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University of Calgary looking to collaborate with city council using wearables

The Fitbit Inc. Blaze fitness tracker, a piece of wearable technology, is displayed during the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016.
The Fitbit Inc. Blaze fitness tracker, a piece of wearable technology, is displayed during the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Calgary’s priorities and finance committee is asking city council to provide $57,500 for a University of Calgary study on wearable technology.

A report to the committee said the wearables market — which can measure things like steps taken, blood pressure, sleep quality and travel — is expected to grow from $5 billion in 2013 to $51 billion by 2022.

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University of Calgary researchers want to collaborate with the city to collect data from 10,000 volunteers that it said would help to make better planning, engineering and infrastructure investment decisions.

“We’re trying to match the city’s needs with our research capacity in terms of providing you with evidenced-based information to make decisions on where to spend your infrastructure dollars,” University of Calgary professor Dr. Reed Ferber told the committee.

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The funding would come from Calgary’s innovation fund.

University of Calgary researchers said data would be kept private and the information that goes back to the City would be anonymous. Researchers also said the data could provide valuable input on helping design communities, roads, parks or trails.

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“This type of work would allow us to design communities in a way that actually executes on our goals of being walkable and liveable so that we’re not building giant eight-lane expressways through communities instead of making something that’s more friendly for the pedestrian experience,” Ward 3 Councillor Jyoti Gondek said Tuesday.

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Calgary’s mayor said the data could be used to help move Calgarians around better.

“If we learn that people who live in Coral Springs — where I live — never, ever come downtown but they are always travelling to Mackenzie Towne, that actually helps us plan our transit and our roads,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. “This could be really interesting data.”

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Nenshi also said this study could signal to other tech companies that Calgary is open for business.

“In some way, this investment is also a signal to tech companies and start-ups that this is a place where you can get the talent you need to grow in the field of geographically-aware, internet-of-things and wearable computing.”

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If approved by city council, a report with the outcomes of the project would be submitted by mid-2021.

–With files from Adam Toy

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