen volunteer divisions in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) collaborated with a mobile network company to provide volunteers and medical practitioners with cost-effective and reliable devices and plans to connect them with patients in real-time. Click here to know how they perform this in the public sector. Apart from social workers, nurses and doctors are also able to maximize the same technology to further assist patients quickly during emergency cases.

Additionally, wearable devices are also seen to have the potential to change the way scientists monitor air quality. In a post on, author Brian Handwerk said that emerging technologies such as smartwatches and smart headsets can turn help anyone monitor environmental factors such as air quality. In particular the TZOA, a wearable device that measures air quality, will be able to help the public and even scientists in monitoring the quality of air we breath in real-time. This type of innovation is a good stepping-stone for many scientists to crowdsource pollution maps for smartphones and other consumer tech items.

A large-scale effort in Europe is well underway wherein portable and wearable environmental-focused technologies are being assigned to further assist in scientific research in the region.

“People may use this information to organize themselves with other like-minded people to take action or go to their (local) politicians and ask that they do something about pollution,” said Mark Nieuwenhuijsen of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Space. He also uses wearable monitors to measure and map air pollution.

Wearable devices have plenty of potential in citizen science. It will only be a matter of time before these technologies will develop and become a main component in the science and technology industries. How do you think wearables can shape the citizen science sector?

Exclusively written for Open Scientist
By Best in Latest


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